DRAFT Principles for Evaluating Metadata Standards
The ALCTS/LITA Metadata Standards Committee submits this draft document, Principles for Evaluating Metadata Standards, to the library, archives, and museums metadata communities for discussion. This current draft incorporates feedback given on an earlier version of the document.
The committee encourages written feedback through one of the following options: leave a comment on this post or send private comments via our webform.
In addition, the Committee will be presenting this document at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston. There will be two opportunities for face-to-face discussion of this draft, one at the Metadata Interest Group meeting on Sunday, January 10, 2016 at 8:30 am EST, and one at the regular Metadata Standards Committee meeting on Sunday, January 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm EST. Registered conference attendees are welcome to attend.
These principles are intended for use by libraries, archives, and museum (LAM) communities for the development, maintenance, governance, selection, use, and assessment of metadata standards. They apply to metadata structures (field lists, property definitions, etc.), but can also be used with content standards and value vocabularies.
1. Metadata and metadata standards should be part of the network
Metadata—its standards, systems, and services—is most efficient when connected with the broader network of information. Newly adopted standards should leverage “by-reference” models (i.e. “things” instead of “strings”) to connect information from different sources, to support distribution to indexing and research services, and to support resource visibility on the web.
2. Metadata and metadata standards should be open and reusable
Open metadata is a foundational building block of information systems and next-generation research. Metadata standards, associated vocabularies, and the metadata itself needs to be open for use and re-use, free of charge.
3. Metadata creation should benefit user communities
The volume of information in a web-enabled world, along with the ability of information systems to analyze and index digital objects themselves, changes the value of traditional metadata. Metadata standards should prioritize metadata being created only when clear use cases and value are evident, allowing metadata practitioners to dictate the level of description provided based on the situation at hand.
4. Metadata standards should support new research methods
Traditional bibliographic metadata supports a relatively narrow vein of research, involving reading, viewing, listening to, or otherwise engaging with individual documents by humans. As new research methods emerge (e.g., computational linguistics, computational bibliometrics, linguistic analysis, network analysis) metadata standards and exchange/access methods should easily support this new research.
5. Metadata standards should have an active maintenance and governance community
Metadata standards are only as valuable and current as their communities of practice. Communities of practice are changing rapidly and, although metadata in LAM institutions have been very stable over the last 40 years, that is not necessarily the case for future standards. Needs of implementers should be a driving force and voice for the changes and new development of standards over time.
6. Standards should be extensible, embeddable, and interoperable
A key enabler in the successful deployment of a metadata standard is its ability to be used effectively alongside standards from other communities. Standards should be designed in a modular way to allow relevant parts to be incorporated into local systems together with parts of standards from other sources, with each given equal preference. Relatively complex standards should provide “lite” style implementation options, to allow for wider adoption and utility, even if this means lossy data transfer in some cases.
7. Metadata standards should follow the rules of “graceful degradation” and “responsive design”
Metadata standards should be described well enough to support new and unexpected uses. The design of metadata standards should support metadata remaining useful as complexity is stripped away, allowing it to degrade gracefully. In addition, metadata standards should be designed such that more sophisticated uses (e.g., ontological inferencing) are easily achievable by those who wish to add value.