What is Metadata?


Its History

Metadata has been with us since the first librarian made a list of the items on a shelf of handwritten scrolls. The term "meta" comes from a Greek word that denotes "alongside, with, after, next." More recent Latin and English usage would employ "meta" to denote something transcendental, or beyond nature. Metadata, then, can be thought of as data about other data. It is the Internet-age term for information that librarians traditionally have put into catalogs, and it most commonly refers to descriptive information about Web resources.

Its Structure

A metadata record consists of a set of attributes, or elements, necessary to describe the resource in question. For example, a metadata system common in libraries -- the library catalog -- contains a set of metadata records with elements that describe a book or other library item: author, title, date of creation or publication, subject coverage, and the call number specifying location of the item on the shelf.

Extract from Using Dublin Core

What is metadata doing in a library?

OK here we go. Imagine trying to find a book in a library without the help of a card catalog or computerized search interface. Could you do it? The information contained in such a system is essentially metadata about the books that are housed at that library or at other libraries. It provides you with vital information to help you find a particular book and aids you in making a decision as to whether that book might fit your needs.

Some other links on Metadata basics:

Resource Title
Rating(Max. 5pts)
The Value of Metadata Introductory * * *
What is metadata? Introductory * * *
Metadata - A primer Resourceful & Technical * * * * *
Programme Manual: Section 2
What is Metadata?
Technical * * * *
What is metadata and why is it important? FAQ * * * *
WebMake: Documentation: Metadata
Technical * * * *

Next > Library and Metadata

Any questions, please contact: Library Systems Office, 314 UIUC Main Library