Review: Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval (2018)

Laura Dawson

David Haynes. Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval: Understanding Metadata and Its Use. Second edition. London: Facet, Publishing, 2018. 267 pages. Paperback. $69.00.

Meant to serve as a primer for those needing an all-around guide to metadata across a variety of library and non-library systems, Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval manages to cover an extraordinary breadth of issues within a subject that has historically been fairly constrained.

Opening with a reference to the Snowden leaks in 2013, when the importance of metadata was explained to a general audience in news accounts all over the world, Haynes goes on to offer a six-point model to explain the purposes of metadata:

· Resource identification and description

· Retrieving information

· Managing information resources

· Managing intellectual property rights

· Supporting e-commerce and e-government

· Information governance

Haynes has divided the book into three sections, the first of which deals with introductory concepts, as a way of level-setting for all readers: from early catalogs in monastic libraries to Dublin Core to Resource Description and Access. He links this development, finally, to the semantic web and RDF (Resource Description Framework), noting how metadata standards underpin the ability to create linked data on the web.

The second section expands on the six-point model by discussing not just library paradigms, but also e-commerce schemas such as ONIX (Online Information Exchange — an XML schema for bookselling), EIDR (Entertainment ID Registry — an XML schema for the TV and movie industries), and DDEX (Digital Data Exchange — an XML schema for the music industry), as well as issues concerning search engine optimization, information theory, and retrieval optimization.

The third section is more sweeping; it examines metadata management in both qualitative and security-related frameworks, the impact of big data on metadata management, and glimpses into the future of metadata management and governance.

Woven throughout these sections are topics important to any information professional: the mechanics of search, different types of search logic, ranking, and indexing. Understanding how search works is critical to understanding how to create and edit metadata for maximum discovery. He covers important workflow issues as well — how metadata is created, at what points in workflow it gets created, data imports, auto-generated data, system and schema interoperability, and crosswalks (or mapping, as we call it in commercial web environments).

An important section of Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval is the chapter “Taxonomies and Encoding Schemes”. Here, Haynes emphasizes the use of existing standards (such as ISO codes) and thesauri. He also dives into authority files and their role in metadata maintenance, using the Library of Congress’s Name authority as an example. And he explores the role of ontologies in web-based metadata schemes such as Schema.org and OWL. In a subsequent chapter, Haynes discusses linked data as well as the metadata generated by social media use.

Haynes also gets into social tagging and folksonomies, and the unwieldiness of these types of platforms. He cites Stock and Stock’s Handbook of Information Science (2013, Boston, DeGruyter Saur), on “tag gardening” — weeding, seeding, vocabulary control, fertilizing, and harvesting these collections of user-created tags and managing ambiguity. For example, the term “plant” could refer to a factory or a sunflower; the term “Mercury” could refer to a car, an element, or a planet.

Throughout the book, Haynes provides useful illustrations — including screen shots from catalogues and WorldCat, models such as DCMI and OAIS, and diagrams of workflows and crosswalks. These illustrations clarify not just Haynes’s thought processes, but the intellectual work that goes into metadata modeling, maintenance, and governance.

As someone who has spent her career wrangling metadata, first for e-commerce and later for academic library systems and entertainment media, I found Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval to be a useful compendium of a variety of metadata standards — the entire alphabet soup of standards in use across library and commercial metadata systems seems well-represented. Haynes also doesn’t shy away from political and ethical concerns; his final chapter discusses topics such as privacy, ownership, security, and information inequality.

Metadata for Information and Retrieval is an excellent generalist’s compendium of a variety of metadata approaches and use cases. I found it remarkably thorough, well-organized, as well as written in a straightforward and accessible style. While it is clearly written for a library-centered audience, those who deal with metadata professionally but who don’t have a library degree will find this book helpful as well. Having just completed a course titled “Metadata in Theory and Practice” at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign’s iSchool, I can enthusiastically recommend Metadata for Information Management and Retrieval for library students and information professionals who want to expand their knowledge of different kinds of metadata standards and what they are used for.

Laura Dawson is Metadata Analyst at HBO. She is working towards her MLIS at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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