Information Environment: Metadata

The focus of this essay is on what data need in an information environment. The metadata associated with data are one aspect of information environment. Lester and Koehler define information environment as a habitat we live in, similar to our ecosystem, which is expanding constantly to encompass new sources and activities of information.[i] To handle data correctly, people need clear instructions and appropriately designed tools. Creating and disseminating those tools and instructions are an information professional’s job. The information professional uses metadata to create the back-end frameworks and connections to allow for appropriate retrieval of data[ii]. One aspect of metadata is identification of stored data and acts as keywords which allow for more relevant searches. 

The keyword search function that was needed for the project Database: Creating a Database for APAC meant that controlled vocabulary needed to be applied. After the keywords were selected,  the paramount usefulness and utility came from structuring the relations and entering the data into the relational database. This is a tool and an environment with built-in instructions for the user.

Rob Styles FRBR representationIn the information science world, analog and digital media have different storage, access, use, preservation, and curation needs. All of which influence the appropriate environment that information professionals need to create and maintain. What is appropriate for a paperback may be detrimental for a hard drive; the information resources’ needs define the environment. It is not only that the work (as referenced in the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records  (FRBR) model) is captured in ink on a page, but that the specific binding of those papers has associated metadata which allows it to exist within the larger collection, so it is necessary to maintain the physical environment and the conceptual environment in which the data exist. FRBR is the conceptual environment and the mechanism by which information professionals are able to maintain hierarchical relationships, so that users may navigate between the relationships. The relationships in FRBR are metadata, a function of the network, and a specific example of information within a specific environment.

In one of their uses, metadata are created and maintained to help monitor the information environment. The metadata of circulation numbers or checksums allow information professionals to identify when something is no longer appropriate or accurate. The outdated plant zone hardiness map led to a new map because the data were no longer accurate, zone creep had occurred, and a new model of the physical environment was needed. One example of metadata exists on the FRBR diagram, in the CC-BY license information. Legal implications are another way information professionals need to monitor the environment.

Within an information environment, the information professional has many responsibilities to identify the appropriate way to handle that data, and then to create the appropriate environment, balancing the institution’s resources and priorities[iii]. To that end we speak less of “best practices” but rather “good practices”, particularly in the digital curation field, in that there are no universally accepted “best” archival digital formats.

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[i] Lester, June, and Wallace C Koehler. Fundamentals of Information Studies: Understanding Information and Its Environment. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2007. Print. Found on page xv.

[ii]Willis, Craig, Jane Greenberg, and Hollie White. “Analysis and Synthesis of Metadata Goals for Scientific Data.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 63.8 (2012): 1505–1520. ISI Web of Knowledge. Web.

[iii]Morris, Steve, James Tuttle, and Jefferson Essic. “A Partnership Framework for Geospatial Data Preservation in North Carolina.” Library Trends 57.3 (2009): 516–540. Print.