Continuing the introductions … I’m Rich Murray, and I’m the Metadata Librarian in the Digital Collections Program. I’m based in the Cataloging & Metadata Services Department, and I work with Noah Huffman, the Archivist for Metadata & Encoding in the Rare Book, Manuscript, & Special Collections Library, to plan and create metadata for our digital collections.
What does that mean, exactly? Basically, Noah and I –- and the rest of the metadata team –- work to describe, organize, and allow users to discover the cool stuff in our digital collections. Metadata is “data about data,” and without it, a 5000-item digital collection is like 5000 photographs thrown into a big pile. You might be able to find what you want by going through them all one at a time, but it will probably take forever, and you may get to the end and discover that what you were looking for wasn’t in the big pile anyway.
With good metadata, though, you can find what you’re looking for much more efficiently and painlessly. We group objects into categories based on subject, format, time period, or anything else that makes sense. We apply captions to images, keywords to advertisements, plot summaries to videos, and anything else we think will help you find what you’re looking for. And if we’re doing our job right, the metadata we provide might even lead you to really, really cool stuff that you didn’t even know you were looking for.
Fortunately, Noah and I don’t have to do all this on our own. We work with a great group of folks, including the rest of the Digital Collections Implementation Team, the Metadata Advisory Group, and other staff throughout the libraries. It’s a team effort, and as our Digital Collections Program grows, more and more of us are involved in making it happen.
The other part of my job, which may sound completely unrelated at first but really isn’t, is serving as the Catalog Librarian for Spanish & Portuguese (and Catalan and Galician) Languages. Both parts of my job involve describing, arranging, and providing access to the library’s collections so you can find what you need.
Metadata isn’t something new –- it’s what librarians and archivists have been doing all along, even if we called it something else. Connecting people and ideas is what do best, and as part of the Digital Collections Program, I get to spend my days bringing some truly remarkable resources to an audience around the world. It doesn’t get much better than that.