General Metadata Resources

General Metadata Resources

Sample records provided by metadata standards or guidelines

Note: Metadata standards usually provide the best practice guides in their specifications. The examples provided focus on the contents rather than the formats. It ensures that metadata elements, structure, and value spaces specified by a standard are correctly understood and controlled when applied to real situations. It is not their intention to provide format guidelines as to how a record should be encoded or displayed.


Metadata types and functions

NISO’s definitions

There are three main types of metadata:

• Descriptive metadata describes a resource for purposes such as discovery and identification. It can include elements such as title, abstract, author, and keywords.

• Structural metadata indicates how compound objects are put together, for example, how pages are ordered to form chapters.

• Administrative metadata provides information to help manage a resource, such as when and how it was created, file type and other technical information, and who can access it. There are several subsets of administrative data; two that are sometimes listed as separate metadata types are:

? Rights management metadata, which deals with intellectual property rights,
? Preservation metadata, which contains information needed to archive and preserve a resource.

NISO. (2004) Understanding Metadata.
Bethesda, MD: NISO Press, p.1

Metadata functions

  • Resource discovery
    • Allowing resources to be found by relevant criteria;
    • Identifying resources;
    • Bringing similar resources together;
    • Distinguishing dissimilar resources;
    • Giving location information.
  • Organizing e-resources
    • Organizing links to resources based on audience or topic.
    • Building these pages dynamically from metadata stored in databases.
  • Facilitating interoperability
    • Using defined metadata schemes, shared transfer protocols, and crosswalks between schemes, resources across the network can be searched more seamlessly.
      • Cross-system search, e.g., using Z39.50 protocol;
      • Metadata harvesting, e.g., OAI protocol.
  • Digital identification
    • Elements for standard numbers, e.g., ISBN
    • The location of a digital object may also be given using:
      • a file name
      • a URL
      • some persistent identifiers, e.g., PURL (Persistent URL); DOI (Digital Object Identifier)
    • Combined metadata to act as a set of identifying data, differentiating one object from another for validation purposes.
  • Archiving and preservation
    • Challenges:
      • Digital information is fragile and can be corrupted or altered;
      • It may become unusable as storage technologies change.
    • Metadata is key to ensuring that resources will survive and continue to be accessible into the future. Archiving and preservation require special elements:
      • to track the lineage of a digital object,
      • to detail its physical characteristics, and
      • to document its behavior in order to emulate it in future technologies.

NISO. (2004) Understanding Metadata.
Bethesda, MD: NISO Press, pp.1-2.

Metadata standards — a selected list

  • Metadata schemas (also called schemes) generally
    specify names of elements and their semantics.
  • Optionally, they may specify:
    • rules for how content must be formulated (for example, how to identify the main title),
    • representation rules for content (for example, capitalization rules), and
    • allowable content values (for example, terms must be used from a specified controlled vocabulary).
  • Many metadata schemas are being developed in a variety of user environments and disciplines.
    • Some of the most common ones are listed on this page.
    • An expanded list of schemes and element sets is provided on the following page.

Information Resource Description


      • Dublin Core Metadata Element Set:
      • DCMI Metadata Terms:


        • Examples from VRA Core 3.0:
          • CULTURE
            Qualifiers: None
            Description: The name of the culture, people (ethnonym), or adjectival form of a country name from which a Work or Image originates or with which the Work or Image has been associated.
            Data Values :  recommend AAT, LCSH
          • CREATOR
            Creator.Personal name
            Creator.Corporate name
            Description: The names, appellations, or other identifiers assigned to an individual, group, corporate body, or other entity that has contributed to the design, creation, production, manufacture, or alteration of the work or image.
            Data Values (controlled): recommend ULAN and AAAF (LC authority files).

        The following controlled vocabularies are usually recommended by the metadata standards or best practice guide.

        Standardized vocabularies

        DCMI Type Vocabulary

        The DCMI Type Vocabulary provides a general, cross-domain list of approved terms that may be used as values for the Resource Type element to identify the genre of a resource.

        [MIME] Internet Media Types
        May be used as values for the Format element.

        ISO 639 – Codes for the representation of names of languages.
        May be used as values for the Language element.

        ISO 3166 – Codes for the representation of names of countries.

        Thesauri and classification schemes

        Note: Only a small number of thesauri and classification schemes are listed below. They are frequently mentioned in metadata standards. A more completed list is available online.

        Subject Headings

        LC Subject Headings (LCSH)
        Website about Web access to LCSH

        FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology) Authority File
        FAST adapted the LCSH with a simplified syntax. It retains the very rich vocabulary of LCSH while making the schema easier to understand, control, apply, and use. The headings have been built into FAST authority records.
        Current search interface:

        Medical Subject Headings (MESH)
        MeSH consists of sets of terms naming descriptors in a hierarchical structure that permits searching at various levels of specificity. There are 22,568 descriptors in MeSH. In addition to these headings, there are more than 139,000 headings called Supplementary Concept Records (formerly Supplementary Chemical Records) within a separate thesaurus.


        Art and Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)

        The AAT is a structured vocabulary of more than 133,000 terms, descriptions, bibliographic citations, and other information relating to fine art, architecture, decorative arts, archival materials, and material culture.

        Library of Congress Thesauri

        Thesaurus for the Global Legal information Network (GLIN)
        Now used for The Global Legal Information Network’s multi-national database of legislation, this thesaurus has been under continuous development since 1950.

        Legislative Indexing Vocabulary (LIV)
        The thesaurus was developed by the Congressional Research Service for use with legislative and public policy material.

        Thesaurus for Graphic Materials I: Subject Terms (TGM I)
        A thesaurus consisting of thousands of terms and numerous cross references for the purpose of indexing visual materials.

        Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II: Genre and Physical Characteristic Terms (TGM II)
        A thesaurus of more than 600 terms, developed by the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, with input from other archival image repositories.

        Classification schemes  

        Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)
        Website about DDC

        The ACM Computing Classification System [1998 Version], Valid in 2003, Association for Computing Machinery

        Name authority lists

        The Union List of Artist Names (ULAN)
        The ULAN is a structured vocabulary containing more than 225,000 names and biographical and bibliographic information about artists and architects, including a wealth of variant names, pseudonyms, and language variants.

        The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN)
        The TGN is a structured, world-coverage vocabulary of 1.3 million names, including vernacular and historical names, coordinates, place types, and descriptive notes, focusing on places important for the study of art and architecture.

        LC Name Authority file = Anglo-American Authority File (AAAF)
        Includes several millions of name authority records for personal, corporate, meeting, and geographic names.

        Best practice guidelines for data content

        The best practice guides prepared by various communities and projects usually provide detailed guidelines regarding how to assign values when creating metadata records. The following are examples of standards for data content to be followed in particular communities.

        Cataloguing Culture Objects (CCO), A Guide to Describing Cultural Works and Their Images

        Provides guidelines for selecting, ordering, and formatting data used to populate elements in a catalogue record, in order to to advance the increasing move toward shared cataloguing and contribute to improved documentation and access to cultural heritage information.
        Guidelines for Encoding Bibliographic Citation Information in Dublin Core Metadata
        It deals primarily with bibliographic citations for a resource within its own metadata, but some guidelines for describing references to other resources are also indicated.

        EAD Cookbook:
        ” … provides assistance in using three applications for creating encoded finding aids- XMetaL, <oXygen/>, and Note Tab. This includes instructions for installing and modifying the applications, and auxiliary files such as templates that make them easier to use”

        DLESE Best Practices
        Lists the metadata field definitions, cataloging best practices, and vocabulary explanations for the metadata fields in the DLESE Cataloging System.

        Best Practices for Shareable Metadata
        (DRAFT) Online version:
        Part of the Best Practices for OAI Data Provider Implementations and Shareable Metadata, A joint initiative between the Digital Library Federation and the National Science Digital Library

        Metadata standards usually include the best practice guides in the specifications, see section 4 for the list of standards.


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