What is metadata? 

Metadata at its simplest is data about data. 

Definition from the National Information Standards Organization (NISO):
"Metadata is structured information that describes, explains, locates, or otherwise makes it easier to retrieve, use, or manage an information resource." 

Descriptive, technical, administrative and preservation metadata is added to digital objects to enable users to find assets relevant to their research needs. Good metadata promotes the discovery of quality resources in the digital environment.

Types of Metadata

Administrative metadata facilities the management of resources. It can include elements such as preservation and rights management, creation date, copyright permissions, required software, provenance (history), and file integrity checks.

Descriptive metadata enables discovery, identification, and selection of resources. It can include elements such as title, author, and subjects.

Preservation metadata describes the process and technical aspects of the preservation process for analog and born digital collections. Preservation metadata is a log of the series of actions taken against an object to ensure it longevity and viability.

Structural metadata, used in machine processing, describes relationships among various parts of a resource, including the format, process, and inter-relatedness of objects. It can be used to facilitate navigation or define the format or sequence of complex objects.

Areas of Expertise

Digital Library Services staff is available to answer questions, consult on best practices, or teach you how to create good metadata. 

Linked Open Data

Linked data is the basis of the Semantic Web. Information is structured in a way that computers can draw relationships between resources. Those relationships are what is known as linked data. Creating shareable, high quality structured metadata enables your research to become more discoverable and linkable to other related datasets.

Metadata Schema

A metadata schema is a list of elements or defined data points that are used to capture information about a resource. Some of these data points might include a title, an identifier, a creator name, or a date.

Standards and Controlled Vocabularies

Different communities create, collect, manage, and use diverse types of information. These communities may have different concerns and approaches to metadata, and they have created alternative standards. Organizations define and publish metadata standards to meet various needs, broadly across knowledge domains or within specialized disciplines. A metadata standard is a high-level document which establishes a common way of structuring and understanding data and includes principles and implementation issues for utilizing the standard.

Controlled Vocabularies

Controlled vocabularies are standardized and organized arrangements of words and phrases and provide a consistent way to describe data. Metadata creators assign terms from vocabularies to improve information retrieval.

Crosswalks and Mapping

Metadata crosswalks translate elements and values from one schema to those of another. Crosswalks facilitate interoperability between different metadata schemas and serve as the base for metadata harvesting and record exchange.

Cataloging Multimedia

Digital Library Services catalogs several types of multimedia. 


Interested in how metadata is being used in our Oregon Digital collections? Take a look at the Oregon Digital Metadata Application Profile and Mappings.

Metadata guidance for data management provided by Data Services staff.