Metadata Collections & QA

Metadata, collection building and cataloging


Metadata is structured or descriptive information about a resource. It is information that is gathered and recorded about a resource. For DLESE, this means providing information like a title, description, audience, geospatial coverage, keywords, etc. about classroom activities, curriculum, scientific visualizations, lesson plans, data, annotations, collections, images, or news and opportunities, etc. Well-structured metadata integrated with an efficient discovery system promotes targeted searching, browsing and use of such resources by the Earth system science community. Once a resource is “found” in the library, metadata is the information about the resource that is returned to a user. It is also the information that is exchanged with other libraries. Metadata records are the content of DLESE. DLESE does not hold the physical files of resources, only metadata records are held. Therefore, metadata is a key structural component of the library. Technically, DLESE metadata is kept in the form of structured digital records in the eXtensible Markup Language (XML).

Since DLESE provides access to a broad spectrum of resources, different metadata frameworks, ADN, collection, annotation, news and opportunities, have evolved to support the unique characteristics of the resources being described. These frameworks are summarized below.

  • ADN (ADEPT/DLESE/NASA) - The current framework used in the DLESE Discovery System. It describes resources typically used in learning environments (e.g. classroom activities, curriculum, virtual field trips, etc.). The framework is XML schema-based with strong data typing and many controlled vocabularies to support efficient and effective browsing, search and discovery.
  • News and opportunities - The current framework used to describe events or time-sensitive resources that have specific start and end dates and are of an interest to the DLESE community as a whole (e.g. grants, workshops, scholarships, conferences, etc.) This framework is XML schema-based with strong data typing.
  • Annotation - Describes additional information about resources or information not directly found in a resource. This information can include, but is not exclusive too, comments, educational standards, teaching tips, ideas for use, contextual explanations and other summary information. The framework is XML schema-based with strong data typing and controlled vocabulary support and was developed from the proposed NSDL annotation metadata framework.
  • Collection - Describes a group of metadata records as a whole entity. The framework is XML schema-based with moderate data typing and controlled vocabulary support.
  • NSDL-DC - The current framework used by the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) to describe all resources within the library. The framework is XML schema-based and the DPC provides a crosswalk from the ADN metadata framework to this one.
  • Object - A framework for describing name-value pairs like frequently asked questions and glossary terms. The framework is XML schema based is under active development.


Collection building

Collection building is a process conducted over time that builds and shapes a collection into a balanced, cohesive and sought-after set of user materials. Collections are groups of resources (activities, modules, annotation, etc.) organized around a theme, organization, topic, audience, learning strategy or some criteria that can be articulated. Good collection building involves

  • Assessing the information needs of users
  • Analyzing usage statistics and demographic projections
  • Formulating and articulating of selection criteria
  • Making plans for resource sharing
  • Developing a well-defined cataloging plan; that is collecting the URL, title, description and other information about a resource
  • Maintaining metadata and resources for library
  • Exposing the collection to library users


Cataloging is the act of assembling metadata information about a resource. The goal is to help library users find the most useful resources. Cataloging can be as easy as just providing a title and description or more complex such that library users will be able to

  • get adequate presentation of the content of the resource (titles, descriptions, keywords, audience and more)
  • get information on the status of the rights concerning the resource (copyright, access conditions, prices)

While extensive knowledge of a resource is beneficial to cataloging, it is not required. That being said, a cataloger needs to make an effort to find the necessary information to fully describe a resource. And, a cataloger needs to adhere to cataloging best practices that include using controlled vocabularies correctly and paying heed to the definitions of each field being cataloged.


Last updated: 2005-06-23