Review of Metadata for Digital Collections: A How-to-do-it Manual By Stephen J Miller, London:Facet Publishing, 2011. 364 pp
ISBN 978-1-85604-771-5 Price £54.95 Paperback
Metadata – a word that many in the library and informationcommunities found quite frightening a few years ago, and maybe even today! We all knew what metadata was, its simple definition had been drummed into us and we could all remember it – “metadata is data about data”. But beyond that ....there were a few books around, they were mostly highly confusing, verytechnical, and demanded a quite deep understanding of computer programming.
And now, at last, the simple how to do it manual has arrived. Metadata for Digital Collections is a practical guide for practical people. Read this well illustrated book and all will become clear. Were it not pushing towards coffee table size, albeit a paperback, I would say that it was suitable for reading on the bus or train to work.
Good quality metadata is crucial for providing intellectual access to the ever-increasing number of digital collections which are being created by libraries, archives, museums, and other organisations. Without good metadata these digital resources would be under-used because most potential users would not discover their existence. The book, and its companion website, seek to introduce readers to the fundamental concepts and practices, and the author has aimed it at both beginners and experienced practitioners with little formal metadata training. Another advantage of this book is that it does not assume that the reader has previous cataloguing experience.
The book is divided into 11 chapters – Introduction to Metadata for Digital Collections; Introduction to Resource Description and Dublin Core; Resource Identification and Responsibility Elements; Resource Content and Relationship Element; Controlled Vocabularies for Improved Resource Discovery; XML-Encoded Metadata; MODS: The Metadata Object Description Schema; VRA Core: The Visual Resources Association Core Categories; Metadata Interoperability, Share Ability, And Quality; Designing and Documenting a Metadata Scheme; and Metadata, Linked Data and the Semantic Web. These chapters are followed by a very substantial bibliography and thorough and comprehensive index. Each chapter is laid out with an introduction and overview with excellent explanations and examples and finally a summary and appropriate references.
The book is laid out extremely well with good size and clear font and a very pleasing use of white space, often in columns. Some readers might want to use this space for their own annotations, but I find that it prevents the page from becoming overfull with technical explanation and, perhaps, become off-putting to the newcomer to this subject. The book is full of illustrations (all black and white), digital images, screen shots, and tables. The book is written in a pleasing style. It is not hand-holding or patronising but really just provides the information required in a straightforward and perfectly clear style. I have already indicated the likely readership for this book. Without any criticism at all, it is just to say that an individual reader who is not having it bought by their institution may find it somewhat costly, but this is often the penalty of the specialist book. I have nothing but praise for this book, well recommended!
Reviewer: Eric Jukes- Systems Librarian.
Posted by Fran Huckle on behalf of Eric Jukes