In order to give a divisible breakdown of ‘metadata standards’ to any computer neophytes who may stumble across my blog, firstly I should explain what metadata is, and why it is so important? Metadata is data that describes other data in detail, it also arranges this data into structured hierarchical categories that act as data containers which hold information about an object, place or person. According to Tony Gill metadata can be defined as “a structured description of the essential attributes of an object” (Gill).


Metadata standards are a set of metadata that is organised into a number of categorical elements which are accepted universally. This gives users information that is both  internet friendly, accessible, consistent and structured. This is essential for identification and information retrieval (Higgins).  With the invention and development of the World Wide Web, metadata standards are becoming even more necessary for the correct searching and retrieval of information.  Although some analysts had predicted that commercial search engines would not be able to keep up with the ever growing amount of information on the Web, search engines (and Google in particular) have been adept in doing so, thus alleviating the perceived   millennium meltdown (Gill).

Gill further discusses the emergence of the metadata standards , seen by some at the beginning, as the all-round solution for web searching.  Not everybody agrees with this view.  The Canadian journalist and blogger, Cory Doctorow, wrote a short essay in which he puts forward seven arguments against the view that reliable metadata can be created by humans, he calls it “meta-utopia” (Doctorow).  I agree with Doctorow, to some extent, that metadata is not the ultimate solution for web searching and it is susceptible to human mistakes, whether accidental or deliberate.   At the same time, we cannot dispute its importance in the library, archive and museum environments.  The development of metadata standards is extremely important in making digital resources available to a wider public. Metadata standards are one of the means for ensuring that metadata is descriptive, structured and reliable, and at the same time, these standards make it easier to search within and across information systems (Gilliland).  The controlled vocabulary aspect of metadata standards alleviates the problematic homographs or in rudimentary terms, two words that are spelled the same but have different meanings.  A good example of a homograph is the word ‘row’, it can mean a fight, or to propel a boat  forward.  Both words are spelled the same, but are pronounced differently; thus controlled vocabularies eradicate these kind of errors.  Controlled vocabularies and classification tools in conjunction with metadata standards improve the management and exchange of images of art and architecture and the data related to them (Baca 19).

We also need to consider the fast-paced development of software and hardware.  Standardising metadata is important for its preservation through time  thus aiding its longevity (Gilliland).


Baca, Murtha.  “A picture is worth a thousand words: Metadata for art objects and their visual surrogates.” ALCTS Papers on Library Technical Services and Collections (2002): pp 1-19.

Doctorow, Cory.  “Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia”, Version 1.3, 26 August 2001, Accessed on 30 October 2016.

Gilliland, Anne J.  “Setting the stage”, Introduction to Metadata, Third Edition, Murtha Baca (ed), Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust, 1998,  Accessed on 29 October 2016.

Gill, Tony. “Metadata and the Web”, Introduction to Metadata, Third Edition, Murtha Baca (ed), Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust, 1998, Accessed on 29 October 2016.

Higgins, Sarah. “What are Metadata Standards”, The Digital Curation Centre. February 2007, Accessed on 30 October 2016.