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Metadata and Bibliographic Control

In his book, “Metadata and bibliographic control: Soul-mates or two solitudes? Cataloging & Classification Quarterly”, Howarth explores the evolution of metadata throughout historical timelines and the relativistic application of bibliographic control mechanisms which seemed to be missing in the literary world. This gap has been addressed through examination of past evidence, the current enormous convergence and speculation of the future possible developments in the field of voluminous information and libraries (Howarth, 2005, p.37).

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Metadata in a nutshell can be defined as the attributes of data source clearly outlining the description of the relationship of data and the enhancement off effective discovery and utilization of the data source. Metadata has a basic description of “data about data” (Greenberg, 2005, p.17). The schemas of metadata which have been developed over time are specifically developed to fit the purpose of a certain field such as education, publishing, applied science, rights management and museum among others (McCracken, 2007, p.259).

Metadata was therefore grouped generally into functional group which include: administrative metadata which gives information about the data itself such as the date of creation; descriptive metadata which gives the properties of the data source, analytical metadata which gives the content of the source and Rights management metadata giving the legal or financial implication relating to the data usage (Rolla, 2009, p.174).

Other groupings include technical metadata which is the description of the software or hardware which is involved in conversion and storage of the data, preservation metadata which describes the state and the metamorphosis which the data has gone through over time, structural metadata which is a description of data type and version and the use metadata describing the manner in which the data is being used (Borbinha, 2004, p.105).

Metadata has developed over time since the standardization of SGML (Standard Generalized mark- up language) in 1986. Encoded Archival Description (EAD) was the first schema which later developed into Dublin Core (DC) to Text Encoding Initiative. The changes were specifically meant to meet the demands of the various needs of the different data for the dynamic uses. There are two levels of information use which greatly requires proper use of cataloguing; the system level uses the data for sharing and interoperability. On the other hand, the information is important to the end-user to determine, the type of data, whether it meets their needs, and the manner of acquiring and transferring the data (Eden, 2005, p.34).

Metadata and bibliographic control have a thin line separating them. It draws from the user-end the four functional standards which involve location, identity, selection and how to obtain information. Metadata is seen to be used more in the field of computer science and large data stores. Unfortunately the methods have not been sufficient to categorically reference the data in a systematic way.

In lieu to this cataloguing professionals and indexers have had a challenge in developing an effective cataloguing technique. This is even worsened by the fact that digital information are always on rapid increase with time. To solve this stalemate they have shifted the role of indexing to those who generate this digital information to include these referencing techniques so that their data can be easily classified and accessed when need arises (Gorman, 2004, p.11).

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The enormous information which is relevant to a particular user continues to present a challenge to the users of information. The use of a trusted third party to prepare a metadata seems to be viable though it has not been fully adopted. The future of metadata and bibliographic control is even becoming more complicated with the increase of data which seem to be similar and valuable to the users.

This article has categorically pointed out the historical developments of the biographical control and metadata and the challenges at each phase. The current obstacles and the ever increasing data make the updating of the metadata difficult (Baca, 2003, p. 47).

This is a brilliant comprehensive work which gives an introduction to the basic knowledge as well as the symbolic integration of metadata and cataloguing. This is a very useful paper to the teachers and the students who use highly classified data. The strengths of this paper lie in the historical detailed schemas of metadata which have been used and those that are currently used. Moreover the paper has also studied the future developments in the vital field of digital information management. The paper however has weakness in that it does not give the actual methodology of biographical control or metadata preparation (Miller, 1998, p.1).

The puzzling thing about this work is that there is a slight difference in the biographical control and metadata which is geared towards the users specifically. Unlike the referencing of other literary works such as images, this is dynamically increasing at a high rate. It is also surprising that there is no uniform mechanism which is unanimously agreed across the board of executing metadata schemas and biographical control. The use of a third party to perform metadata “a role as trusted third-party provider of resource descriptions represents a logical extension” (Howarth, 2005, p.51) is totally a new invention in the referencing of literary works.

In conclusion this is a classic study which gives the problems and the possible solutions of the field of metadata and biographical control over time. The major problem is the availability of data relevant to a given field in large amounts and therefore it becomes a challenge to determine which article to use (Alexander, 2008, p.68).


Alexander, M.S. (2008). Core Cataloging and Metadata Standards and Best Practices. Science & Technology Libraries, 28(1-2), 68-85.

Baca, M. (2003). Practical Issues in Applying Metadata Schemas and Controlled Vocabularies to Cultural Heritage Information. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly,, 36 (3-4), 47-55.

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Borbinha, J. (2004). Authority Control in the World of Metadata. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 38(3), 105-116.

Eden, B. (2005). New and Emerging Metadata Standards. Library Technology Reports, 41(6), 34-44.

Gorman, M. (2004). Authority Control in the Context of Bibliographic Control in the Electronic Environment. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 38(3/4), 11-22.

Greenberg, J. (2005). Understanding Metadata and Metadata Schemes. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 40(3-4), 17-36.

Howarth, L. (2005). Metadata and bibliographic control. Soul-mates or two solitudes? Cataloging & Classification Quarterly , 40(3-4), 37-56.

McCracken, E. (2007). Description of and Access to Electronic Resources (ER). Transitioning into the Digital Age, Collection Management, 32 (3-4), 259-275.

Miller, E. (1998). An Introduction to the Resource Description Framework. D-Lib Magazine, 4(5), 1-12.

Rolla, P.J. (2009). User Tags versus Subject Headings. Can User-Supplied Data Improve Subject Access to Library Collections? Library Resources & Technical Services, 53(3), 174-184.

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