A Theory of Metadata Enriching and Filtering: Challenges and Opportunities to Implementation
This paper is informed by four years of research and 57 in-depth interview data analysis with practising librarians, researchers, metadata consultants and library users using a constructivist grounded theory method (Alemu, 2014). From the research, four overarching metadata principles, namely, metadata enriching, linking, openness and filtering emerged. The integration of these principles resulted in the emergence of a new theory of digital library metadata; The Theory of Metadata Enriching and Filtering. Within the context of current challenges, the theory stipulates that metadata should be enriched by melding standards-based (a priori) and socially-constructed (post-hoc) metadata, and that this cannot be optimally utilised unless the resulting metadata is contextually and semantically linked to both internal and external information sources. Moreover, in order to exploit the full benefits of such linking, metadata must be made openly accessible, where it can be shared, re-used, mixed and matched, thus reducing metadata duplication. Ultimately, metadata that has been enriched (by linking to other openly accessible metadata) should be filtered for each user, via a flexible, contextual, personalised and re-configurable interface. The theory provides a holistic framework demonstrating the interdependence between expert curated and socially-constructed metadata, wherein the former helps to structure the latter, whilst the latter provides diversity to the former. This theory also suggests a conceptual shift from the current metadata principle of sufficiency and necessity, which has resulted in metadata simplicity, to the new principle of metadata enriching, where information objects are described using a multiplicity of users‟ perspectives (interpretations). Central to this is the consideration of users as pro-active metadata creators, rather than mere consumers. By providing underlying principles, this should enable standards-agencies, librarians and systems developers to better address the changing needs of users as well as to adapt to recent technological advances. This paper summarises the theory emerged from the research and looks at the challenges and opportunities to implement the theory of metadata enriching and filtering in academic libraries.