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Conference Report


D-Lib Magazine
July/August 2006

Volume 12 Number 7/8

ISSN 1082-9873

Metadata Tools for Digital Resource Repositories

JCDL 2006 Workshop Report


Jane Greenberg
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

Thomas Severiens
Universität Osnabrück, Germany

Red Line


How can we improve communication in the digital library (DL)/metadata tool community and advance the state-of-the-art for tools in this environ? Addressing this question was the overarching goal of Metadata Tools for Digital Resource Repositories workshop held at this year's JCDL 2006: Opening Information Horizons held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The workshop drew 47 participants from a range of communities (e.g., education, government, medicine, industry, and cultural institutions – to name a few) who are involved in many aspects metadata tool development, research or use. Participation was international, with representation from Australia, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Metadata tools are vital for DLs and digital resource repository growth. Sharable ontologies and metadata schemas supporting a wide range of functions have helped initiate tool development. Project demands and deadlines have made it difficult for tool developers, from different digital initiatives, to share their progress, or users to share their experience. Opportunity is also limited for tool users to learn about applications and to interact with developers, distributors, and other consumers of metadata tools. The workshop created a venue for sharing developments, knowledge, and evaluation methodologies specific to DL metadata tools.

The workshop commenced with general announcements about logistics, the day's events, and commentary on intended outcomes – the overriding one of which was to stimulate discussion on and about metadata tools and communication within the metadata community. Workshop Co-Chairs, Jane Greenberg (Associate Professor and Director, SILS Metadata Researcher Center, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Thomas Severiens (Researcher and Project Coordinator, Department for Mathematics and Computer Science, Osnabrück University, Germany) introduced themselves, and the members of the Workshops Advisory Board in attendance were acknowledged. (A complete list of workshop advisory board members is at: <>). Greenberg and Serveriens are currently Co-Chairs of the DCMI (Dublin Core Metadata Initiative) Tools Working Group ( The JCDL Metadata Tools Workshop was also introduced as an official DCMI Tools event, and included an overview DC Tools Working Group's activities and its charter.

In presenting the day's activities, the Co-Chairs emphasized that all participants were required to take part in following three tasks during the course of the day: 1. thinking, 2. dialoging, and 3. working. The workshop plan stressed that participants should take advantage of the workshop's time and venue to think deeply about metadata applications, and the connection between users and developers. Participants were encouraged to think about the interconnections among all constituents of metadata, such as standards creators, metadata creators, and metadata consumers. Participants were also encouraged to ask questions of the presenters; and they were asked to dialog during breaks, lunch, and the breakout session in order to share and learn from colleagues about metadata challenges and solutions. In setting the stage, time was allocated to the concept of metadata tools, and the reality that this phrase and conception refers to an extremely wide and diverse range of applications. The workshop centered primarily, although not exclusively, on applications focusing on descriptive metadata, rather than on KOS (Knowledge Organization Systems) or semantic metadata independently, such as thesauri or ontologies.

The workshop had three parts: Part 1 consisted of presentations on application design challenges and solutions; Part 2 included a tools exhibition; and Part 3 included break out groups and a concluding – all participant – discussion to explore tool development priorities, including communication issues impacting all constituents of the metadata tool community.

Part 1 included nine presentations addressing application design challenges and solutions. Topics covered included: Web services, RDF, the Semantic Web, metadata searcher/information retrieval, facets, application profiles and harvesting, metadata quality and evaluation. These topics were clustered into five broad groups. A list of presenters and their topics follows here, with links to their presentations abstracts and slides.

  1. ERC "Kernel" approach to metadata and web retrieval service
  1. Metadata Integration: Application Profiles and Harvesting
  1. Facets and Metadata Search
  1. Usage of RDF in Web Services
  1. Metadata Quality and Evaluation

Part 2 of the workshop included an exhibition organized by Jane Greenberg, Eric Mitchell, and Gershom Rogers. Among the exhibitors were researchers, tools developers, and commercial vendors, several whom hold an international clientele. The metadata tools were displayed in an open setting. Workshop participants roamed the exhibition space and were able to view applications in an intimate setting, dialog with other workshop attendees, and share questions and solutions related to various metadata applications. Tools exhibited include the following:

  • CalEDLN, Sonoma Ecology Center
  • CAT, Natural Language Processing, Syracuse University
  • Connexion, Online Computer Library Center, OCLC Inc.
  • CONTENTdm, DiMeMa Inc.
  • DCS and jOAI (two different tools), DLESE Software Engineer University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)
  • Greenstone, Department of Computer Science University of Waikato, New Zealand
  • iVia, INFOMINE Project iVia
  • Millennium, Innovative Interfaces Inc.
  • Seamark Navigator, Siderean Software, Inc
  • TM4L, Winston-Salem State University
  • Verctoreal/Sixth Sense Analytics
Summaries on each of these tools, biographical information about the presenters, and links to relevant exhibitor resources and publications are found at: <>. The last part of the workshop, Part 3, was co-organized by Jane Greenberg and Eva Mendez. This segment aimed to stimulate discussion among all constituents of the metadata tool community about tool development priorities and vendor/developer and user communication issues. Participants first joined smaller breakout groups – consisting of about six people each – and were asked to discuss the following four questions:
  1. What are the most pressing issues/research for tool developers?
  2. What are the most pressing issues/research areas for tool users?
  3. What is the relationship between metadata formal standardization (ISO15836, ISO19115, etc.) and tools development? What other factors are related with the specific metadata tools development?
  4. Do you think there is a communication gap among constituents of the metadata community: Metadata Application developers, metadata creators, users? If so, what are they, and how can this be improved?

Each breakout group had a leader, and the participants were instructed to discuss all four questions in about an hour's time. The workshop concluded with each group reporting in an open session, which was combined with an all-participant discussion moderated by Eva Mendez. This approach allowed participants to identify themes and consider approaches to several of the problems articulated.

Communication seemed to underlie the most pressing issues that each of the breakout groups identified for both tool developers and users, and for solutions to problems (Questions one, two, and four). Tool developers emphasized the need for users to clearly define their metadata tool needs; and several tool developers expressed that users are particularly bad at articulating their needs. One developer suggested that users should approach developers with a wish list and articulate the end-result at the onset of a negotiation. Contrasting with this recommendation was the view that tool development needs to be an iterative process between developers and users. (Several developers expressed this was more the norm in the academic world.) The developer discussion included frank remarks about developers' interest in markets and the need to show quick results. Developers stressed wanting to please users and profit at the same time. Tool developers also indicated that standards, and their stability – or lack there of – impact their work; standards were also given specific attention in Question three.

The user discussion was framed by one breakout group who asked: Who is a user, and who is developer? Participants agreed that there is a blurring of roles within some institutions. Users generally agreed with the points made by the developers, but expressed more support for the iterative process, over one clean sweep. Several users indicated that it is difficult to know exactly what their organizations want and need in terms of metadata tools. "Change" (reflected both in technology and standards development) was discussed as being a key factor impacting organizations' metadata tool needs. Users also expressed the need for shorter development cycles, more customizability for the various users in an organization, slicker and simpler implementation, and honest and committed vendors (commenting here on false promises and the fact that some developers and vendors disappear from the market). The user discussion also brought attention to the fact that metadata serves many members in an organization beyond users, supporting a range of functions beyond resource discovery (e.g., provenance, administration, and so forth). This point served as a segue for discussing standards (Question three).

Participants were unanimous in their support for standards and believed, overall, that standards have a positive impact on application development. The main problem is that there are many standards, as well as often competing standards. Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that standards change too rapidly, which can have a negative impact on human and financial resources devoted to tool development for both developers/vendors and users. This segment of the workshop led to a discussion about how more extensible open source applications, registries, and vocabularies could improve the overall metadata tool environment for all interested individuals and communities.

The workshop provided an open and friendly setting for exploring application development issues, identifying factors that impact metadata tool development for both developers and users, and for brainstorming about various solutions. As part of the concluding discussion, participants suggested approaches and solutions for improving metadata tool development and communication among all constituents of the metadata tool community. The following are key suggestions that arose from the discussion:

  • Application development needs to be more agile. Here "sprinting" was suggested. This business world approach results in rapid turnarounds.
  • A repository of use cases might be created to drive metadata tool development. The repository would include best practice guidelines, data, and models to guide tool development.
  • Approaches for measuring tool effectiveness need to be extended and shared.
  • More attention needs to be given to the gap between application research (academic activities) and primetime tool creation.
  • Developers need to spend time with the actual users of their system – not just with organizational administrators.
  • Users need to improve communication skills. Users need to be removed from their day-to-day context, and converse with people not familiar with the day-to-day routines, in order improve their communication with developers.

The workshop was animated and notable, with many participants wanting to continue the discussion past the 5:00 p.m. close of the day. And, indeed the discussions did continue throughout the dinner reception, which was hosted by the SILS Metadata Research Center <MRC> ( and made possible by a recent gift from Sarah and Claude Snow, Jr., SILS Board of Advisors.


We are grateful for generous support from Siderean™, Innovative Interfaces/Millennium, DiMema Inc./CONTENTdm, Sirsi/Dynix, and Endeavor. We would also thank Teri DeVoe, Assistant Coordinator for Logistics for her outstanding contribution with regard to workshop organization, and the advisory board for its help in planning and running the workshop – especially Eva Mendez, Traugott Koch, Erik Mitchell, and Gershom Rogers.


Copyright © 2006 Jane Greenberg and Thomas Severiens

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