ETL 505 Module 1: The Need for Information Resource Description


Quite simply, an information resource is a resource that contains information. It comes in many forms e.g. DVDs, websites, books, maps etc. And in school libraries it also stretches to the world of literature. Therefore information resource description is the way in which all of these resources are described in order to locate them proficiently.

In school libraries, resources are often described and labelled by the Author. It’s quick and easily accessible when you know the author in which you are looking for. However extra information can also be added such as a blurb, publication information, maybe even a subject description. ‘Indeed, the analysis required to create a thorough and accurate description of information resources is a highly skilled activity. Effective resource descriptions, such as catalogue records, are typically the product of very careful thought and much experience. This subject will introduce you to this field of activity, one which is sometimes known as Information Organisation, or Knowledge Organisation. In the library world, it is traditionally called bibliographic organisation, or bibliographic control. In this subject the term bibliographic organisation is used’ (Charles Sturt University, 2015).

Why is it necessary for information agencies such as school libraries to organise information?

Without organisation it would be absolutely impossible to locate anything when you need it. I for one am big on organisation and it would drive me mad if I could not find something I needed easily. So this question to me just seemed to be common sense really.

Organising information, which includes description of that information (metadata), is most effective when contextual factors are considered. To maximise access to school library collections, requires that the “characteristics of the user, the technology, the information resources and other environmental factors” (Hider, 2012, p.8) are taken into consideration when organising information and making decisions about the four aspects of metadata: elements, values, format and transmission. Hider posits that there can be a difference between the user of the metadata itself and the users of the resources represents (2012, p.16). For example the user of the metadata might be a teacher or parent looking for a resources in the collection that might appropriate and used by a student. In any case, understanding those who are using the metadata and their purposes, can lead to creating metadata that is more effective (Hider, 2012, p.16).

FRBR Activity

When locating the text book needed for this course, it was quite straight forward as we were given all the information that was needed. The link originally failed to work for me, so trying to find the website ‘Book Exchange’ was the original task I had in searching for a specific information resource. Once found, I used FRBR in the following way:

Find: For this, the attribute I used was the ISBN number as I knew this was the most precise way to find the text I needed.

Identify: I then needed to identify that this was in fact the correct text and to do this, I specifically looked at the title of the text and the author.

Select: Once I had realised that this text had all the attributes that made it my specific text (title, author, date etc) I selected it and added it to “my cart”.

Obtain: My last step was to purchase the item which I did via digitally and using a credit card. Within four days the book was then delivered to my doorstep.

Chapter 1 & 2 Notes of Hider Text

What is an information resource?

An information resource is a term that encompasses all those resources that contain/represent data, information, knowledge and/or wisdom.

What is information resource description (metadata)?

Information resource description is essentially providing information about different aspects of the resource, otherwise known as ‘data elements’. Data elements may relate to the nature of the information itself (content – e.g. subject, language etc.) and/or to the carrier or container of this information of this information (e.g. size, format, labelling information such as statements appearing on the title page, etc.) (Hider, 2012, p.4).

Information resource description or data about data is often referred to as ‘metadata’ and is “commonly defined as ‘structured’ data (about data)” (Hider, 2012, p5).

Why is metadata important?

Essentially, metadata is important as it can support effective access to information. This information may support the user to gain an understanding of things such as:

  • What resources exist
  • Deciding whether or not to obtain an item
  • How to obtain a resource

While metadata may be useful for providing information about a single resource, it can also be useful for providing “an overview of a collection of resources by grouping like resources together (otherwise known as collocation), allowing users to navigate it” (Hider, 2012, p.7).

Who writes resource descriptions?

Descriptions of information resources are written by a variety of people, with various agendas and reasons for doing so (e.g. a librarian might wish to improve their patron’s knowledge while publishers may be focused on sales) and this will have an impact on the nature of the description (Hider, 2012, p.3)

What is relevance criteria?

Relevance criteria are the attributes or characteristics used to select resources. These might include:

·         Aboutness·         Accuracy (truth)·         Aesthetic value

·         Authorship

·         Credibility

·         Difficulty

·         Diversity of content

·         Importance

·         Informativeness

·         Interesting content

·         Level of condensation

·         Logical relevance·         Novelty·         Pertinence

·         Publication source

·         Recency

·         Scientific ‘hardness’

·         Specificity/amount of information

·         Style

·         Subject matter

·         Textual attributes

·         Usefulness” (Hider, 2012, pp.27-28)

Who Organises Information?

‘Library catalogues, or OPACs (online public access catalogues), continue to be a key part of the information access provided within school libraries. While the catalogue records themselves are generally drawn from a central supplier, there can be times when the teacher librarian may need to create catalogue records. While cataloguers are creating catalogue records for a greatly increased range of materials, including online resources, metadata specialists are also creating metadata for online resources, particularly those contained in the increasing number of large educational databases created for schools, to provide tailored access to those resources’ (Charles Sturt University, 2015).

If teacher librarians don’t normally create metadata, such as catalogue records, why do you need to have an understanding of information resource description?

Teacher librarians need to know more than how to download such records into a catalogue. An understanding of the principles of information resource description will enable you to appreciate the importance of this area to the provision of access to resources, assist you to gain the understanding needed to assess the effective of the access being provided within a school library through the catalogue and educational databases, and how that access might be best utilised and possibly enhanced.

It is the teacher librarian who not only sets in place the processes that ensure that needed records are obtained and downloaded, but also:

  • ensures that these records are correctly integrated into the catalogue;
  • enhances these records, and access to them, through the intelligent use of other available products and services plus features within the library information system;
  • considers the need for and makes local additions and changes to records to meet particular local needs, where warranted;
  • possibly creating records for resources when a record is not available;
  • provides feedback and input to the cataloguing agency to assist them in creating the most suitable records for our users needs;
  • teaches users how to effectively use the catalogue and sets strategies in place to overcome difficulties they encounter; and
  • maintains the accuracy and integrity of authority files.

The teacher librarian’s input can determine if the catalogue is used and appreciated as an effective and friendly tool for locating needed resources; or if the most noticeable feature about the catalogue is the number of users who bypass it.

Hider puts it simply when he states that in order for information professionals to improve access to information resources requires “first-hand knowledge of the domain in which they work” (2012, p.62).


Charles Sturt University (CSU). (2015). Module 1: Introduction. ETL505.

Hider, P. (2012). Information resource description: Creating and managing metadata. London: Facet.


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