ETL505: Module 1

1.1 Introduction aka You mean we actually need to read the Preface?  Who reads the preface?

Forum task

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

Information resources must be organised.  Apart from the aesthetics of organisation (that many of us indulged in over the break watching Marie Kondo), organisation in a library has many practical uses.

Firstly, we have retrievability.  If a resource is adequately described and its location given, it can be found in the catalogue and retrieved from its location with relative ease.

Secondly, we have serendipity.  If like is shelved with like it increases the chance of a library member finding another resource they may enjoy or find useful because it is shelved with other books by the same author or on the same topic.

Finally, we have accessibility.  Closely linked to points 1 and 2, if the materials are retrievable and logically shelved, it increases a library member’s ability to access resources themselves (making the assumption that we are discussing a school library where students have ready access to materials and not a special library where items must be retrieved by a staff member).  Librarians should not be the gatekeepers of knowledge and materials, and everything that can be done to empower members to find what they need independently is worth the effort.

I already know a bit about cataloguing, it’s limitations and criticisms of our current systems and methods.  I really hope this subject gets into some of the critical theories surrounding cataloging rather than just “here’s how you create metadata”.  The preface to the book gives me some hope that we will at least take a broad look at the principles that apply to cataloging rather than just the nuts and bolts of metadata fields.  The textbook is also broad – not just focused on school settings, but cataloging in general.  This is a good thing because ALIA accredits this course for all libraries, not just school libraries.


1.2  In which we define information resources and metadata.

I do feel like some of this chapter goes a little off course for the topic.  Do we need to know about the other ways (in other faculties) the term ‘metadata’ is used? But, on the whole, the chapter gives a good explanation of what metadata is and why we need it. I felt like it provided good, relatable explanations of terms (using examples such as looking for a specific, uncommon spice in a large, unfamiliar supermarket) and I’m hoping I’ve understood it all!

The following quote really stood out to me:

“The more resources there are, the more important description becomes, and the less we can rely on physical arrangements to connect people with resources.” (Hider, 2018, p. 13).

If I continue on the theme of organising books in a library, my personal bookshelf is not organised in anything resembling a traditional organising system.  I have a shelf for books I want to read but haven’t read yet (#TBR), a section of general non fiction books, some fiction series, a section for recipe books and a shelf for books too big to fit on any of the other shelves.  I know where to find all the books on my bookshelf, but if you walked up to my bookshelf wanting a book on cognitive behavioural therapy, you wouldn’t know where to start to look for it.  But it’s only one bookcase, so you would find it without too much hassle.  But if I was talking about a public library with 100,000 books on the shelf, there’s no way my ad hoc system would work.

1.3 Metadata, FRBR and WEMI

“The more metadata creators know about their users, the more effective the metadata is likely to be.” (Hider, 2018, p. 24).  Libraries around the world, including school libraries, use the LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) even though they were never intended for children to use.  So, for example, if a child searches the subjects in a library catalogue for “cars” it will return little to no results, because the LCSH for “cars” is “automobiles”.  Older students searching for WWI won’t find anything, because the LCSH is World War I 1914-1918.  This is insanity but also a good reason that users rarely use anything other than a keyword search when using library catalogues.

I must confess that, on first read, I’m a bit confused by WEMI and FRBR, but I’m sure that will clear up as I read more.  It possibly doesn’t help that the limitations and criticisms of WEMI and FRBR are being presented as they are introduced in this text.  This video does make things a lot clearer.

For example,

My hand holding a copy of Snapshot by Brandon Sanderson

This book is a representation of the Work Snapshot, a story conceived by Brandon Sanderson.  The Expression of this work is the story written down.  The Manifestation of the book is the hardcover copy with the ISBN of 978-1473224995. The Item is the actual copy I was holding in my hand in this picture.

However the book has other manifestations. In fact, the manifestation I read was ASIN B01N12IQVN because I specifically read the Kindle edition of the book and I guess the item is the specific copy that was sold to me.

Forum task

Determine some elements or attributes that might be useful for the purposes of discovering and retrieving a particular resource of interest to you, for example the prescribed textbook for this subject.Review these elements in light of the four FRBR user tasks—are they useful for all four tasks, or for some tasks more than others?

As an anecdote, I know that in my local library a young patron came in asking for a book “with the lime green plastic cover”.  Unfortunately the librarian did not know which book the patron was after and the attribute of the cover materials and colour was not in the metadata.  When the children’s librarian returned the next day and was told of this query, she immediately knew which book it was, and updated the metadata on the catalogue to reflect this so that that patron, and others, would be able to find that book.

In fact, colour cover is often an important attribute for patrons.  Maybe it should be in the metadata?

On a personal note, I recently ordered in a book from a local (indie!) bookshop.  It’s the third book in a trilogy and I really wanted to get the edition that matched the covers of the other books I have (two novels and a novella) in the series, so I specified the ISBN to make sure I got the right edition because the cover of the book was important to me.

As far as FRBR tasks go I think this could relate to Find, Select and Obtain, although I don’t know if that’s just a cop-out to say that it covers all three?

Something that is important to my husband, who reads a lot of epic fantasy series, is the “number” in the series this book is.  It’s important that he reads “number two” before “number three” etc.  I think this comes under the Find and Select tasks for FRBR but I am still wrapping my head around this, so I am entirely prepared to be wrong here!

1.4 Who Creates and Organises Metadata?

So, creators create metadata.  They give their work a title, they record when it was created and so on. Publishers create metadata by assigning keywords and writing blurbs and summaries of works.  Of course, information professionals create metadata about items.  These can be in-house cataloguers in libraries, or work for publishers to create shelf-ready items for libraries.  In Australia we have SCIS who the NSW Department of Education subscribe to, that provide catalogue metadata for items in school libraries.  While not all librarians will catalogue in their careers, they all need to understand the catalogue, how it works and the principles that support it so that they can optimally use the catalogue to find resources for their patrons.

Last week at ALIA Information Online Mike Jones spoke about the limitations of card catalogues as our legacy system, and how it does not work well in an online environment. The Tate in the UK does a good job of using the capabilities of the web with its metadata.  Contrast this page from The Tate of Monet’s Water Lilies painting with a comparable one on the National Gallery of Australia website.    The Tate provides so much more information and other things to explore.

I must admit to a little excitement when a book written by a friend of mine (who was the president of the Australian Society of Indexers) was referenced in our textbook.  Shout out to Glenda! <3.

There are also end-user created metadata.  This is often seen on image and video sites where there is no textual data to search so the tags become essential.  Trove also allows end-user tagging, for example this link takes you to items that have been tagged Political Cartoons. Sites like Goodreads also allow users to tag books based on any criteria they wish.  The limitations of this, however, are numerous.  No one is likely to find my personal tag of “never finished” as something useful.  The lack of a controlled vocabulary also means that a search for cricket will bring up books about both the sport and the insect, while tags for the insect could be cricket or locust…


Watching the SCIS webinar, I’m surprised to learn that Australia is the only country in the world that has this centralised cataloguing service for schools.  Schools in other countries either do their cataloguing in-house or subscribe to SCIS. 500 records will take about 19 working days to catalogue – that’s a lot of classroom time! (It works out to be 16 mins per record.  I wonder how long it will take me to get that fast at cataloguing?) Because SCIS is an education-specific provider they apply subject headings to fiction and non fiction alike.  Also just discovered that SCIS don’t use LCSH – they have their own.  However I have still heard a lot of complaints about it, including the WWI example I cited above.



Hider, P. (2018). Information Resource Description : Creating and Managing Metadata (Vol. Second edition). London: Facet Publishing.

Lorenz, A. [Andrea Lorenz]. (2012, August 9). FRBR simplified. Retrieved from

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