Module 3 (Part One) Metadata Quality

3.2 Metadata Quality

I cannot read far in the textbook without thinking of my friend Alissa McCulloch who (up to this point) has been my primary source of cataloging knowledge.  When Hider (2018) mentions not taking user experience into consideration and how controlled vocabularies can hurt marginalised groups, I thought of Alissa.  She’s blogged about using Aboriginal names to describe Aboriginal people (and got something changed!), how controlled vocabularies can further distress vulnerable patrons, and (in a post I can’t find) how much of the metadata she created was not visible to patrons.  I also am reminded of the book Cruising the Library (Adler, 2017) where the classification of homosexuality is situated alongside paedophilia and other sexual crimes, and has LCSH that are offensive.


The following are examples of abbreviations and jargon which were once routinely used by library cataloguers. Do you understand what is meant by all of them? You’ll find the answers later in this module!

  • t.p.
  • ill.
  • ports.
  • repr.
  • fl.
  • prelim.

Yep, a fun quiz to see how easy to understand jargonistic cataloguing acronyms are.

The second one, ill., would be an abbreviation for illustrated.  Prelim. would presumably be an abbreviation for preliminary but I don’t know why that’s a word we need in cataloguing?


One example of inconsistency between LCSH and user searchers are the LCSH “aliens” and “illegal aliens” which are commonly searched for as refugees or immigrants.  The Library of Congress has changed these, and associated headings because not only were they not useful (and inconsistent with user searches) they were also considered to be insulting to refugees and immigrants.

Authority Control

One good example of having a controlled vocabulary (albeit less controlled than library authority control) is Wikipedia.  In this random example from off the top of my head, the Wikipedia page for The Black Eyed Peas includes a disambiguation, indicating to users that this page is about the music group, and if they are looking for information about the legume, they need to look on another page.

Heading and disambiguation on wikipedia page for The Black Eyed Peas


Well, the first mistake I made when searching the LC Authority records is looking for an author with their first name first.  A search for Brandon Sanderson brought back numerous people with the surname “Brandon”.  I gave up after flicking through three pages and searched surname first to arrive at the author of fantasy and dystopian fiction, Brandon Sanderson.

When searching for a book called Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, it took me a bit of searching to find the authority record. In my non-expert opinion, it doesn’t seem to be correct as it mentions one book in the series later in the record, but not all the others.  Either it is incomplete or incorrect.

Without too much difficulty, I found the subject authority record for autism.

Quality Assurance

While book covers aren’t typically recorded in metadata, a description may be useful in a school library catalogue, especially for primary school children who may not even be able to read the title of the book, but know they want the book with a yellow dog and a ball on the cover. However, that takes time and would not have the same controlled vocabulary that other metadata would have.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Yes, creating metadata is time-consuming.  But it is vitally important.  See this post for an accessible example and explanation as to why metadata is essential.  Of course, SCIS is a way that schools can access metadata, however even SCIS records have their issues, especially with subject headings.

Quiz answers

Well I won’t give them away, but I was on the right track with the ones I guessed… and obviously didn’t get the other ones right 😉


Adler, M. (2017). Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge. New York: Fordham University. doi:10.2307/j.ctt1xhr79m

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