Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Title and Alternate Title

The next few items we will fill in will be Title, Alternate Title and Description. These fields should be fairly easy to complete and contain the information you would expect. We do have some specific formatting we require and that is what we will be covered in this post.

Every item in your collection will have a title regardless of whether it is a single item or compound object. If there is an existing title if would be entered in this field. For untitled materials like photographs, a short description is all that is required. For the CLPL photograph we are creating metadata for, the title is "Roses with water droplets".

**Avoid abbreviations! A good rule of thumb is to stay clear of abbreviations in your metadata. While it may be clear to you what they stand for, another person may have no idea what they mean. Typing out the full military rank, athletic abbreviation, or even state name helps to make sure everyone gets the most out of your collection.**

There are two titles associated with the CLPL postcard. The first is the title for the object and appears under the Object Description. The title shown under the Description is for the page of the postcard currently displayed.

Often for compound objects the page titles will simply be Page 1, Page 2, etc. In this case we chose to add (front) and (back) to the title.

Though you are free to title items as you choose, we do require certain formatting to be followed. Listed below are examples of our formatting standards.
  • Letters, Memos, and Correspondence: 
    • Letter from _________ to_________ ; Date
    • Memo from _________ to_________ ; Date
    • Ex: Letter from Bill Gates to Steve Jobs; 1982 
  • Newspapers or items in a series
    • Title of the series, Volume number, issue number
    • Ex: The Local Newspaper, Vol. 5, no. 17
  • Finding Aids
    • Finding aid for the _________ Collection
    • Inventory of the __________ Papers
    • Ex: Finding aid for the Hershey Collection
    • Ex. Inventory of the Kennedy Papers
When creating metadata, there will be times when information is known about the item though not explicitly listed on material anywhere. This often happens with dates or creators. If you include this information in your metadata make sure to identify it with brackets. For example, if you know a letter was written by John Jones but he didn't sign it you would title the letter:

Letter from [John Jones] to Jan Jones; 1919

Similarly if you knew it was written in 1919 but the letter itself was not dated the title would look like this:

Letter from John Jones to Jan Jones; [1919]

Alternate Title
Alternate titles are not often used, but are helpful if an item has more than one name associated with it for example. In the case of the CLPL postcard, the alternate title field has been filled in with all of the names associated with the hospital. This field is not required and will not show up online if left blank.

Alternate title online
Title and alternate title on the entry spreadsheet.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Object Name, Identifier, and Alternate ID

Let's start by opening up our metadata example spreadsheet. The first three categories are Object Name, Identifier, and Alternate ID. They are used to give each of your items a unique identity in our database that will never be repeated. This allows us to correctly search and display your items as well as easily reference them when needed.

This also means that you may give your items whatever title you choose without worrying about whether something else has the same title. We will always be able to find the right item if you are properly using our identifier system.

**If you are not familiar with single and compound objects, you may want to read our post on The Two Types of MDL Objects before diving into this post.**

Object Name

The object name is only used with a compound objects and you won't need to worry about filling it in. We use it maintain file structure and database organization and will add it for you when necessary. You won't see this online; it is only used behind the scenes by our programs.


Every single item in the Mississippi Digital Library has an identifier regardless of whether it is a single or compound object and it always appears as the first item under Description and Object Description boxes. The identifier is made up of three to four parts and follows the following format:


Single Object

Let's look at our photograph example. The identifier is wz2.Gaines.014 - "wz2" is the OCLC institution code given to Columbus-Lowndes Public Library (CLPL). Every identifier for CLPL will begin with this unique code. If your institution does not have an OCLC code, we will assign you a code.

The second part of the identifier, "Gaines", is the code for the collection this item is a part of. You may choose to name or abbreviate your collections how you wish, but that same collection code will appear on all items in that collection.

The last part of the identifier, "014", is the number of the item. This number does not correspond with an item's existing number or call number, rather it is the number of the digital image in the collection. Our rose picture was probably the 14th photograph scanned into the Marion Stark Gaines Digital Collection.

The "0" in front of the number is important. This allows for the addition of up 999 items to a collection while maintaining the same identifier system. If you have a very large collection more zeros may be added (for example, wz2.Gaines.0014) to allow for additional uniquely identified items to be added. Remember, just because there may only be a few items in the digital collection now doesn't mean the number of items won't increase at some point. Add the zero(s) to the item numbers to give your collection a little growing room.

** We include the periods between the different parts of the identifier to make it easier to read. **

Compound Object

This changes slightly when working with a compound object. Let's look at our postcard's metadata. The item gets an identifier that follows the same rules. You will see it in the "Object Description" box. The individual pages get a small addition to the identifier which can be seen in the "Description" box.

The identifier for the postcard is wz2.ms232.b1-072, while wz2.ms232.b1-072.01 is the identifier for the front page of the postcard. This means that the front of the postcard is the first page of the object. If we look at the back of the postcard we will see the end of the identifier has changed to wz2.ms232.b1-072.02, meaning we are looking at the second page of the item.

** Don't get thrown off by the "b1-" in front of the item number for the postcard. This was added so the CLPL team can easily look at the identifier and know that the postcard came from box 1 and was the 72nd item scanned. **

Let's enter the identifiers onto our metadata spreadsheet. Since row 1 contains the metadata categories we'll start on row 2. We'll use row 2 for the photograph and the next few rows for the postcard. Row 3 will contain the metadata pertaining to the entire object, and rows 4 and 5 for metadata specific to the individual pages.

Alternate ID

The Alternate ID is not a required field and you will never have to enter it. We fill it in at the MDL if we need to change your original identifiers. It is visible online. For our postcard example we modified the identifiers for each page by taking out the words "front" and "back". We retain the original identifier in the Alternate ID field so there is a record of the change.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Creating Metadata

The next few posts are going to focus on creating metadata. Creating metadata consists of filling in the metadata template with as much information as possible for your items. We will walk step by step through the process and explain each metadata category on the template.

** We do offer an online metadata and item submission form for single items if you prefer to create metadata this way. The information collected is the same regardless of which method you use. At this time it is still necessary to use the spreadsheet for compound objects. **

For our examples we are going to be creating metadata using a photograph and a postcard from the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library. You can view the finished items at any time by clicking on the links to the right under the heading "Our Links".

To start, we will need to download the metadata template and open it up using Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet program. If you ever need another copy of the template one can be found on the Resources page of the website. You may want to take a minute or two to look over the spreadsheet columns. The first row contains the metadata categories. Each row after that will represent one item, or one page of an item for compound objects.

There are a lot of categories listed in the first row of the spreadsheet but you will not have to fill all of them in. Some are optional, and some we fill in. As we go through the process of creating metadata for the above items, we'll let you know which ones are which.

This is what the template looks like in Excel.

A NOTE: Please do not physically rearrange the order of the metadata template!  When you submit your items, it is very important that the metadata you send us is in the same order as the template. We (unfortunately) have a very picky program that will not understand the information if it is out of order.

We recommend sending your items in batches (multiple items at a time). You only need to send one spreadsheet for each batch of files regardless of whether they are single items or compound objects. A new batch of files should have a new metadata spreadsheet with only the new files listed on it.

Now that we've got the basics out of the way, it is time to start creating metadata! We're going to save our spreadsheet template as "example" and use this for the rest of the metadata tutorials.

Image Credits:
"Roses with Water Droplets" courtesy of Columbus-Lowndes Public Library
"Postcard of McKinley Hospital, Columbus, Mississippi" courtesy of Columbus-Lowndes Public Library

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Two Types of MDL Objects

We deal with two types of objects in MDL collections, single objects and compound objects. Regardless of the format (.jpg, .pdf, .mp3, etc.) all items in a collection will fall into one of these two categories. Knowing which type of object you are dealing with will make creating metadata easier and faster. Who doesn't like that?

Single objects are items that are composed of one and only one "digital page". It might help to think of a digital page as one scan. Good examples of single objects the would be a letter written on one side of a piece of paper or a photograph with nothing written on the back. In both cases, only the front of the item would be digitized and the resulting file would contain one scan. In the viewer only one page is visible and all of the metadata in the description box refers to the item above it. When creating metadata for single items, the metadata form should be as complete as possible for each item.

Take a look at these examples, clicking on the picture will take you to the item:

A compound object is an item that has more than one digital page or part. Books are the most obvious compound objects, but a letter written on both sides of the page or a flyer with printing on both the front and back fit in this category as well. An audio file with a transcript is another good example of a compound object. Take minute to look at some examples.

This selection of family history records from Madison County Library contains a letter and a marriage certificate.

You might notice some differences in the item viewer. With compound objects, the ability to select a page appears down the right hand side of the screen. The first box below the image is "Object Description" box. The object description refers to the entire compound object and any metadata that appears in this box should be applicable for every page of the object. 

The following box is labeled "Description". The description box contains the metadata specific to the page being viewed. If you select a different page of the deGrummond book you'll notice that the information in the object description stays the same but the Title, Height, Width, and File name change in the description.

There are two description boxes.

When creating metadata for compound objects, there is no need to repeat the information for each page. Only the metadata fields that change from page to page need to be filled in. 

If you are digitizing a book for example, the first line of the metadata template will contain most of the necessary information and will constantly appear in the "Object Description" box no matter what page the user is viewing. The rest of the template then, only needs a handful of items to be filled in. This can save you time especially if you are dealing with lots of pages!

The next few tutorials will focus on creating metadata. We will cover each field of the metadata template in depth and give an example for both a single object and a compound object. (Don't let the template scare you, it is really easy!)

If you have questions please ask them in the comments or contact us.

Image Credits:
"Soldier with Rifle Holding Bayonet" courtesy of Camp Van Dorn WWII Museum and the Mississippi Digital Library

"Lifetime Teacher's Certificate" courtesy of McCain Library and Archives and The University of Southern Mississippi

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Making Metadata Less Intimidating

Metadata is a word that comes up a lot when dealing with Mississippi Digital Library (MDL) collections. It is information science jargon that can sound really intimidating if your are not familiar with it. We are going to make it a lot less scary right now. Metadata is information about your items. That wasn't so bad, was it?

For our purposes at the MDL, when we use the term metadata we are simply referring to the descriptive information that should accompany the materials in your digital collection. An item's title, description, date, and file size are all examples of metadata.

If you click on this link:

You will be taken to an image of a USM homecoming parade. Everything that is in the "Description" Box below the image is the item's metadata.

This is all metadata!
We use this information for some essential functions at the MDL.

  1. It describes your items to our website users. Any questions a person might have about your items should be answered (if possible) by the information provided in the metadata. 
  2. It helps us keep your collections organized. The better organized your collections are the easier it is for users to get to and view your items and the easier it is for us to locate items when they are needed.
  3. It makes the website's search functions work properly. The more information you can provide with your items, the more likely it is that your items will be found during a search.
Having detailed and accurate metadata is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you and our users get the most out of using the website.