Frequently Asked Questions
What is metadata?
Metadata in simplest terms is "data about data.” It is information relating to a resource, but it is not the resource itself or its contents. Library catalogers use descriptive metadata to capture the essential information about a resource to make it findable, such as the title, author, description, or subject keywords.
Why is metadata important?
Without metadata, you would not be able to find the library's resources. Metadata ensures that users can find resources through various access points, depending on the type of search query. For example, if you were looking for resources about Las Vegas that were published in 1987, you would find resources that meet the search criteria for topic and publication year--thanks to the metadata used in library catalogs.
What do you mean by "inclusive metadata"?
Many subject keywords have origins in language that are outdated or considered offensive by today's standards. When we refer to "inclusive metadata" at UCO, we are talking about conscientious application of metadata where our library catalogers make professional judgments about the keywords used to describe library resources. Sometimes that may involve removing or suppressing problematic keywords and finding alternative keywords and solutions to ensure discovery of library resources.
Isn't that censorship?
Censorship is the suppression or restriction to all or some parts of a resource. Metadata describes the resource and is not the resource itself. When we update metadata with inclusive language, we are not preventing discovery of items. In fact, we are making the resource more findable with modern terminology. For example, Chambers Library uses the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to describe its resources; however, the LCSH term for the LGBTQ+ community is “Sexual minorities.” The average modern-day person searching for resources relating to the LGBTQ+ community would not necessarily know to perform a keyword search for “Sexual minorities.” We make these resources more discoverable through various inclusive metadata strategies to address this problem.
What if I find an offensive or outdated term in the title or table of contents?
Title metadata is different than subject and topical metadata. Library catalogers are instructed to transcribe essential information of a resource exactly as it is found. For example, a resource called "2 Cool 4 School" would be transcribed exactly to ensure it could be found using its published title. The materials in Chambers Library have been selected using well-established criteria; however, we acknowledge that some materials may be offensive to some people. If you find a resource with problematic terminology in its title, you are welcome to submit a Reconsideration Request. A committee will review your request for reconsideration and contact you with a decision.
Who can I talk to about the library’s Inclusive Metadata Initiative?
You may reach out to the library’s professional cataloging team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more about this initiative or share feedback and ideas.