“I never metadata I didn’t like.”*

So metadata has been the big buzz word in the news lately with the Edward Snowdon story that broke this week. The realization that the National Security Administration had access to millions of cell phone records prompted the Obama administration to point out it was “telephony metadata” the government had access to, not the content of the actual conversation.

Well, what the heck is metadata?

Basically, it’s data about data. You know when you create a hashtag on Twitter? That’s a very basic form of metadata. You are making the determination that all posts on this particular topic should be collocated under this hashtag. Same as when you add info about pictures you might post on Flickr or Instagram. By doing this, you are making it easier for the next person to find what you are posting. Check out the left margin on the RML Tumblr for a list of tags I add to each post. The easier to find you, my dear.

Music librarians assign metadata every day to catalog records keeping the user’s needs in mind. Subject headings are a good example of metadata. Looking for stuff about Bela Bartok? Do a subject search and you’ll find those smart catalogers collocated (yes, that big library word again) all the items about the composer under his subject heading. A helpful tool when searching for Rosebud.

With the advent of digital music, one of the war cries from music catalogers everywhere is the lack of metadata entered about the recording. In the physical world, these were called liner notes. You know, that piece of paper that comes in the CD or the back of the record album (I have to admit that when assigning this last year’s group of freshman the task of finding the liner note, a term very familiar to me, I got a lot of head scratching from these 18 year olds not sure what a liner note was). Well, the digital streaming service Rhapsody just announced that they will be embedding this information into all their recordings. Information about the back-up players, producers, and engineers.  A boon to listeners and searchers everywhere that will make searching easier, simply by adding the metadata.

* Jacob Harris, “Messing Around with Metadata,” Open New York Times, October 23, 2007, accessed June 14, 2013, http://open.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/messing-around-with-metadata/.


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