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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

5. Metadata – Discussion Questions

The Government Printing Office (GPO) document, Digital Distribution to Depository Libraries: Exploring the Issues (9/6/2006) asks these questions about metadata:

4. Metadata

a. Should GPO distribute bibliographic and other metadata as well as the digital publication?

b. What other metadata should be routinely distributed?

FGI Responses

Q: a. Should GPO distribute bibliographic and other metadata as well as the digital publication?

Yes. But the issue is more complex than this question implies. We need to be thinking of “metadata” in new ways.

It might be best to think of this question as two separate issues: First, should bibliographic and other metadata records be freely available? Secondly, should they be distributed (as opposed to being freely available) to FDLP libraries? We would answer “yes” to both those questions.

We believe that a wide variety of rich metadata should be made available to the public without charge. The specific implementation of such a policy would require study, but we can imagine one specific instance that serves as an example: GPO could expose OAI records for harvesting using OAI-PMH. This would allow libraries, archives, digital repositories, citizens groups, and even individuals, to create indexes, guides, portals, bibliographies and even collections of government information, freely and relatively easily.

We also believe that there need to be mechanisms for digital “deposit” of metadata with FDLP libraries. Such mechanisms will need to be developed, but they should include the ability of FDLP libraries to select what they want and receive what they select easily. This would enable FDLP libraries to easily and even automatically build their own indexes, guides, portals, bibliographies, and collections through the use of their OPACS and other tools. It would also facilitate FDLP libraries in their management of their own collections — including government and non-government information — in a common environment and with minimal special procedures for government information.

Q: b. What other metadata should be routinely distributed?

There are many different types of metadata: preservation, administrative, descriptive, technical, use, and others. (See for example, Gilliland-Swetland, Anne J. “Setting the Stage: Defining Metadata” in Introduction to Metadata: Pathways to Digital Information , Murtha Baca, ed. Los Angeles: Getty Information Institute, 2000, second edition. 12 pp. — Third edition forthcoming, Summer 2006.) In addition, metadata can include Semantic Web, Thesaurus, and RDF-like information. Metadata can be highly structured and controlled, or user-contributed. A rich depository system needs methods of exposing, distributing, and sharing such metadata easily. One of the most valuable pieces of this puzzle will be the high-value, authoritative, metadata constructed by and for GPO for use in describing and managing government information for the long-term as mandated by Title 44 and as administered through FDsys. There should be a very high priority for distributing such metadata to FDLP libraries.

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