Metadata and Digital Collections: A Festschrift in Honor of Tom Turner

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This work was inspired by Tom Turner, a Metadata Librarian at Cornell University. Tom was a metadata librarian before it was fashionable to have one on the staff. He explored and contributed to the fast developing field of metadata standards and applications and then guided us into the jungle. Tom was serious with a great sense of humor; he was passionate about libraries and poetry; he cared deeply about his friends and his family. He died much too young of complications from a malignant melanoma. Tom once wrote a note to an aspiring librarian who was curious about the role of metadata librarians. Tom said that the goal of all of his projects is "to contribute to our understanding of the most effective ways to make use of metadata." I suspect that the authors of these chapters have a similar goal in mind and hope that their writings will inspire future metadata librarians.

-Janet A. McCue, 
Associate University Librarian for Teaching, 
Research, Outreach, and Learning Services 
Cornell University

This book originated as an online book, published by CIP (Cornell Initiatives in Publishing), with chapters written between 2005-2008. Edited by Elaine Westbrooks and Keith Jenkins.

Poet's Table, Mann Library. The Poet's Table was commissioned by friends and family of Tom Turner, and crafted by Professor Robert Bertoia. Sketch of table by Robert Bertoia.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 10
  • Item
    Looking Back - Looking Forward: Reflections of a Transitional Librarian
    Hillmann, Diane I. (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
    It has been just ten years since OCLC Senior Research Scientist Stuart Weibel brought together the "geeks, freaks and people in sensible shoes" for the first Dublin Core workshop in 1995. Those ten years have broadened our view of the role of metadata beyond the simple extension of library experience and practices to the world beyond libraries. In fact, the case could be made that librarians have been more changed by this broader world than we care to admit. When pressed, most library-trained metadata practitioners continue to stress the importance of library traditions and values in their work, whether inside or outside libraries, and persist in the belief that these values continue to have an important place. Even with this allegiance to more than a century of library organizational ideas, metadata practitioners are moving into new and interesting territories. This essay explores some of these library traditions and values and how they relate to very different digital cultures librarians encounter in the broader world.
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    The History and Current State of Digital Preservation in the United States
    Hirtle, Peter B. (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
    The world of information is becoming ever more digital. While advances in information technology have undeniable advantages, they also pose significant threats to the long-term accessibility of information. Digital information is not durable. The goal of digital preservation is to maintain the ability to display, retrieve, and use digital collections in the face of rapidly changing technological and organizational infrastructures and elements. For over a decade now, a small group of librarians, archivists, publishers, and technologists have been trying to address how best to ensure that the digital information of today is still accessible to the future. This paper will survey some of the efforts that are underway in North America to understand how best to preserve digital information. Major investigations into the issues of digital preservation are currently underway at the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, in a number of university-based research projects, at the national bibliographic utilities, and at some technical laboratories. A number of different technical solutions are being explored, and it is likely that the best digital preservation solutions will use a combination of technical approaches. Studies have revealed that the biggest impediments to digital preservation are not primarily technical. Even more important are issues of ownership, economics, and organization.
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    The Quest for Electronic Resource Management Standards and Tools
    Chandler, Adam (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
    Libraries and vendors face significant challenges in the new digital publishing environment. One of these challenges is to manage the information and workflows necessary to acquire and provide access to electronic resources. The growth of electronic journals and databases has both complicated and transformed the acquisition and servicing of library materials. New information and workflows are required to evaluate, select, acquire, license, catalog, and manage electronic products throughout their life-cycle. Current library systems and standards have not kept pace with these changes. In the absence of existing software solutions, many libraries have begun to design and build local automated tools to address this gap. Surveys of locally developed electronic resource management systems reveal a high concentration of shared goals, issues and functional specifications, indicating that the time may be right for a collaborative approach and the establishment of best practices and standards. This chapter will describe the progress that is being made on this front by participants in the Digital Library Federation (DLF) Electronic Resource Management Initiative (
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    The Online Catalog as Data Repository
    Rupp, Nathan (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
    This essay will discuss the changing roles and work done by technical services professionals and the ways in which they can develop the skills needed for these new roles and opportunities. While catalogers needed to have an in depth knowledge of AACR2 and MARC in order to independently catalog physical materials, metadata librarians need to be familiar with a much wider range of metadata standards, work with digital objects, and work cooperatively on project teams that design digital library projects. How will these roles continue to change as further opportunities arise?
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    The Core Historical Literature Approach for Selection for Digitial Imaging
    Paulson, Joy (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
    The Core Historical Literature Approach is based on the principle that effective preservation plans should focus on a specific discipline as a whole rather than on the holdings of an individual library and features the collection of extensive evaluative information from scholars. These users of the literature provide their expert opinions regarding historical publications' relative value and importance. This results in ranked bibliographic lists, addressing the fact that the quantity of materials in many subject areas that is at risk for deterioration is far greater than can be handled by available preservation resources. Mann Library has successfully applied this approach to its digitized collections of agricultural literature, the Core Historical Literature of Agriculture (CHLA) (, and home economics literature, the Home Economics Archive: Research, Tradition, and History (HEARTH) (
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    New Approaches for Mainstreaming Metadata in Digital Library Project Development and Management
    Corson-Rikert, Jonathan (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
    Metadata reflects a traditional notion of metadata as common descriptive elements abstracted from homogeneous collections of resources. Following this simplistic model, bibliographic terms, i.e. metadata elements, such as author, title, date, and subject can describe an collection or resource in that collection using traditional cataloging methods. Metadata have often been created to support discrete functionalities such as online discovery of large offline collections. In a world where many new library projects bring 100% of content online and deliver that content in diverse and dynamic formats, we must expand the role of metadata as a core resource for project development and management, not just for dissemination. Recent metadata standards such as METS ( provide more sophisticated descriptive elements but also reflect the increased structural and administrative metadata requirements of complex, open-ended projects consisting of complex objects. The Vivo virtual life sciences library ( includes no traditional body of content and publishes no metadata in any fixed format. Vivo serves as an index that cross-references people, departments, laboratories, equipment, publications, and events that collectively comprise the Cornell Life Sciences Initiative ( and related educational and research activities on three campuses. Traditional metadata elements such as authorship, organizational affiliation, and subject keywords are subsumed into ontological :: triples structured for the website database following the principles of the Harmony Project's ABC Ontology ( other contemporary ontology design and integration methodologies. Many of these ontological relationships can be mined on-the-fly to produce standard metadata elements such as Dublin Core title, author, creator, or date for any object indexed in the collection, and the collection can be expanded with new types of objects and new relationships at any time in the project life cycle. Vivo's treatment of all data relationships as metadata and of metadata as relationship triples rather than individual elements offers new possibilities for flexibility and extensibility in creating and managing data and metadata for digital libraries.
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    Found in Translation: Four Characteristics of Metadata Practice
    Kurth, Martin (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
    In this essay Martin Kurth identifies and probes four characteristics of metadata practice: (1) that metadata work typically deals with metadata in aggregates; (2) that metadata practitioners’ responsibilities consist of interpersonal, informational, and operational layers; (3) that metadata practitioners serve as translators who facilitate communication via information systems within and among communities of practice; and (4) that metadata practitioners build syntactic and semantic links that span community boundaries to serve the broader interests of interoperability and multidisciplinary collaboration. Kurth addresses an audience of metadata practitioners, information science educators, and library catalogers for the purposes of, first, identifying metadata practitioners’ unique contributions toward facilitating the use of digital information and, second, helping catalogers who are beginning to work with non-catalog metadata to relate metadata practice to cataloging practice.
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    Being a Librarian: Metadata and Metadata Specialists in the Twenty-first Century
    Calhoun, Karen (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
    This paper aims to forecast the changing roles of librarians ­ especially catalogers and metadata specialists ­ in today's technology-driven research, teaching, and learning environments, in which information seekers behave more and more self-sufficiently and move well beyond library collections in their pursuit of information. Metadata and metadata specialists are strategic assets for libraries, but the service model for cataloging faces critical challenges.This essay will sketch an alternative frame of reference for technical services experts and highlight the reasons that metadata--and metadata librarians--are critically important to the library's future.
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    Introduction to 'Metadata and Digital Collections: A Festschrift in Honor of Tom Turner'
    Kara, William J. (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)
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    About and Contributors 'Metadata and Digital Collections: A Festschrift in Honor of Tom Turner'
    Cornell University Library; Bertoia, Bob (CIP (CU Library Iniatives in Publishing), 2008)