Metadata, not only for digital libraries but also for regular library catalogs, is increasingly going to be collected from heterogeneous sources in various formats. With a plethora of metadata standards around, what could a framework “that likes any metadata it sees” (Roy Tennant) look like?
If you’d like to learn more about how metadata travels from harvesting from different sources to aggregated presentation, one good place to start would be “Strategies for reprocessing aggregated metadata” by Muriel Foulonneau and Timothy W. Cole (PDF, published in Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (proceedings of the 9th European Conference on Digital Libraries, ECDL 2005), Heidelberg: Springer, ISBN 3-540-28767-1).
The OAI protocol facilitates the aggregation of large numbers of heterogeneous metadata records. In order to make harvested records useable in the context of an OAI service provider, the records typically must be filtered, analyzed and transformed. The CIC metadata portal harvests 450,000 records from 18 repositories at 9 U.S. Midwestern universities. The process implemented for transforming metadata records for this project supports multiple workflows and end-user interfaces. The design of the metadata transformation process required trade-offs between aggregation homogeneity and utility for purpose and pragmatic constraints such as feasibility, human resources, and processing time.
In the process of looking at transitioning from MARC, I hope the Library of Congress will also consider an infrastructure that is designed to facilitate linking, ingestion and reprocessing of a variety of metadata from other information providers. Maybe it really is time for a meta model?