What is Meta Data?

Metadata is structured information that locates, explains, and describes other data thus making it easier to retrieve, manage, or use. In other words, metadata refers to information about information or data about data.

The information about other data might include the author of a particular data, the date the data was created, the size of the file, and date modified. Such information makes it easier to locate a particular document.

In addition to document files, metadata is also useful for videos, images, spreadsheets, and web pages.


How is Metadata Created?


Metadata can be created by automated information processing or manually. Automated metadata creation is straightforward because it only displays information such as file extension, file size, date of creation, as well as who created the file or the author. On the other hand, manual creation allows users to input any relevant information describing a given file.

Functions of Metadata


Metadata allows people to:

  • Find resources by relevant criteria
  • Identify resources
  • Bring similar resources together
  • Distinguish different resources; and
  • Identify information location

Examples of metadata include:

Administrative Metadata

Administrative metadata helps administering information resources. Examples of administrative metadata include location information, acquisition information, and digitization selection criteria. The other forms of administrative metadata include reproduction and rights tracking and documentation of requirements for legal access.


Descriptive Metadata

Descriptive metadata is helps to describe related information resources. Some examples of descriptive metadata include differentiation between versions and cataloging records. Other examples include specialized indexes and annotations by users and creators.


Preservation Metadata

Preservation metadata helps in preservation and management of information resources. These types of metadata include documentation of the physical condition of a given information and documentation actions needed to preserve digital and physical versions of resources such as data migration and refreshing. Preservation metadata also involves documentation of changes that occur during preservation or digitization.


Technical Metadata

Technical metadata is information that shows how metadata behaves or system functions. Such metadata includes software and hardware documentation, technical digitization information such as formats, scaling routines, and compression ratios. Technical metadata also involves tracking of system response times and security and authentication data such as encryption keys and passwords.


Use Metadata

Use metadata describes the type and level of use of information resources. This type of data includes circulation records, user and use tracking, and digital and physical exhibition records. Use metadata also includes content reuse, search logs, and multi-version information.

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