The article, A Metadata Manager’s Role in Collaborative Projects by Li Sun perfectly illustrates the importance of including LIS professionals in one area I have felt has been seriously neglected in the world of academia…that of cross-disciplinary, collaborative projects. In using the Rutgers University Libraries as a case study, Li showcases the valuable skills that metadata managers can bring to digital projects, regardless of the institutions involved.
Li believes that the main duties of a metadata manager are:
- Plan the selection & integration of metadata standards
- Coordinate activities involved in the whole process of a project
- Produce metadata elements
- Maintain existing metadata to support data management and information retrieval
First, project management skills are highly necessary in this role. Not only the hard skills such as the planning, creation, and management of project metadata elements but soft skills, such as building social capital, knowing how to motivate, integrate, and facilitate collaboration within digital projects.
The metadata manager must act as a PLANNER – requiring intimate knowledge with the entire scope of the project, its potential audience, and the capabilities of all parties involved (both people and institutions). The manager must also be familiar with the collection to be used, system requirements (both of the current collection and how it will be utilized by the end user), and naming conventions. Consistency and completeness must be adhered to in all phases of the metadata elements of the project and it is the manager’s responsibility to see that this is accomplished. This builds the framework of the project.
As COORDINATOR – the manager must work within multiple collections or possibly institutions and must become familiar with both the materials as well as the people who manage them. In addition, they act as a go-between within the project team itself as relationships between the different roles must be managed in order to meet the goals of consistency and completeness. This builds communication within the project.
In the role of FACILITATOR – the metadata manager must create the metadata elements and either input them or oversee their input. Close supervision is required to ensure the quality of the information being ingested upholds the project’s standards. This builds quality within the project.
The final role held by the metadata manager is that of ADMINISTRATOR – levels of accessibility for those involved in the project must be established, according to the required hierarchies within the project. In addition, management is required, not only to maintain the goals of consistency and completeness, but to ensure that key stakeholders’ needs are met in regards to access, input, preservation, and retrieval.
Li makes a very valid point in her conclusion that as metadata mangers already play a central role in collaborative projects, there is a need for the key participants to truly understand this role. In many instances, metadata managers may work behind the scenes, fulfilling some of these roles, but are rarely being utilized to their complete potential. If institutions were to bring these LIS professionals into a project at the beginning, rather than as an afterthought, the end results (for all parties involved) could be much better organized, productive, and ultimately more fruitful than rushing to fill these needs as emergencies arise.