School of Library and Information Studies

LIS 598 Metadata


University of Alberta

LIS 598: How I learned to stop worrying and love description and structure: a 13-hour tour of metadata essentials (1 credit)



Sharon Farnel (Metadata & Cataloguing Librarian, University of Alberta)

Office hours: by appointment.

Course Description

This course will provide students with an introduction to metadata in the Library context. Students will learn about the different types and functions of metadata, gain practical experience working with standards, tools, and practices, and learn about current and emerging trends.


Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • discuss the basic types and functions of metadata
  • describe the strengths, weaknesses and uses of several common metadata standards
  • identify issues that may arise when planning for metadata, including interoperability and quality control
  • develop a basic application profile for a small digital collection and create basic descriptive and administrative metadata for items in that collection
  • describe current and emerging trends, such as user-generated metadata  and Linked Open Data  


Topics will include: uses and importance of metadata; descriptive, structural, and administrative metadata; common metadata standards including DC, MODS, METS, PREMIS; metadata creation tools; crosswalking and metadata interoperability; application profiles; principles, issues and trends.


Lectures, small group exercises.

Course Relationships

Pre-requisites: LIS 501, 502.

Assignments & Evaluation

For the final assignment, students will be required to create a basic metadata application profile  for a small digital collection, and follow that profile to create basic descriptive and administrative metadata for items in that collection.

Academic Integrity

The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behaviour and avoid any behaviour which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University.

Inclusive Language & Equity

The Faculty of Education is committed to providing an environment of equality and respect for all people within the university community, and to educating faculty, staff and students in developing teaching and learning contexts that are welcoming to all. The Faculty recommends that students and staff use inclusive language to create a classroom atmosphere in which students’ experiences and views are treated with equal respect and value in relation to their gender, racial background, sexual orientation, and ethnic backgrounds. Students who require accommodations in this course due to a disability affecting mobility, vision, hearing, learning, or mental or physical health are advised to discuss their needs with Specialized Support and Disability Services.

Recording Lectures

Recording is permitted only with the prior written consent of the professor or if recording is part of an approved accommodation plan.

Required Readings*

Understanding Metadata. National Information Standards Organization (NISO), 2004.

Baca, Murtha. Introduction to Metadata. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2008. Online edition, Version 3.0.

A Framework of Guidance for Building Good Digital Collections: Metadata. National Information Standards Organization (NISO), 2007.

Recommended Readings*

Hillmann, Diane and Jon Phipps. Application profiles: Exposing and enforcing metadata quality. Proceedings of the International Conference on Dublin Core and Metadata Applications 2007.

St. Pierre, Margaret and William P. LaPlant, Jr. Issues in Crosswalking Content Metadata Standards.

Berners-Lee, Tim. Linked Data - Design Issues. 2006.

A list of select further readings and resources will be provided during the class.

 * All online resources last accessed 2 February 2013


Tentative Timetable (Subject to Change)


Introductions, administrivia

Metadata – what is it and why is it important?

Metadata and cataloguing – similarities and differences

Descriptive metadata – functions, examples

Structural metadata – functions, examples

Administrative metadata – functions, examples

Metadata creation tools – a sampling


Controlled vocabularies

Metadata mapping, crosswalks and interoperability

Metadata application profiles

Best practices and quality control

Principles, issues, trends

Discussion of final assignment


“Policy about course outlines can be found in Section 23.4(2) of the University Calendar.”