Thoughts on data editing

It has been made painfully apparent that I might have some strong feelings about metadata editing. OK, some very VERY strong feelings.

As my staff will tell you (and tell you I repeat this to the point of annoyance), I take the following approach:

RULE #1: If it’s not wrong, leave it alone. Always. 

When editing, follow these three metadata editing steps:

  1. Fix errors. If something is wrong, fix it or remove it. Fix spelling errors, incorrect controlled vocabulary/identities, etc. Delete anything blatantly incorrect.
  2. Enhance. ADD value to the record to make it more findable. Add controlled data points (codes, controlled vocabulary, identities, relationship terms, etc.)
  3. Make it pretty. But ONLY if you have time to do so. It doesn’t matter how pretty the data is if no one can find it. Frankly, the user isn’t going to care if the note isn’t phrased “just so” as long as it has the information they need. Likewise, while all caps are annoying, they don’t impact indexing or findability (normalization…remember NORMALIZATION of all variable fields happens in indexing/searching) so just let it go. LET IT GO.

Don’t get me wrong. It took a LONG time for me to get to the point of letting go of the instinct to make everything pretty. I mean, I went into cataloging/metadata to channel my OCD in a positive/healthy direction. But I realized that my energy is better spent adding value and figuring out how to improve the system than on the little details that have no impact on findability.

And remember, sometimes you’re adding controlled data points for future use.  Just because your current system can’t use it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. It just may be that the value can’t be realized in the current environment. Identifiers and controlled vocabularies and controlled data points (fixed codes) are what make the intertubes go ’round. Think about what your data will be able to do once it’s no longer silo-ed with that added data value.

Ultimately, always ask the following: IS IT FINDABLE?

If the answer is no, FIX IT and make it findable.

If the answer is yes, but not very well or it’s missing stuff…then ADD VALUE to make it more findable.

If the answer is yes, then just leave it be.

And if the answer is yes but I want to make it pretty, then BACK AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD.

Spend your time and energy wisely. As with everything else, you want the best return on investment. And if you follow the main rule, and the three steps outlined above, you’ll see a positive impact on the findability of resources, without working overtime.


About slmcdanold

I’m learning to laugh at myself on a daily basis. I’m a librarian (cataloger) and I love it. My job involves all things metadata related in any and all formats. I have been known to cause a ruckus when necessary (aka troublesome cataloger) and make no apologies for it. I have a passion for continuing education and teaching. I’m a newbie coder (still learning). I like to cook. I’m a fan of rugby (go Australian Wallabies!) and ice hockey (go Detroit Red Wings!). I’m car-free and bike/walk a lot. I’m learning to love running one stride at a time. I own (and love) a very mouthy cat with a punk attitude and a slightly neurotic rescue mutt.
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