Reading the article “Metadata for All: Descriptive Standards and Metadata Sharing across Libraries, Archives and Museums prompted me to reflect more broadly on what we have read and discussed about the need, as our readings for last week discussed, to know your audience. I come at this issue from a several perspectives, as someone who both works/has worked and researches in the museums libraries and archives I can fully appreciate why these respective institutions have developed a “rich toolset of descriptive particulars which are uniquely adapted to the particular material type.” Each institutions must develop standards and criteria that speak to audiences that are at once overlapping and distinct. Museum collection sites and libraries face the challenge of creating standards that will probably need to serve the broader public, and thus their criteria must take into account that keywords that occur to a librarian may not occur to someone from the general public. Archives have something of different problem in that they may be visited less by the general public and more by historians who might possess the historical vocabulary to get creative with their searches, but who can possess the technical acumen (myself included) of a fruit fly.
As a result the question really becomes how to balance the practical everyday need of the staff who rely on the standards to effectively do their jobs, maintain their sites, and provide (relatively) easy access to the collections that comprise an essential part of the foundation for the historical discipline. Conversely, as was pointed out in the article, the very missions of places like museums have a responsibility to engage the public, and a great part of that involves making collections accessible and providing adequate descriptions for searchable collections so that the general public who falls into their site “through a window” as Dr. Leon phrased it, can at least land on their feet. The ultimate question then, is what constitutes the appropriate balance? It would seem from the article that since each set of institutions is developing standards independently of one another that this would allow a fair amount of discretion and flexibility, on the other hand, it is also a reminder to keep your audience in mind as these standards continue to evolve. Perhaps some of the guidelines set forth in “Educating the Client on IA” would be suitable to remember and apply rigorously in this situation, continual communication among the site staff and the technical staff (assuming the two are separate, but recognizing that might not be the case) would hopefully provide a constant reminder of all the audiences who will interact and rely on these standards.
Would anyone else from class care to agree, disagree, or expand upon my thoughts?
More thoughts coming on the rest of the readings tomorrow.