ERCIM News No.26 - July 1996 - GMD
ERCIM endorses Warwick Metadata Workshop
by Thomas Baker
Now that the World Wide Web has reached a size of 40 to 50 million pages
of images and text at perhaps 500,000 locations, we rely increasingly on
indexing robots. But these services retrieve more information than one normally
can use, and most of it is irrelevant. Descriptive tags, however rudimentary,
could help in narrowing searches ­p; if only one could get enough Web
publishers, from libraries and government agencies to local organizations
and ordinary users, to describe their own materials in a consistent, internationally
The dual challenges of tagging existing web documents with descriptive data
and designing an extensible framework for metadata in general were the subject
of a workshop held from April 1 to 3, 1996, at the University of Warwick.
The workshop was organized by the United Kingdom Office for Library and
Information Networking (UK) and the Online Computer Library Center (USA),
with endorsement from the Joint Information Systems Committee (UK), the
National Center for Supercomputer Applications (USA), DLib (the digital
library forum of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives and the
High Performance Computing and Communications program, USA), and ERCIM.
The participants included representatives of several national libraries
(USA, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, and Australia) as well
as software companies and universities.
The Warwick workshop achieved consensus on a limited core of description
elements and on the basic design of a container architecture for encapsulating
these core elements with other sets of metadata. Examples of such metadata,
or data about data, include library catalog records, specialized descriptions
(eg, for maps), terms and conditions of use, pricing and payment information,
and labels for sexual or violent content.
The architects of this so-called Warwick Framework ­p; led by Carl Lagoze
of Cornell and Clifford Lynch of the University of California ­p; are
seeking to implement the container concept in a variety of ways. The simpler
implementations will use existing HTML tags and compound MIME-typed documents
and will work on today's World Wide Web with minor extensions. More powerful
implementations will use, for example, a CORBA-like distributed object framework.
Carl Lagoze says: "We need metadata methods that work today. But it
is equally important to design a digital library infrastructure not constrained
by existing technology and, in fact, to provide guidance on how that technology
The workshop in Warwick followed a workshop held in March 1995 at OCLC in
Dublin, Ohio, which resulted in the Dublin Core - a method for describing
information resources with thirteen common-sense elements such as author,
title, publisher, subject, and language. Ongoing working groups are designing
implementations of the Warwick Framework, defining its syntax, and preparing
user documentation. For further information, see http://PURL.oclc.org/oclc/rsch/metadataII.
Thomas Baker - GMD
Tel: +49 2241 14 2171
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