Journal of Southern Academic and Special Librarianship (1999)

ISSN: 1525-321X

Metadata in a Digital Special Library:
the Energy and Environmental Information Resources Center in Lafayette, Louisiana

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Dan Foley
Energy and Environmental Information Resources Center
University of Louisiana at Lafayette


This paper discusses three kinds of metadata and how they are used in the Energy & Environmental Information Resources Center (EE-IR Center), a digital special library of text, numeric, and geospatial data, located in Lafayette, Louisiana. These metadata are Dublin Core (DC), MARC21 (formerly USMARC), and Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) metadata.

The EE-IR Center was formed as a partnership between the National Wetlands Research Center (NWRC) of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Center for Advanced Computer Studies of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (CACS/USL). Both partners are located in Lafayette, Louisiana. The EE-IR Center is funded by a grant from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) of the U.S. Deptartment of Energy and is a participant in OCLC's Cooperative Online Resource Catalog (CORC) project for the creation and sharing of metadata for Internet resources.1

The subject areas of the EE-IR Center are energy and the environment of Louisiana, especially in the wetlands areas of South Louisiana. An area of special interest is pollution and contamination in the Lower Mississippi Valley and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Other topics of interest include air and water quality, wetlands ecology, coastal zone management, oil and gas production and consumption, and economic indicators. Geospatial data sets include land use/land cover, hydrology, soils, habitats, political boundaries, and oil and gas well locations.

The EE-IR Center's home page is located at and its library catalog is located at Figure 1 is a .jpg image that exemplifies the kind of geospatial data set found in the catalog. Examples of a Web page, a digital document, and other data sets in the EE-IR Center's catalog are given in the final section of this paper.

Metadata and the Internet

Metadata, or "data about data," is structured information that describes, classifies, and locates information resources. While this paper focuses on metadata for digital resources, it is useful to remember that the creation of metadata has always been one of the core activities of librarianship. The MARC21 bibliographic records for books, serials, videorecordings, and other physical information objects which underlie the display in an online library catalog, as well as the records that preceded them in card catalogs and book catalogs, are also metadata. Thus, MARC descriptive cataloging allows a library patron to make an informed decision about the usefulness and applicability of a resource. The item can be evaluated at the online catalog without actually having to examine it in the library collection. Subject cataloging classifies an item into categories, which allows the patron to find items similar to the one searched in the catalog, while a call number or an electronic address provides the location of an item in a library collection or on the Internet.

There are different kinds of metadata for different kinds of information resources. Dublin Core metadata has a wide variety of applications. It is being used by libraries to catalog Internet resources and by museums for objects in their collections (CIMI 1999a). Its use for rights management in e-commerce is also being explored (Bearman et al. 1999; Rust 1998). FGDC metadata was developed for geospatial data sets used by the geographic information system (GIS) community. The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) has developed guidelines for the production and exchange of electronic texts for scholarly research, especially e-texts of literary works, while the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) is used to create finding aids for archival materials. The National Archives of Australia has released a metadata standard for electronic records management that could be used to advantage by businesses and government agencies in the United States2 .

Metadata can be inserted into an Internet resource in the form of HTML META tags, which are recognized by some indexing services like AltaVista and Infoseek (Ianella and Waugh 1997). Insertion of META tags is becoming a de facto Internet standard (Weibel 1996). In its simplest and most widely used form, this consists of using "Keyword" and "Description" META NAME tags. It is estimated that about 21% of all Web pages use these two tags (Clark 1998). An example of this usage (which also has the "Author" META tag) is the Web page titled "Metadata Tools for Geospatial Data:"

<TITLE> Metadata Tools for Geospatial Data</TITLE>
<META NAME="Author" CONTENT="Hugh Phillips">
<META NAME="KeyWords" CONTENT="Metadata tools, CSDGM, Content
Standards for Digital Geospatial Metadata">
Tools including: ASCII templates, BIC Metadata Form, cns,
Corpsmet95, Data Dictionary, DataLogr, Dataset Catalog,
document, fgdcmeta, the Metadata Collector, metadata
lite entry form, Meta Data Manager, Metadata Management
System, Metadata Validation Service, Metagen32, MetaLite,
MetaMaker, mp, tkme, and xtme">

It will be noted that Keyword, Description, and Author information are generally supplied by the author or creator of the Web page and does not include the subject or name authority control that is found in online library catalogs.

Some digital libraries, including the EE-IR Center, are implementing Dublin Core metadata with HTML META tags. However, HTML can convey only a limited amount of structured information and the many versions of HTML available from software vendors are not always compatible. A more flexible and robust metadata structure is required for complex ditigal resources. Thus, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international industry organization, has proposed the Resource Description Framework (RDF) as a structure having Extensible Markup Language (XML) as its syntax. Like HTML, XML is an abbreviated version of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), but its "extensible" characteristics allow the customized creation of many classes of documents in ways that cannot be done with HTML (XML FAQ). It is probable that XML will gradually replace HTML.

Basically, the RDF model describes a Resource as a collection of Properties that have an RDF Description. A Resource is any object having a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) as its address. Each Property in the RDF Description has a Property Type and a Value. The following example uses part of the set of Dublin Core elements

1.	<? xml version="1.0" ?>
2.	<RDF xmlns:DC="">
3.	<Description about="">
4.	<DC:Title>1995 Aerial Photography for the State
      of Louisiana</DC:Title>
5.	<DC:Creator> National Wetlands Research Center and University
      of Southwestern Louisiana </DC:Creator>
6.	<DC:Date>1997-12-01</DC:Date>
7.	<DC:Subject>Color infrared aerial photogrpahy, Louisiana,
      Geographic information systems, Digital mapping</DC:Subject>
8.	</Description>
9.	</RDF>

The first line states that the RDF is written in version 1.0 of XML (which is the only version currently in use). Line 2 opens the RDF statement with an XML Namespace (xmlns) which defines the schema or set of Properties being used in this RDF Description. The code "DC" indicates that the Dublin Core schema is being used and that it is defined at the address Line 9, </RDF>, closes the RDF statement.

Line 3 opens the RDF Description, stating that it is for a Resource having the URL Lines 4 through 7 are statements of four Properties in the Dublin Core RDF schema, each of which has a Property-Type and a Value. For example, line 4 states that the Property Type <DC:Title> has the Value "1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana." This Property statement is bounded by <DC:Title> and </DC:Title>. Line 8, </Description>, closes the RDF Description. An example that uses the full Dublin Core RDF schema for this data set is given in Figure 2.

The Resource Description Framework is described by Miller (1998) Some other documents about RDF/XML are Lassila and Swick (1999) on the RDF model and syntax, Brickley and Guha (1999) on RDF schemas (sets of properties), and Bray, Hollander, and Layman (1999) on the XML namespace.

Dublin Core Metadata

Dublin Core (DC) metadata has developed through a series of meetings and workshops since 1995 into an international metadata standard capable of a wide variety of applications. It derives its name from the fact that the first Dublin Core meeting (DC-1) was held at OCLC's headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, where the librarians, museum, and informations specialists sought to define a set of basic or core metadata elements for Internet resources.

Title Contributor Source
Creator Date Language
Subject Type Relation
Description Format Coverage
Publisher Identifier Rights

The DC elements are defined in a reference description ( All elements are both repeatable and optional. Elements may have qualifiers, which are also repeatable and optional.

DC metadata is characterized in terms of simplicity, semantic interoperability, and international consensus. DC is intended to be used by non-librarians as well as librarians and does not require special training to use it. DC records may have about the same level of complexity as those found in an online or card catalog. The semantics or meanings of the elements are commonly understood, which increases the possibility of interoperability among various information communities. Its international aspect is seen by its adoption and use in more that twenty countries on four continents3 . While it can be a simple and economical alternative to complex metadata like a full MARC21 record, its flexibility and extensibility through the use of qualifiers also allows it to be used in richer and more complex resource descriptions.

There are a number of Internet tools for creating DC metadata. The "Dublin Core Metadata Template" from the Nordic Metadata Project creates DC metadata in text or HTML format. The "Reggie Metadata Editor from the Resource Discovery Unit of the Distributed Systems Technology Centre creates DC metadata in HTML or RDF format. DC metadata can also be created in HTML or RDF format at OCLC's Cooperative Online Resource Catalog (CORC) project site.

Figure 3 illustrates an example of DC metadata in HTML format, created in CORC for the geospatial data set titled "1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana." It will be noted that the elements Title, Identifier, Publisher, Coverage, Creator, Date and Format also use qualifiers. The combination of DC elements and qualifiers, conventionally separated by a period or dot, appear in Figure 3 as Title.Alternative, Identifier.URL, Publisher.Name, Coverage.Geog.Coded, Creator.Corporate, and Date.Published. Subjects are qualified differently as LCC Local, LCSH, and Keyword schemas.

There are also guides to best practice for creating DC metadata. Two of these are by the University of Chicago Library (1999) and Consortium for the Computer Interchange of Museum Information (CIMI 1999b). Miller, Miller, and Brickley (1999) have edited guidelines for DC in the Resource Description Framework.

DC can be mapped to MARC21 in a paper crosswalk from the Network Development and MARC Standards Office of the Library of Congress (1997). Weibel (1999) has written about the state of DC at the time of the sixth Dublin Core Metadata Workshop (DC-6) in November 1998. Current information about DC can be found at the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Home Page (

MARC21 Metadata and the Cooperative Online Resource Catalog (CORC)

MARC (Machine Readable Cataloging) metadata began when the Library of Congress started using computers in the 1960s. The original LC MARC eventually developed into a number of national and international standards (e.g., USMARC, CAN/MARC, UKMARC, and UNIMARC). In October 1998, the Library of Congress (LC) and the National Library of Canada (NLC) announced the harmonization of the USMARC and CAN/MARC into a single standard named MARC21.

This is not a new format. Rather, the resolution of the relatively minor differences between these two national standards occurred gradually between 1993 and 1997, with appropriate updates being issued by the two national agencies. National designations were dropped and the new name suggests both its international character and usage for the 21st century. The "Concise MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data" is available online from the Library of Congress (June 1999) with the other four MARC21 formats (Authority, Holdings, Classification, and Community Information) expected to follow soon.

There were several other developments in the mid-1990s that reflected the interest of the library community in cataloging Internet resources. These include introduction of the MARC 856 field for electronic addresses and locations, OCLC's InterCat project (forming a subset of WorldCat for bibliographic records with an 856 field), and the publication of guidelines like Nancy Olson's "Cataloging Internet Resources."

In September 1998, OCLC announced its Cooperative Online Research Catalog (CORC) project (Hickey 1998). CORC is an initiative to develop the creation and sharing by libraries of metadata for Internet resources. Since the beginning of 1999, more than eighty libraries (including the EE-IR Center) have become CORC participants, testing and evaluating its features, both through meetings and communicating with each other through the CORC-L list.

CORC integrates Dublin Core and MARC metadata into a single system by allowing the creation and editing of records in either DC or MARC views. Figure 4 illustrates DC metadata and Figure 5 illustrates MARC metadata created in CORC for the data set "1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana." Some of the other features of CORC are: cooperative cataloging of Internet resources, provision for both shared and local metadata for digital and physical items, DC and MARC record import and export, RDF/XML import and export, authority control, assisted (DDC) classification and subject heading assignment, automated keyword extraction and data extraction, link maintenance, and Unicode support.

One application of CORC is that it can facilitate library collection development: reference librarians, bibliographers, and other persons responsible for selecting items for a library's collections can create a partial or complete DC record for the item and place it in "new" or "in-process" status in CORC. Catalogers can then complete the record in MARC21, using standard accepted cataloging practices, and enter the record in the library's online catalog.

CORC will become available to libraries sometime next year (2000), but the CORC business model (and the relationship between CORC and WorldCat) have yet to be announced. CORC has a Practice Area where its features can be tested and a manual, "CORC Quick Reference," both of which are available at the CORC home page (

FGDC Metadata

The Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) was formed in 1990 to coordinate development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) for the cooperative production and sharing of geographic data. In 1994, the FGDC approved a metadata standard, the "Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata, (CSDGM), which is now in its second version (Federal Geographic Data Committee 1998a)4 . There is also a version of FGDC metadata intended for biological data with geospatial references. This is National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) metadata, which is promoted by the U.S. Geological Survey. The standard for NBII metadata is the "Biological Data Profile of the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata

FGDC metadata has a hierarchic structure of seven major information sections and three supporting sections called templates:

Information Sections Templates

The information sections may have as many as eight hierarchic levels. The templates or supporting sections are integrated into the information sections at appropriate places. They cannot be used alone. Sections, and the compound elements or single elements within them, can be either mandatory, mandatory if applicable, or optional. The hierarchic structure of FGDC metadata is fully illustrated by an "Image Map of the Content Standard of Digital Geospatial Metadata" (Federal Geographic Data Committee 1998b). The image map also links each element in its structure to its definition in the Content Standard. Only the Identification and Metadata Information sections are mandatory for a fully-compliant FGDC metadata record.

FGDC metadata can be created with MetaMaker and CorpsMet, which are free software tools developed, respectively, for the NBII by the U.S. Geological Survey (NBII 1999b) and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (1999). The EE-IR Center uses a template developed locally in the National Wetlands Research Center. Regardless of which tool is used, the metadata has to go through a parser to check syntax against the CSDGM and to generate text that can be viewed by a text editor or Web browser. Output can be in text, HTML, SGML, or XML formats (Schweitzer 1999a). One measure of the complexity of FGDC metadata is reflected in the fact that its SGML format consists of 444 lines (in a sample of 466 records being examined in an EE-IR Center research project).

Given this complexity, there are a number of resources for learning how to create FGDC metadata. An excellent place to start is the "Metadata Workbook On-Line," which is being developed by the Louisiana Geographic Information Center (LAGIC) (1999). It features include online resources, software reviews, real-world examples, and strategies for successful metadata.

Some other resources are the "CSDGM Metadata Tool Exercise," (Phillips 1997), a "Metadata Primer" (Hart and Phillips 1998), the reviews in "Metadata Tools for Geospatial Data," (Phillips 1999), and resources available from the U.S. Geological Survey (Schweitzer 1999b). In addition, there are training workshops offered by the NBII (1999a).

A fully compliant FGDC metadata record for the data set "1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana," is available at Like Dublin Core metadata, FGDC metadata can be mapped to and from MARC (Mangan 1997a, 1997b).

Metatada in the EE-IR Center.

Currently, the EE-IR Center's digital library collection contains about 250 selected Internet resources. They are available in an alphabetical "Dublin Core Title List" located at All of us (Judy Buys, Adam Chandler, Dan Foley, and Suzanne Harrison) participate in collection development, with decisions about additions to the collection being made at weekly meetings.

All Dublin Core metadata is created with full name and subject authority control based on the OCLC Authority file. From June 1998 to February 1999, all DC records were created with the Nordic Metadata Project's "Dublin Core Metadata Template" with HTML META tags. Since becoming participants in the CORC project in February 1999, all records have been created in the DC view of CORC and exported with its Export Record DC HTML feature.

The EE-IR Center metadata page includes an "Geospatial Title List" and a "Federal Geographic Data Committee Compliant Metadata List," which are subsets of the "Dublin Core Metadata List" for records that contain the keywords "Geospatial data" and "FGDC metadata." These keywords and lists were added at the request of individuals in the local scientific community at the NWRC and USL. All other subject terms are Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and subdivisions. The three alphabetic lists are a temporary arrangement and various other design options are being considered. One possibility is to arrange access points in a layout similar to the "Scout Report Signpost" of the Internet Scout Project (

The following examples are for a home page and a digital document. Each has two links. The "Metadata" link takes the user to the DC metadata, while the "Direct URL" link takes the patron to the data source (home page, document, etc.). The Uniform Resource Locator (URL) given as the DC.Identifier at the "Metadata" link is the same as the "Direct URL."

Metadata: National Wetlands Research Center.
Direct URL:
Metadata: National water summary on wetland resources.
Direct URL:

The case of data sources with FGDC metadata is slightly different. In the following two examples, both the "Direct URL" and the DC.Identifier in "Metadata" are links to the FGDC metadata rather than to the data source. There are two reasons for doing this. First, it gives the patron the option of consulting either DC or FGDC metadata. Second, FGDC metadata provides the data source in its Online Linkage element. In these cases where DC metadata points to FGDC metadata, it becomes "meta-metadata":

Metadata: 1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana.
Direct URL:
Metadata: Hydrologic Units Maps of the Coterminous United States.
Direct URL:

The EE-IR Center has also acquired the Cuadra Star library automation system. This system will provide telecommunications access and a Web interface not only to its data sets but also to the collection in the National Wetlands Research Center Library, which consists of about 12,000 items. Metadata records in the CORC system have been edited in its MARC view and imported to the Cuadra Star database. The development of the EE-IR Center's digital library is a continuing process. Readers of this paper are encouraged to visit our library and compare it with other digital library initiatives. We invite you comments.

Figure 1

Figure 1. Watersheds of the Lower Mississippi Valley. The image illustrates part of the digital geospatial data set "Hydrologic Units Maps of the Contemrinous United States." Links to Dublin Core and FGDC metadata for this data set at the EE-IR Center Web page are given in the final section of this paper.

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rdf:RDF xmlns:rdf=""
<rdf:Description about="null">
<dc:title>1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana.</dc:title>
<dc:title>Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana.</dc:title>
<dc:publisher>University of Southwestern Louisiana, NASA/USL
Regional Application Center.</dc:publisher>
<dc:creator>University of Southwestern Louisiana.
 Center for Analysis of Spatial and Temporal Systems.</dc:creator>
<dc:description>A set of 2,400 frames of color infrared aerial
photography of the state of Louisiana at a scale 1:65,000 was
acquired by NASA in 1995. Eleven hundred frames, approximately
every other frame, were duplicated and then corrected for darkness
before scanning into a digital format at 300 dpi with 100 percent
resolution. Each 9x9-inch frame resulted in a digital file of
approximately 26 Mb. Color balance and contrast were then enhanced
using Adobe Photoshop. Vignetting around the edges of the
photography was removed, reducing the size of each file to
23 megabytes. The final product is a 56 CD-ROM set of 1,100
photographic images in TIF format that covers the entire
state of Louisiana. A full FGDC-compliant metadata record
is available at the URL in the Identifier field below.</dc:description>
<dcq:subjectScheme>LCC Local</dcq:subjectScheme>
<rdf:value>Color photography.</rdf:value>
<rdf:value>Infrared photography.</rdf:value>
<rdf:value>Geographic information systems.</rdf:value>
<rdf:value>Digital mapping.</rdf:value>
 Remote-sensing images.</rdf:value>
 Aerial photographs.</rdf:value>
<rdf:value>Geospatial data.</rdf:value>
<rdf:value>FGDC metadata.</rdf:value>

Figure 2. Dublin Core Metadata in RDF/XML Format for "1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana."

Figure 3. Dublin Core Record in HTML Format for "1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana."

Figure 4. Dublin Core View in CORC for "1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana".

Figure 5. MARC View in CORC for "1995 Aerial Photography for the State of Louisiana".

1 The EE-IR Center is located in the library of the National Wetlands Research Center. Its personnel are NWRC librarian Judy Buys, systems librarian Adam Chandler, metadata librarian Dan Foley, and GIS specialist Suzanne Harrison. Research in this paper is funded by U.S. Dept. of Energy grant no. DOE-FG02-97ER1220. Principal investigators of the grant are Dr. Vijay Raghavan, CACS/USL, and Ms. Gaye Farris, Branch Chief, Technical and Informatics Branch, NWRC.

2 There is an extensive literature on metadata for librarians. Three useful starting points are: 1) the "Digital Libraries: Metadata Resources" page maintained by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) (; 2) the Meta Matters page from the National Library of Australia (; and 3) "D-lib Magazine: the Magazine of Digital Library Research" ( The IFLA page provides links to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and Encoded Archival Description (EAD) home pages, and also to links to digital library initiatives worldwide. The records management standard of the National Archives of Australia, "Recordkeeping Metadata Standard for Commonwealth Agencies," is available at

3 Specifically, see the "Sampling of DC Projects" section of IFLA's "Digital Libraries: Metadata Resources" page and the language references in Baker (1998)

4 One of the principal activities of the FGDC is to promote the creation of framework data sets for seven themes or data layers that are widely used by the geographic information systems (GIS) community. These framework data sets are: geodetic control, orthoimagery, elevation, transportation, hydrography, governmental units, and cadastral information. Framework data sets are described in "Framework: Introduction and Guide" (Federal Geographic Data Committee 1997).


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Citation Format

Foley, Dan. (1999). Metadata in a Digital Special Library: the Energy and Environmental Information Resources Center in Lafayette, Louisiana . Journal of Southern Academic and Special Librarianship: 01 [iuicode:]