The company I work for has an archive for many kinds of materials. In recent times this company has moved to start a digital repository using DSpace. To facilitate contributions to the repository the company has built an Adobe AIR app which allows for the uploading of metadata to the metadata elements of DSpace as well as the attachement of the digital item to the proper bitstream. Totally Awesome.
However, one of the challenges is that just because the metadata is curated, collected and properly filed, it does not mean that the metadata is embedded in the digital items uploaded to the repository. PDFs are still being uploaded with the PDF’s author attribute set to Microsoft-Word
[More about the metadata attributes of PDF/A can be read about on pdfa.org]. Not only is the correct metadata and the wrong metadata in the same place at the same time (and being uploaded at the same time) later, when a consumer of the digital file downloads the file, only the wrong metadata will travel with the file. This is not just happening with PDFs but also with .mp3, .wav, .docx, .mov, .jpg and a slew of other file types. [This saga of bad metadata in PDFs has been recognized since at least 2004 by James Howison & Abby Goodrum. 2004. Why can’t I manage academic papers like MP3s? The evolution and intent of Metadata standards.]
So, today I was looking around to see if Adobe AIR can indeed use some of the available tools to propagate the correct metadata in the files before upload so that when the files arrive in DSpace that they will have the correct metadata.
- The first step is to retrieve metadata from files. It seems that Adobe AIR can do this with PDFs. (One would hope so as they are both brain children of the geeks at Adobe.) However, what is needed in this particular set up is a two way street with a check in between. We would need to overwrite what was there with the data we want there.
- However, as of 2009, there were no tools in AIR which could manipulate exif Data (for photos).
- But it does look like the situation is more hopeful for working with audio metadata.
Three Lingering Thoughts
- Even if the Resource and Metadata Packager has the abilities to embed the metadata in the files themselves, it does not mean that the submitters would know about how to use them or why to use them. This is not, however, a valid reason to not include functionality in a development project. All marketing aside, an archive does have a responsibility to consumers of the digital content, that the content will be functional. Part of today’s “functional” is the interoperability of metadata. Consumers do appreciate – even expect – that the metadata will be interoperable. The extra effort taken on the submitting end of the process, pays dividends as consumers use the files with programs like Picasa, iPhoto, PhotoShop, iTunes, Mendeley, Papers, etc.
- Another thought that comes to mind is that When one is dealing with large files (over 1 GB) It occurs to me that there is a reason for making a “preview” version of a couple of MB. That is if I have a 2 GB audio file, why not make 4 MB .mp3 file for rapid assessment of the file to see if it is worth downloading the .wav file. It seems that a metadata packager could also create a presentation file on the fly too. This is no-less true with photos or images. If a command-line tool could be used like imagemagick, that would be awesome.
- This problem has been addressed in the open source library science world. In fact a nice piece of software does live out there. It is called the Metadata Extraction Tool. It is not an end-all for all of this archive’s needs but it is a solution for some needs of this type.