Weekly Reponse Post #3 – Elizabeth Frank

Setting the Stage

This reading was so “meta” for me that I am going to (perhaps over-) respond to only it. Metadata did set the stage which brought me into library school. I was laid off from a day job as a business development executive in a law firm four years ago and knew only that I wanted to pursue some other means of employment, because I hated what I did, except for the research aspect of it. The peculiar demands of law firms can keep their employees trapped in the industry, because the knowledge base is so specific. It’s a small, insular world. One former colleague, now a legal recruiter, found me on linkedin (is linked in data? Metadata? Both?) and asked if I’d like a temp job “scrubbing” a database at a notoriously inhospitable law firm, for one month, at an hourly wage. Sure, I said. Why not.

I found the work oddly absorbing. It was data about data, no doubt about it, information stored to be retrieved only by certain users, a database with a lot of boxes to be ticked off by someone who knew the lingo. This particular database recorded information regarding non-litigation transactions conducted by the firm’s attorneys. Mergers and acquisitions? Check a box. Did the firm represent a bank which financed the buyer or seller? Check another box. Which attorneys worked on the matter; was it conducted in the U.S. or overseas; overseas? really, where?; was the deal value a certain value? Box, box, box.

“Metadata is like interest; it accrues over time,” writes Gilliland. One form of “interest” (to capitalize on the pun) for me in tagging those records was to observe how many other of my former co-workers, from other firms, had drifted though my current firm and this database. Perhaps the record of who adjusted a record is meta metadata.

“Information communities are aware that the more highly structured an information object is, the more that structure can be exploited for searching, manipulation, and interrelating with other information objects,” writes Anne Gilliland.

An example of this for me was to look at who had authored the record. If it was my former colleague Emma C., I knew I had to go through the database and check her work, based on her past work performance.

I’m afraid this particular reading assignment, for me, was almost uselessly highlighted. Coupled with my reading about linked data and collective tagging (for another class), I was enthusiastic in tagging statements such as “metadata continues to accrue during the life of an information object or system.” Some minor addition to or observance of the record (in the law firm) I had adjusted might direct some future strategy in the business development of the firm. (By the way, four years later, I’m still with the firm, as a permanent employee in the research branch of the business development department.)

The fact that Gilliland kept referring to other chapters in the book made me want to read more of it.


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