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Sharing and Aggregating Social Metadata


One of the activities related to metadata management and support, this activity focused on the user contributions that would enrich the descriptive metadata created by libraries, archives, and museums. These contributions could come from curators, subject librarians, experts, or enthusiasts. The metadata contributed could be in a range of formats, including images, commentaries, reviews, tags, or links to related sources. To be truly effective, we need to share and aggregate contributions added by users in many diverse environments.

An RLG Partner working group identified the issues that need to be resolved to communicate and share user contributions on the network level. The working group reviewed dozens of social media sites and analyzing success metrics, content, policy, and vocabulary issues.




RLG Partners who participated in discussions about metadata management identified network-level integrating and sharing of metadata contributions from users as an area that would benefit from collective action. An open call to the RLG partnership for volunteers for a working group in December 2008 got an enthusiastic response from RLG Partner institutions in five countries.




The working group recommendations will help libraries, archives, and museums determine how best to invest resources to take full advantage of user contributions and the factors that lead to successful outreach to targeted communities.



A Social Metadata Working Group reviewed dozens of social media sites and analyzed issues that will need to be resolved to take full advantage of the array of potential user contributions by communicating and sharing them on the network level. A survey to social metadata site managers was conducted in the latter half of 2009.

The group will issue three reports of our recommendations in 2011: the first report will provide an environmental scan of the 76 sites reviewed as well as a more detailed review of 24 representative sites; the second report will provide an analysis of the results from a survey of site managers; and the third report will provide recommendations on social metadata features most relevant to libraries, archives, and museums as well as the factors contributing to success.

Among the questions the working group addressed were:

  • What are the objectives for social metadata and how do we measure success?
  • What user contributions would most enrich existing metadata created by libraries, archives, and museums?
  • What are examples of successful social media sites and what factors contribute to their success?
  • What best practices currently exist, or need to be developed, that can guide institutions in managing user contributions and various related issues?
  • To what extent is moderation necessary or desirable?
  • How are cultural institutions integrating social metadata into formal taxonomies?








  • Rose Holley (National Library of Australia) and Karen Smith-Yoshimura
    Social Metadata for Libraries, Archives, and Museums: Research Findings from the RLG Partners Social Metadata Working Group
    2010 Libraries Australia Forum, 20 October 2010, Canberra (Australia)
    Available from slideshare.




An overview of the Social Metadata Working Group’s progress was given at the 2009 RLG Partners Annual Meeting (Update session 3):

Leveraging Social Metadata. Presentation given by Karen Smith-Yoshimura at the September 16-17 2009 OCLC Digital West Forum, “Convergence: Where Metadata and Access Meet for Digital Discovery and Delivery”. ( 2012-04-23


Karen Smith-Yoshimura

Team Members

Social Metadata Working Group