by Julie Hardesty, Metadata Analyst, Digital Collection Services, Indiana University Libraries
Welcome to the second post in our series about MDPI and metadata! Last time we discussed the overall sources of metadata for MDPI items and the topics we would cover more in-depth later in this series. Today’s post will cover metadata used to track physical items through the MDPI digitization process and to document characteristics and problems with the recordings.
The Physical Object Database (POD) was developed by IU Libraries to track administrative details for every physical object that goes through MDPI digitization. This includes when it’s assigned a barcode; details about its condition; what box, bin, and batch it goes in for shipping; when it’s sent for digitizing; when it’s checked in after being digitized; and when it’s returned to its home unit. Additionally, if the recording doesn’t have a library catalog record in IUCAT, we have fields we can use to enter some descriptive details in the POD. These tend to be limited to a title and a date—typical of what is found in notes on the recording or its container—to which we add shelf or call number and collection identifier if available. The function of descriptive metadata at this stage is mainly to enable digitization staff to confirm that they are working with the right recording.
Every physical item in MDPI receives a scannable barcode on the packaging containing the item. LP jackets, audio cassette cases, and CD-R jewel cases all receive barcode stickers that identify the physical item inside as being part of the MDPI process. These containers with their items are loaded into plastic bins (sometimes also packed within boxes inside those bins). Multiple bins are gathered together in batches by format (LPs or audio cassettes or VHS tapes, for example) and driven by truck across campus to the digitization lab. We produce a spreadsheet shipping manifest that contains all the barcodes for a single batch along with descriptive and technical metadata. The barcode number is used as the base of the file names for the digital files for that item, so that when it’s returned, the collection manager will know which digitized files represent which physical items. Descriptive information such as a title might also help but this may not be known—and in any case, filenames that include descriptive metadata probably wouldn’t be sustainable for providing unique identification of files given the very large size of our holdings.
Each physical format digitized in MDPI has different physical characteristics that are tracked in the POD. For open reel audio tapes, for example, we gather metadata on reel size, playback speed, track configuration, sound field, tape brand, and tape base. We also gather metadata on various problems that can be seen: are there tape pack problems, fungus, vinegar smells? This data is collected by the prep staff during a visual inspection of each tape and box, and it gives useful clues to the digitizers about what to expect during processing. This information also becomes part of the recorded history of the object. If the digitizers find other problems or discover inaccuracies, they can edit the POD record or—in the case of Memnon—provide updates in the XML that they deliver.
Including these details as part of the record for a digitized item provides useful information to researchers to help them understand and interpret the source recording and the resulting digital file(s). Digitization staff also provide comments on condition and problems observed during playback as part of the digital provenance metadata that is created. All of these provide confidence that digitization was handled as accurately as is possible with a deteriorating recording and that these problems were specifically addressed. Therefore, researchers should not need to question whether something went wrong or was missed during digitization if the problem in question is documented in the metadata.
We hope this post about metadata for tracking physical items through the digitization process has been an interesting and informative read! Join us for the next post in this series when we discuss metadata issues surrounding long-term storage for digitized audio and video.