What is Metadata?

Metadata is structured data about data or data blocks, i.e. information about characteristics of other data or descriptions of data. This metadata or meta information makes it easier to archive and find data. When large amounts of data have to be recorded and clearly summarized, metadata is necessary. All larger data collections such as documents or databases require metadata for structuring.

In conventional paper archives, an index, a register or other search aids are the metadata. Specifications of properties of an individual object such as a person’s name can also be referred to as a metafile. There is no general standardization of formats for metadata.

Every library uses the concept of metadata to make individual works traceable, such as the title of the book, the name of the author or the number of the edition. The content or subject of a book itself is irrelevant to such metadata.

Metadata is also essential for photos, audios, videos, documents, objects, for sitemaps, file structures and metatags. They are used for the administration, archiving and management of stored user data and provide information about the data structure, file size, file format or storage location on the computer, for example.

Example of metadata

Metadata for a book would be

  • Author,
  • Title,
  • Publishing company,
  • Publishing year,
  • Number of pages,
  • ISBN number.

For a technical drawing

  • Name of the designer,
  • Component number,
  • Drawing number,
  • Version number,
  • Date.