May 26, 2022

In a New Blog Post, OCLC’s Vice-President and Chief Strategist Lorcan Dempsey Discusses “Two Metadata Directions”

From Dempsey’s Blog Post:

Libraries are very used to managing metadata for information resources – for books, images, journal articles and other resources. Metadata practice is rich and varied. We also work with geospatial data, archives, images, and many other specialist resources. Authority work has focused on people, places and things (subjects). Archivists are concerned about evidential integrity, context and provenance. And so on.


I want to talk about two important directions here.

  1. Entification.
  2. Pluralization.

Entification: strings and things

Google popularized the notion of moving from ‘strings’ to ‘things’ when it introduced the Google knowledge graph. By this we mean that it is difficult to rely on string matching for effective search, management or measurement of resources. Strings are ambiguous. What we are actually interested in are the ‘things’ themselves, actual entities which may be referred to in different ways.

Entification involves establishing a singular identity for ‘things’ so that they can be operationalized in applications, gathering information about those ‘things,’ and relating those ‘things’ to other entities of interest.


Pluralizing description

Systems of description are inevitably both explicitly and implicitly constructed within particular perspectives. Metadata and subject description have long been criticized for embodying dominant perspectives, and for actively shunning or overlooking the experiences, memories or expectations of parts of the communities they serve. They may also contain superseded, obsolescent or harmful descriptions.

Libraries have spoken about “knowledge organization” but such a phrase has to reckon with two challenges. First, it is acknowledged that there are different knowledges.

Second, knowledge may be contested, where it has been constructed within particular power relations and dominant perspectives.

Learn More, Read the Complete Blog Post (about 3600 words)

See Also: Lorcan Dempsey’s Blog

See Also: Lorcan Dempsey’s Bio (via OCLC)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.