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More product, more process: metadata in digital image collections

Grace Therrell (University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA)

Digital Library Perspectives

ISSN: 2059-5816

Article publication date: 5 December 2018

Issue publication date: 4 February 2019




The purpose of this paper is to discuss the implications of current theories that advocate for minimal levels of description in digital collections. Specifically, this paper looks at the archival theory of “More Product, Less Process” and its encouragement of collection-level description. The purpose of the study was to analyze how levels of description impact resource retrieval.


This study analyzed 35 images from a New York Public Library (NYPL) digital collection present on the NYPL website and on Flickr. The methodology was designed to reflect users’ information seeking behavior for image collections. There were two research questions guiding this study: what are the descriptive terms used to describe items in digital collections? and what is the success rate of retrieving resources using assigned descriptive terms?


The results of this study revealed that the images from the NYPL collection were more difficult to find on the institution’s website as compared with Flickr. These findings suggest that lesser levels of description in digital collections hinder resource retrieval.

Research limitations/implications

These findings suggest that lesser description levels hurt the findability of resources. In the wake of theories such as “More Product, Less Process”, information professionals must find ways to assign metadata to individual materials in digital image collections.


Recent research concerning description levels of digital collections is several years old and focuses mostly on the usefulness of collection-level metadata as a supplement to or substitute for item-level metadata. Few, if any, studies exist that explore the implications of description levels on resource retrievability and findability. This study is also unique in that it discusses these implications in the context of less-is-more theories of archival processing.



Therrell, G. (2019), "More product, more process: metadata in digital image collections", Digital Library Perspectives, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 2-14.



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