To read this content please select one of the options below:

What does it mean to adopt a metadata standard? A case study of Omeka and the Dublin Core

Deborah Maron (School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)
Melanie Feinberg (School of Library and Information Science (SILS), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 25 April 2018

Issue publication date: 8 May 2018




The purpose of this paper is to employ a case study of the Omeka content management system to demonstrate how the adoption and implementation of a metadata standard (in this case, Dublin Core) can result in contrasting rhetorical arguments regarding metadata utility, quality, and reliability. In the Omeka example, the author illustrate a conceptual disconnect in how two metadata stakeholders – standards creators and standards users – operationalize metadata quality. For standards creators such as the Dublin Core community, metadata quality involves implementing a standard properly, according to established usage principles; in contrast, for standards users like Omeka, metadata quality involves mere adoption of the standard, with little consideration of proper usage and accompanying principles.


The paper uses an approach based on rhetorical criticism. The paper aims to establish whether Omeka’s given ends (the position that Omeka claims to take regarding Dublin Core) align with Omeka’s guiding ends (Omeka’s actual argument regarding Dublin Core). To make this assessment, the paper examines both textual evidence (what Omeka says) and material-discursive evidence (what Omeka does).


The evidence shows that, while Omeka appears to argue that adopting the Dublin Core is an integral part of Omeka’s mission, the platform’s lack of support for Dublin Core implementation makes an opposing argument. Ultimately, Omeka argues that the appearance of adopting a standard is more important than its careful implementation.


This study contributes to our understanding of how metadata standards are understood and used in practice. The misalignment between Omeka’s position and the goals of the Dublin Core community suggests that Omeka, and some portion of its users, do not value metadata interoperability and aggregation in the same way that the Dublin Core community does. This indicates that, although certain values regarding standards adoption may be pervasive in the metadata community, these values are not equally shared amongst all stakeholders in a digital library ecosystem. The way that standards creators (Dublin Core) understand what it means to “adopt a standard” is different from the way that standards users (Omeka) understand what it means to “adopt a standard.”



Maron, D. and Feinberg, M. (2018), "What does it mean to adopt a metadata standard? A case study of Omeka and the Dublin Core", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 74 No. 4, pp. 674-691.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles