Here at Indie Preserves, we make no bones about being giant library nerds. We love libraries, and everything that comes with working in the field. So you can probably imagine our collective nerdgasm in finding out that the Library of Congress (LC) released a new Recommended Formats Statement last week for 2015-2016. What is the Recommended Formats Statement? Exactly what it sounds like: an attempt by LC to come to grips with the sheer number of content formats people are using, especially in digital content. (You may or may not be aware, but long ago, the the scope of LC has expanded beyond physical media; for example, if your Twitter profile is public, then you can safely assume your tweets are being archived by a librarian in D.C.)
Ted Westervelt, one of the heads of acquisition at the Library of Congress, announced the new doc on LC’s The Signal blog last week, writing:
The fundamental goal of the Recommended Format Specifications document was to provide guidance, both for staff in the Library and for our external stakeholders who share our interest in preservation and long-term access of creative works. [...] [W]hether it is a creator, publisher, producer, vendor or archiving institution, the Recommended Formats offer them some informed advice on what they should be using or looking for when creating, managing, distributing or saving creative works. It is not the final word, but the Recommended Formats do provide an educated analysis of the technical aspects of creative works.
The Statement contains a lot of varied and interesting recommendations -- for example, all digital content must be DRM-free -- but if you scan down the document, you’ll notice a pattern emerge: for almost all formats, LC strongly prefers the content to be accompanied by robust metadata.
But what the hell is metadata?
Beyond the now, there’s also the consideration that at some point -- for whatever reason -- you may not be the only one accessing your collection. Giving your work robust metadata now is as much of a guarantee as you give yourself for a shot at future context.
What we’re saying is, complete and accurate metadata is a necessity for both physical and digital files. Granted, at some points, you may feel like your metadata work is a thankless task -- and it is, especially considering there will be times where useful, contextual information about your music should be used, and for whatever stupid reason, just won’t.
Thanks to Jesse Jarnow for spurring this post.