Skip to Main Content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

Metadata Basics

Cross-Disciplinary Standards

Cross-Disciplinary Standards

Dublin Core is the most common metadata schema for web content.

Named in part for a 1995 metadata conference hosted by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) located in Dublin, Ohio, Dublin Core consists of 15 elements that were considered broad and generic enough to describe a wide range of resources. 

Dublin Core Metadata Element Set

Element Description


A name given to the resource, either supplied by the individual assigning metadata or from the object.

Example: "A Pilot's Guide to Aircraft Insurance"


Entity responsible for making the resource.

Example: "Duncan, P. A."


The topic of the resource, typically represented using keywords.

Example: "Colonial medicine"


An account of the resource.

Example: "Illustrated guide to airport markings and lighting signals for airports with low visibility conditions."


An entity responsible for making the resource available.

Example: "The University of Texas Press"


An entity responsible for making contributions to the resource (e.g. editor, transcriber, illustrator).

Example: "Austin Citizen Photograph"


The spatial or temporal topic of the resource.

Example: "Austin, TX"


A point or period of time associated with the resource.

Example: "1998-02-16"


The nature or genre of the resource. For a list of possible types, visit the DCMI Type Vocabulary.

Example: "image"


The file format, physical medium, or dimensions of the resource.

Example: "[128] p. : ill. ; 15 cm."


Information about rights held over the resource.

Example: "This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study."


A related resource from which the described resource is derived.

Example: "ZA 3075 Y69 2007"


Language(s) of the resource.

Example: "Spanish"


A related resource. For a list of possible relations, visit the Summary Refinement and Scheme Table.

Example: "HasVersion 13th Edition"


A unique reference to the resource.

Example: "doi:10.15781/T2251FN91"

MARC, an acronym for MAchine-Readable Cataloging, is a widely used standard among libraries. MARC was developed by the Library of Congress in the 1960s to enable computer production of catalog cards.

The MARC record structure contains ten sets of fields, associated with 3-digit numbers called tags. Some fields are further defined by indicators and subfield codes. 

Components of a MARC Record



0XX Control information, numbers, and codes

Main entries related to personal and corporate names

Example: 100 1#  $a Arnosky, Jim.


Titles, edition, imprint information

Example: 245 10  $a Dinosaurs : $b a visual encyclopedia.


Physical description

Example: 300 ##  $a 303 p. : $b col. ill. ; $c 29 cm.

4XX Series statements


Example: 520 ##  $a Presents an illustrated look at dinosaurs.


Subject access entries

Example: 650 #1  $a Dinosaurs. 

7XX Added entries other than subjects or series
8XX Series added entries and holdings information

Fields for locally-defined use

Example: 900 ##  $a 599.74 ARN

Encoded Archival Description (EAD) was developed in the 1990s by the archival community as a way of presenting finding aids in electronic form. It uses Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) and XML as the encoding schemes. Maintained by the Society of American Archivists and the Library of Congress, the latest version is EAD3.

Inside the outermost wrapper element, <ead>, the EAD contains two main sections: <control> and <archdesc>. Each of these sections also include required and optional child elements.

Main EAD Elements

Element Description
Encoded Archival Description Contains all the elements in an EAD document, including Control and Archival Description.
Control Contains elements about the finding aid itself, such as title, author, creation date, language, and description rules used.
Archival Description
Contains elements describing the content, context, and extent of the archival collection, rather than the finding aid, such as subjects, format, and box and folder inventory.

Metadata Object Description Schema (MODS) is an XML schema with MARC-like semantics. MODS was developed by the Library of Congress out of the need for something easier to learn than MARC and richer than Dublin Core for describing complex digital objects.

MODS is "friendly" because it uses language-based tags rather than the numeric codes (e.g. 250) traditional to MARC. There are 20 top-level MODS elements, many of which contain subelements for granular desription.

MODS Top-Level Elements

Element Description
Title Information Contains all subelements related to title information.
Name Contains all subelements related to information about the name of a person, organization, or event (conference, meeting, etc.) associated in some way with the resource.
Type of Resource Information about the original item that specifies the characteristics and general type of content of the resource, as chosen from a defined list of terms.
Genre A term that give more specificity for the form, style, or content of an object than the broad terms used in Type of Resource.
Origin Info Contains subelements related to place of origin or publication, publisher/originator, and dates associated with the resource.
Language Contains a subelement to record the language in which the language of the content of a resource is expressed.
Physical Description Contains all subelements relating to physical attributes of the resource.
Abstract A succinct summary of the content of the resource.
Table of Contents A description of the contents of a resource.
Target Audience A description of the intellectual level of the audience for which the resource is intended.
Note General textual information relating to a resource, that is not encoded in other more specific elements.
Subject Contains subelements relating to the primary topic(s) on which a work is focused.
Classification Indication of the subject via a formal system of coding and organizing resources (e.g. call number).
Related Item Contains subelements with information that identifies other resources related to the one being described.
Identifier A unique standard number or code that distinctively identifies a resource.
Location Contains subelements that identify the institution or repository holding the resource, or the electronic location in the form of a URL when available.
Access Condition Information about restrictions imposed on access to a resource.
Part Contains subelements to designate physical parts of a resource in detail.
Extension Provides additional information not covered by MODS (when local elements or elements from other standard schemas are needed).
Record Info Contains subelements relating to information necessary to managing metadata.

METS stands for Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard. Developed by the Library of Congress, it facilitates the encoding of metadata for materials within digital libraries.

The METS document structure consists of seven possible sections which may contain a variety of subelements and attributes, and relies on externally defined schemas for descriptive and administrative metadata.

METS Sections

METS Header Contains metadata describing the METS document itself, including information such as creator, date of creation, and editor.
Descriptive Metadata Internally or externally points to extension descriptive metadata schemas, such as PREMIS, MODS, or Dublin Core. For a list of approved "best practice" metadata schemas, visit External Schemas for Use with METS.
Administrative Metadata Internally or externally points to extension administrative or technical metadata schemas, such as the Library of Congress schemas for A/V technical metadata.
File Inventory Lists all files containing content which comprise the electronic versions of the digital object, such as thumbnails, master archival images, or PDF versions.
Structural Map Defines a hierarchical structure which allows users to navigate through the digital object.
Structural Links Records the existence of hyperlinks between items within the structural map.
Behavior Associates executable code with content in the METS object, such as a page-turning program.

VRA Core is a standard commonly employed by cultural heritage organizations to describe images and works of art. VRA Core is hosted by the Visual Resources Association (VRA) and the Library of Congress. 

VRA Core contains 19 elements. There are three primary entities: Work (a built or created object), Collection (an aggregate of such objects), and Image (a visual surrogate of such objects).

VRA Core Elements
Element Description
Work, Collection, or Image A record is described as a Work, a Collection, or an Image.
Agent Individual, group, or corporate body that has contributed to the design, creation, production, etc. of the work.
Cultural Context Name of the culture, people, or country with which the work has been associated. 
Date Date associated with the work.
Description Free-text note about the work that gives additional information not in other categories. 
Inscription All marks added to the work at the time of production (e.g. signatures or stamps).
Location Geographic location or repository whose boundaries include the work.
Material Substance which the work is composed of (e.g oil paint, bronze, or graphite). 
Measurements Dimensions of the work.
Relation Terms describing the relationship between the work and a related work.
Rights Information about the copyright status for the work.
Source Reference to the source of information recorded about the work.
State Edition Identifying number or name assigned to the edition of a work that exists in more than one form.
Style Period Defined style, historical period, school, or movement whose characteristics are represented in the work.
Subject Terms that describe the work.
Technique Production processes, techniques, and methods incorporated in the fabrication of the work.
Textref Unique identifier assigned to the work.
Title Title given to the work.
Work Type Identifies the specific type of Work, Collection, or Image being described in the record.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Generic License.