For those not in the information science business, confusion happens around the difference between metadata and a taxonomy. For those in the information science business, this may seem unlikely.

To make it as simple as possible – metadata is data about data. Think of metadata as information about an asset beyond the basic filename. Any sort of attribute or element that helps to define or describe a particular image, document, presentation or spreadsheet would be considered metadata.

Digital applications like iTunes and eBooks all use metadata to display information to users about the song they are listening to or the book they are reading.

On the other side of the coin are taxonomies – the science of classification according to a pre-determined system with the resulting catalog used to provide a conceptual framework for discussion, analysis, or information retrieval.

Taxonomies are different from metadata in that a taxonomy helps you to organize your content and assets into hierarchical relationships. Classifying content and assets in a taxonomy can make it far easier to search for or browse a digital asset management or web content management system with limited parameters.

Developing a taxonomy can be a complex process. This unique use of taxonomy provides a classification by authority levels and makes it possible to forge stronger, more productive relationships at the district level.

A taxonomy is typically a controlled vocabulary with a hierarchical structure, with the understanding that there are different definitions of a hierarchy. Taxonomies are often displayed as a tree structure. Controlled vocabularies are used to ensure consistent indexing. They do not necessarily have any structure or relationships between terms within the list.

It is important to remember the value of a solid taxonomy and its role in the search process. How the content is classified impacts the findability of your data. Professionals should look for an experienced builder of solid standards-based taxonomies to associate content for appropriate machine-assisted indexing. Access Innovations has extensive experience in constructing taxonomies and can provide solutions that are ANSI compliant.

Melody K. Smith

Sponsored by Data Harmony, a unit of Access Innovations, the world leader in indexing and making content findable.