What You Need To Know About Indexing of Visual Materials

What You Need To Know About ‘Indexing of Visual Materials’

A picture is worth a thousand words, which means libraries across the country are becoming billions of words richer as they add visual materials to their search databases. In order to be found, these images need to be properly indexed. Without proper indexing, a historic image might never be seen, or it might show up under the wrong sections. Here is what you need to know for indexing visual materials.

The Key to Indexing Success

Visual materials include everything from photographs to blueprints to sketches and postcards. Also similar to indexing books and audio recordings, the key to visual indexing success lies in consistency. Referring to the author/artist the same way, labeling dates in a unified fashion, and using articles appropriately will keep all of your materials close at hand.

However your system is laid out, make sure you have written guides and that the entire library staff is familiar with the process.

Common Indexing Standards

There are two common indexing standards that are commonly used in libraries today: MARC standards (Machine Readable Cataloguing) – which are used by the Library of Congress and convert bibliography information into computer-readable form – and the Dublin Core. The Dublin Core is made up of 12 metadata elements, including:

  • Title (What the visual material is called)
  • Creator (Who created the piece – such as the artist or photographer)
  • Subject (The main topic covered)
  • Description (Describing what the image is)
  • Publisher (The original source)
  • Contributor (Anyone who helped or added to the content)
  • Date (When it was first published)
  • Type (Category for the content – photo, blueprint, etc.)
  • Format (How it is presented)
  • Identifier (Numerical identifier – like a URL)
  • Source (Where it originally came from – like a newspaper outlet)
  • Relation (How it relates to other resources – is there other similar content?)
  • Coverage (Where the real media is located)
  • Rights (link to the Copyright information)

With this information, researchers can search by subject, content, source, and copyright options to get all of the information they need. The more information that is included in the metadata, the more likely the correct image is to come up in response to researchers’ queries.

Opportunities Facing the Indexing of Visual Materials 

There are three main trends facing the indexing of visual materials – especially as we evolve into a digital world:

  • Access: Many local and smaller libraries haven’t archived their visual resources. There are treasure troves of information that will be made available with indexing.
  • Preservation: Preservation of digital files is the key to long-term access. Both physical and digital preservation will keep our resources secure for years to come.
  • Integration: Multi-media integration is the future. Pairing text with images, or giving context to images with text, is important. On top of visual materials, audio and film will also increase in popularity and indexing necessity in the coming years.

Libraries are growing in use and popularity as their resources move online – both in text and in visual materials. Understanding how to index them will be crucial to your career in library and information science.

For more information please visit librarysciencedegree.usc.edu.