MetaDB Project Page

MetaDB: A Distributed Digital Collection Building Application

MetaDB is a web application developed by Lafayette College Libraries to divide digital collection building tasks among several people.  For example, at Lafayette, the Digital Initiatives Librarian creates new projects, defines metadata requirements, supplies data for administrative fields, and imports high-resolution master TIF images into the system. Catalogers, faculty subject specialists, and student workers then access the system remotely and enter descriptive data about each item. Once all metadata has been collected, complete projects are exported as CSV or tab-delimited data files that are easily ingested into most repository systems.

Why use MetaDB?

MetaDB includes several features that strengthen digital collection building efforts, including support for controlled vocabularies, the ability to search, browse, sort, and edit records in different ways, and support for concurrent access by multiple users. A key feature is MetaDB's ability to centralize project management tasks then distribute data collection to remote users who are able to create detailed and well-structured metadata with very little training. The application extracts technical metadata from images, and automatically creates JPG access derivatives that can include banded or watermarked text, as well as zoomable high-resolution images for close study.  These images are available from within the MetaDB, and also to external applications.

One of MetaDB's biggest advantages is its ability to provide visual access to remote users tasked with cataloging restricted archival images.  This opens new doors to meaningful collaboration with scholars and subject-specialists both on-campus and beyond.  Many specialized digital projects provide structurally-correct, yet rather limited descriptive metadata created by non-subject specialists.  MetaDB allows project managers to accept specialized knowledge from remote users within a customizable, easy-to-use metadata template, and allows raw data to be exported in standard formats that are easy to re-purpose.

MetaDB Support, Development, and Requirements

MetaDB was designed to facilitate Digital Initiatives projects at Lafayette College, and we feel that our digital collections have been strengthened by its use.  In the hope that other institutions may benefit from, and build upon our work, we have decided to release the source code for MetaDB v3.2 under the General Public License (GPL).  MetaDB carries no warranty whatsoever, is used completely at one's own risk, and comes with absolutely no guarantee of support. That said, we intend to answer general questions by email so far as time allows, and we welcome community support from others who want to improve MetaDB, either by pointing out problems, suggesting new features, or by contributing new or improved source code.  Please direct all email correspondence to


MetaDB v3.2 was developed at Lafayette College by Digital Initiatives Librarian Eric Luhrs,
and CS students Long Ho '10 and Haruki Yamaguchi '11.