A cataloging course in library school helped Darnelle Melvin discover his place in the library profession. Now, this nationally recognized expert on metadata is helping people around the world discover resources only available in UNLV Libraries' Special Collections and Archives and has published a new book on linked data.
What drew you to UNLV?
Ultimately, what drew me to UNLV was the vision of our previous division head (Michelle Light) to bring together cutting-edge advancements in digital libraries, Semantic Web, and open-source repository solutions into the archival profession. I decided to come here to build upon the cutting-edge research of my predecessor, Silvia Southwick, and the digital collections department head Cory Lampert. Through their exploratory research in linked data application, they both have made major contributions to the university and to the library and information science profession.
What do you miss most about campus while you are having to work remotely?
I miss being around the students. The youthful energy, along with their fresh outlook on life’s opportunities and challenges, is so inspiring. I also miss my work colleagues. When you work closely with people, deep bonds are forged. Also, as educators, a big part of our job is building and managing relationships. I still prefer face-to-face interactions over mediated communication and this has been a challenge during this global emergency.
What was your favorite thing about your previous career as an audio engineer?
Working with people. All media production work (radio, television, film, or audio production), is highly collaborative in nature. I just love when a group of highly creative people come together and bring forth something magical and potentially life-changing like a new song, film, or other creative work.
Working in a library seems like a big career jump. How did you become interested in metadata and digital archives?
Actually, going from audio production to metadata and digital archives is not as big of a jump as you might think. Both professions' work revolves around workflows, people management, preservation, and providing access to resources. When I decided to make the career change, I knew I wanted to build on existing skills. I originally went to library school to be an audiovisual archivist and studied digital preservation. It wasn’t until I took my first cataloging course, that I discovered my place in the profession.
What is metadata and why is it important for everyday people?
Metadata is essential for resource discovery. It is structured information used to describe the “aboutness” of a resource whether it is physical, born-digital, or philosophical. It is important because we love and consume information constantly. Without metadata, resource discovery becomes impossible. Imagine coming to a library, knowing a particular work exists, but you do not know the title, who created the work, or the subject matter. Good luck finding the item. That’s metadata at work. You are welcome.
What is the biggest misconception about metadata?
The biggest misconception about metadata is that more metadata equates to improved discoverability. That is not always the case.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career path?
That’s a hard one. To get to where I am at professionally, it took a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and some luck. To be honest, my life and career is the culmination of my ancestors’ hopes, dreams, prayers, and fears. I would not be here without their journey and sacrifice. As far as those in the information profession who had the greatest impact on my career, I must mention and thank the following people: Dr. Mary Bolin, the late Robert Ellett, Dr. Sylvia Hall-Ellis, Tom Adamich, Terry Reese, Roy Tenant, Magda El-Sherbini, and Vicky McCargar.
You just released a new book, Linked Data for the Perplexed Librarian. Can you tell us what it’s about?
Linked Data for the Perplexed Librarian is a low-barrier introduction to the world of library linked data in relation to Semantic Web design. It was written for graduate students and information practitioners and does not require any previous knowledge of linked data. It's an easy read! It has great examples! Go buy it.
What are some of your research interests?
My research interests include rapid prototyping of information products and services; linked data; workflow engineering; metadata management; information description, organization, and access; and emulating legacy computer hardware.
What’s the most interesting record you’ve come across while working in Digital Collections?
That's another hard one. We have so much cool stuff in the archive. The most interesting thing I have come across while working in Digital Collections is from our legacy map collections. It was a hand-sketched map of the original Las Vegas city land plots. Nothing fancy, but cool and so historic.
Since moving here, what’s the most Vegas thing you’ve done?
The most Vegas thing I have done since moving here is going out for sushi at 2 a.m. on a weeknight.
Give us your recommendation for a TV show you are binge-watching.
It's old, by today’s standards, but definitely worth watching. The 2004 remake of Battlestar Galactica.