LIBR-281 Metadata Project - Collective Bargaining Agreements

Metadata Project: Dublin Core and Collective Bargaining Agreements

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Description of Project


  • To apply Dublin Core metadata to collective bargaining language, thereby demonstrating its usefulness in organizing information.
  • To create a product that could display the results of the Dublin Core as applied to collective bargaining language.
  • To create an interface with detailed instructions that would allow potential administrators or users of the application to enter metadata on the language excerpts in a consistent manner.
  • To allow for the search and discovery of the items entered based on Dublin Core elements.
  • To enable Dublin Core metadata on the collection of items to be created as output in a form that might be interoperable—such as DCMES-XML
  • To learn how to create an Omeka site, and to use that site to accomplish the goals above.

The Collection

I have paper copies of language pertaining to technological change from about 60 collective bargaining agreements. These were collected by Leon Lund, an industrial relations scholar employed by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are now historical in nature—having been in place during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Mr. Lund was kind enough to provide me with copies of these agreements more than 20 years ago. At the time, I worked for the Department of Economic Research at the AFL-CIO.I have kept them in a paper file folder for the last two decades. They seemed to be very appropriate for purposes of demonstrating my Omeka application.

I decided to use the excerpts pertaining to technology, rather than entire agreements. This reduced the amount of scanning and storage space needed.

Technological change language in labor agreements addresses issues surrounding the introduction of new technology in the workplace. Will employers be obligated to provide training on how to use new equipment? If automation means fewer jobs, what obligations does the employer have to the employees that are displaced?  Should employers have to confer with employees about decisions regarding new technology?

Each of the items contains information that can readily be utilized as electronic metadata: Employer, Union, Effective Date, Expiration Date, Industry, Number of Workers, and Industry. Each item could be digitally scanned into a PDF format file for uploading into Omeka.

Creating the site

Omeka is available two forms:, or is a solution for those who want to avoid the hassles of installing and maintaining a site on their own server, but the convenience comes at the cost of some decreased flexibility.  I was disappointed to learn that did not allow for much customization of the site, especially of its appearance and user interface. Although both systems allow for use of Dublin Core, allows for searching by Dublin Core element, which I considered key feature.   I decided to use

Fortunately, I already had web hosting for a “sandbox” of sorts that I use to experiment with various projects.  Therefore I decided to attempt to install my own package.  The package itself is free for download, even though it would be necessary to me to have my own hosting. Unfortunately, my existing hosting service is through Siteground ( and the documentation on the Omeka web site indicates that many users experience difficulties with Siteground as a host for Omeka sites. Nevertheless, I persisted, and I was able to install a new Omeka site on my Siteground shared hosting service. I would recommend Siteground to others, despite the warnings in the Omeka documentation.

Once the new site was installed, I had to plan how to design it. This involved a number of decisions concerning color schemes, layout, user interaction, menus, and content. I tried installing various themes and plug-ins available as free downloads from Omeka. I found some of the tips on the Omeka documentation pages, especially the tips on planning a site, to be helpful.

I wanted the site to be attractive as well as functional.  A wide variety of themes, governing the look and feel of the site, is available when one downloads to one’s own host.  Because I installed my site on my own hosting account, I was also able to directly access the project’s code and adjust the colors and typography to my liking.

Creating An Element Set for the Agreements and Metadata

Omeka enables site creators to construct multiple collections, each with a different metadata configuration. However, this project used just one collection, with the labor agreement excerpts as elements. Omeka makes it possible to set up a customized interface for data entry—that is for uploading the elements in the collection, and for entering the metadata that describes them.

Omeka provides an administrative “back-end” and a “front-end” that is seen by users.  The figure below shows a screen shot from part of the back-end where administrators can set up a Dublin Core element set for a collection. Administrators can arrange the order in which the Dublin Core elements will be displayed, and can enter a comment providing customized instructions for entering each element.  The image below show a screen shot where I entered instructions that would appear on the front-end data entry interface.  Under each title is the Dublin Core definition, so under “Creator,” it says, “An entity primarily responsible for making the resource.” Directly under that is a “comment” box, where I am placing instructions on how to enter the metadata for the “Creator” elements. These are specific instructions that I developed for this application of Dublin Core. These instructions play the central role in documenting the Dublin Core application. 



Screen shot of creating an element set 


Once the site was laid-out, the interface for entering contracts was arranged, and instructions on entering Dublin Core were written and published on the back-end, I was ready to begin uploading contract language and metadata.  The figure below shows a partial screenshot of the back-end, administrative interface, for entering a new agreement excerpt into the system.



You can see that for each Dublin Core element both the short description provided by the Dublin Core Metadata initiative and the detailed instructions that I have provided are shown.

Dublin Core is flexible—all elements are optional, and more than one element of the same type can be entered.  In the figure above you can see that the person entering the data is instructed to include two creator elements, one for the union and one for the employer. This would be done by clicking on the green “Add Input” button, then two input fields would appear, and the employer could be entered into one while the union was entered in the other.

The table below summarizes the use of Dublin Core elements on my Collective Bargaining Agreements Omeka site. The first column gives the Dublin Core Element name, the second column shows the short description for the element, and the third column reproduces the information that I provided on the interface, giving specific instructions for entering each element for each particular labor agreement entered.


Element Name

Dublin Core Description

Application Specific Instructions for Entering Agreements


A name given to the resource

For the title of the agreement, enter the entities that are party to the agreement. This is the way people most commonly refer to it. Enter the union(s) first, followed by the employer(s). Include the common acronym for the union in parentheses. For example: "United Auto Workers (UAW) and Ford Motor Company." It may seem redundant to include this information in both the title and the creator elements. However, this will enhance its discoverability.


An entity primarily responsible for making the resource

You will need to add a creator element. List the union in the first creator element and the employer in the second. If there is more than one employer or union, add additional creator elements. Again this may seem redundant with the title, but it is expected to improve the metadata and make the agreement more discoverable.


A point or period of time associated with an event in the lifecycle of the resource

Two date elements will be necessary, one for the effective date and one for the expiration date. Enter the date in this format: year-month-day, such as 2009-10-29. Label each date as either the effective date or the that the agreement expires, like this:
Effective: 1998-9-19
Expires: 2001-9-19

Element Name

Dublin Core Description

Application Specific Instructions for Entering Agreements



The spatial or temporal topic of the resource, the spatial applicability of the resource, or the jurisdiction under which the resource is relevant


You will need at least three coverage elements. The first should list the state, or states using the standard postal two-letter abbreviation (OH, TX and so forth). If more than one state is listed on the contract's information sheet, list them in the first element, separated by commas. If the information sheet simply says "Interstate," the enter "Interstate." In the second comment element enter the industry code from the information sheet. In the third element enter the number of worker. For example, enter them in this format:
Industry: 5411
Workers: 18,200



An unambiguous reference to the resource within a given context


Enter the Department of Labor contract number from the metadata on the information sheet, in this form:
USDOL Contract No: 4019



An account of the resource


Enter the title of the section, article etc. (if there is one). This should be followed by the article number (or letter etc.) and the Section or similar demarcation. This should be followed by the page numbers, if available. These should all be listed in the same description element. For example:
Article I. Section IV.
Pages 5-8.



The topic of the resource


For now, because there is only one collection on this archive, the subject should be listed as:
Technological change



Information about rights held in and over the resource

All agreements to be included are public information. They can be listed as:
Public domain




A language of the resource

Use the abbreviation "en" for English. All agreements to be included in this database are in English:



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

Make two elements:


The nature or genre of the resource

Collective Bargaining Agreement excerpt

Element Name

Dublin Core Description

Application Specific Instructions for Entering Agreements



A related resource from which the described resource is derived





An entity responsible for making the resource available





An entity responsible for making contributions to the resource





A related resource




 By now the reader has a fairly comprehensive view of how the Omeka site was put togehter, and of how agreement documents and metadata are entered into the system.  Furthermore, you have seen how each of the Dublin Core element was defined for this specific application.

For information on how to explore the collection and the agreements it contains, and on how to use Dublin Core to narrow searches in this system, see "How to Use This Site."

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