Each foundation creates and gathers numerous documents a day, many of which are grantee reports or lessons learned from grant experiences. They are often stored in information systems, repositories, and intranets, but once stored, they are often hard to find-especially by new employees who may know very little about past projects. Lessons that can improve grantmaking are only valuable if they can be accessed when needed. So how can an organization make past lessons accessible for tomorrow’s learning?
One solution is to employ metadata, a knowledge management tool described in this podcast interview I conducted with Juliane Schneider, the metadata librarian at Harvard Medical School’s Countway Library of Medicine. In the podcast, she explains that metadata comes in a variety of forms and is essentially “information about information.” It is essentially the use of keywords to tag a document.
For example, say a new employee conducts a keyword search for lessons learned from a summer lunch program that could be applied to a current grant. If the employee doesn’t know the project-identifying information or the lead, he could still find the document if the appropriate keyword metadata was applied. If he makes use of words in a controlled vocabulary developed to properly code the documents, he can target his search even more.
Want to see an example of a document’s metadata summary? Right click any Word document saved to your computer. Select Properties and under the General tab, and you’ll see document creation information, file size, and file type. Under the Summary tab you might see only author information or other metadata that Word automatically applies to a document. You can quickly add metadata under the Summary tab by adding descriptors to the title, subject, author, category, keywords, and comments sections and clicking the Apply button. (If you have a PDF document, you can view the metadata in much the same way, but there may also be a special PDF tab that you have to click).
Ask your foundation librarian about using metadata. This information professional can work with you to develop a controlled vocabulary to use and identify the best way to apply metadata to documents. Your librarian or technology department could also suggest tools to update document metadata in batches. Team up and make today’s lessons accessible for tomorrow.
Sophia Guevara is a regular contributor to the Consortium of Foundation Libraries blog.