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Tulane University Digital Library Metadata Guidelines

These guidelines were approved by the Digital Production Review Committee in September 2019.

Basics about Notes and Descriptions


Description and notes fields are complicated because they are often used as catch-alls for data that otherwise doesn't fit in more precise fields. As such, many of the other subsets of descriptive metadata include information about notes fields. This portion of the guidelines will focus on the notes fields not otherwise mentioned. These are optional in most cases, but are required by some metadata standards and are recommended for the purposes of accessibility.


A summary of the content of the resource:
  • Enter an abstract, summary, or other general description of the content of the resource
  • When constructing this summary, write a detailed description focusing on keywords searchers are likely to use.
  • Include any information considered important for identification or selection, provided sufficient information is not already recorded in another part of the metadata record.
  • For published items, the publisher's summary (often included in a 520 field of a MARC record), or a structured contents note (from a 505 MARC field are recommended contents).
  • For manuscript items, the scope and contents note is exemplary data. It generally contains:

    • The function(s), activity(ies), transaction(s), and process(es) that generated the materials being described
    • The documentary form(s) or intellectual characteristics of the records being described (e.g., minutes, diaries, reports, watercolors, documentaries)
    • The content dates, that is, the time period(s) covered by the intellectual content or subject of the unit being described
    • Geographic area(s) and places to which the records pertain
    • Subject matter to which the records pertain, such as topics, events, people, and organizations
    • Any other information that assists the user in evaluating the relevance of the materials, such as completeness, changes in location, ownership and custody while still in the possession of the creator, and so on


A content note describing the resource:
  • ​Enter general notes pertaining to the content of the resource that do not fit in a more specific field, any descriptive information accompanying the item, and any pertinent information not represented in other fields.
  • Catalogers can use this space to transcribe anything handwritten, stamped, or printed on the original image, mat, or case including annotations, captions, watermarks, and contextual information.
  • This field can also be used to describe the format of the resource in greater detail and specificity than permitted in other format-specific field.


Other "note" fields:
  • Many more notes fields are present in various metadata standards, and creating a new type of note field is an option if a certain type of data is desired that doesn't fit into the current schema. Examples are the added value and specialized notes described in DACS 7.1 Notes.
  • Other note fields are described in this guideline, often describing the process by which certain fields were created.
  • Examples:

    • Cataloger-created titles should be given a note, "Title devised by cataloguer."
    • If no names associated with the resource can be determined, you can use a Content Note instead to denote unknown or indeterminate responsibility for the resource. Recommended note:
      • Variously attributed to Andrew Carmichael, William Norcott, and others
      • Once attributed to Virgil but now believed to be the work of another poet
      • Person responsible unknown
      • Name of the composer of the adaptation unknown
    • If the ownership of the objects described is split between multiple entities, an optional field can be added for a human-readable note explaining which entities own which aspects of the items described.

    • Citations may be described in a special note field.

  • For more information about types of notes, see the other types of descriptive metadata in this guide, the Princeton University Guidelines, or MARC 21 5XX Note fields below.
    • Generally, if you would like to distinguish the content of various note fields, you should create a different column for each and label it appropriately.
    • If you would like to know if a type of note field exists for your needs exists or can be created, please contact the metadata librarian.

About Notes in MODS

Commonly Used MODS Encoding for Notes
  • Notes that do not fall under other specific elements in mods will usually be nested inside the top level element "note". 
  • Attributes of note that will be used most frequently include: type, type URI, and displayLabel
    • type is required in every note element
    • on the MODS official web site there are a list of implemented note types and a crosswalk to the MARC Equivalent (see MODS <note> Types below)
    • typeURI should be present if the type was pulled from an authorized vocabulary
    • displayLabel is an optional element that can be used to distinguish multiple types of notes in the front-end display. It is most useful for communicating to end users what the content of a particular type of note will be.
  • There are no subelements of note, but notes may also be included inside of other elements, such as relatedItem or physicalDescription.

Examples of Notes Encoded in MODS

Note for Title Attribution

<note type="titleSrc" displaylabel="Title Source">Title translated by cataloger.</note>

Note for Medium

<note type="titleSrc" displaylabel="Title Source">Title translated by cataloger.</note>
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