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Metadata is structured information that describes and allows us to find, manage, control and understand other information. In a web environment metadata acts like a virtual library catalogue – it helps search engines to accurately and efficiently identify and retrieve web-based resources in response to search requests.

Recognised resource discovery metadata schemes that are in active use by government in Australia include AGLS and its extensions and ANZLIC (geo-spatial).

AGLS Australian Government Locator Service is the Australian Government metadata standard. The AGLS metadata standard was developed to promote consistency of discovery of government resources.

AGLS metadata, which is usually invisible to the end user, can be stored in HTML ‘metatags’, in XML, or in a metadata repository or directory that can be interrogated or harvested by external search engines.

AGLS is now an official standard. AS 5044, AGLS Metadata Element Set, is the product of collaboration between the National Archives and Standards Australia. Based on an Australian Government standard, AS 5044 AGLS will enable web resources to be described consistently across all government, private and community sectors.