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OSU Library Metadata: A Guideline to Best Practices: File Naming Conventions

This site provides guidelines for OSU's local implementation of CDP Dublin Core Metadata Best Practices Version 2.1.1

File Naming Conventions

Systematic file naming is important for system compatibility, interoperability and to demonstrate
ownership of the digital asset. It is critical that your file names are unique, and it is recommended
that they follow an established convention to assure consistency and ease of use.
OSU Library File naming recommendations include:

1. Avoid punctuation marks other than underscores and hyphens

2. Begin each file name with a two- to three-character acronym representing the institutional name
followed by a second two- to three-character acronym representing the department or unit name
(when applicable)

Follow the institutional and departmental acronyms with an object ID. The OCLC symbol (oks)
followed immediately by the first letter of the holding/issuing department’s name (example: okss is
for SCUA, okso is for OOHRP, and oksd is for DRDS). The object ID consists of any unique
numbering scheme already in use to represent the object. If no such number exists, a short
description representing the item should be used.

Example file names:

  •  oksd_Pickens_001_03-1.tif
  •  oksa_1979_004_12-1.jpg
  •  okso_OSS_281.wav

3. File names should be limited to 31 characters, including the three character file extension

4. If burning to CD-ROM or other transport medium for a patron, file names should be limited to 11
characters, including the three character file extension, in case a recipient’s computer does not
support long filenames

5. Use a single period as a separator between the file name and the three letter extension

6. Include a part designator after the object ID, when applicable. E.g., part 2, side A for an oral
history interview recorded on two cassette tapes

7. When selecting a file naming convention, think long-term. Select a system that will outlast staff
involved in the current project. Consider the number of files your institution will ultimately be
managing. Remember human error ― if technicians will manually be assigning file names, how
simple will it be to make a mistake? Before any new digital files are named and added to
collections staff must seek approval from a digital team leader(s). Remember, file names do
not take the place of metadata. Keep them simple and straightforward.