Purpose – With the aim of developing a conceptual framework which aims to facilitate semantic metadata interoperability, this paper explores overarching conceptual issues on how traditional library information organisation schemes such as online public access catalogues (OPACs), taxonomies, thesauri, and ontologies on the one hand versus Web 2.0 technologies such as social tagging (folksonomies) can be harnessed to provide users with satisfying experiences. Design/methodology/approach – This paper reviews works in relation to current metadata creation, utilisation and interoperability approaches, focusing on how a social constructivist philosophical perspective can be employed to underpin metadata decisions in digital libraries. Articles are retrieved from databases such as EBSCO host and Emerald and online magazines such as D-Lib and Ariadne. Books, news articles and blog posts that are deemed relevant are also used to support the arguments put forward in this paper. Findings – Current metadata approaches are deeply authoritative and metadata deployments in digital libraries tend to favour an objectivist approach with focus on metadata simplicity. It is argued that unless information objects are enriched with metadata generated through a collaborative and user-driven approach, achieving semantic metadata interoperability in digital libraries will remain difficult. Practical implications – In this paper, it is indicated that the number of metadata elements (fields) constituting a standard has a direct bearing on metadata richness, which in turn directly affects semantic interoperability. It is expected that this paper will contribute towards a better understanding of harnessing user-driven metadata. Originality/value – As suggested in this paper, a conceptual metadata framework underpinned by a social constructivist approach substantially contributes to semantic interoperability in digital libraries.