The Metadata created is a seperate file residing along with the shape file (in your case).
I did see a few items in the arcscripts section (use "metadata" in the search and dig down a few pages). Most of the tools that looked like they answered your question directly are for AV3.2. However there might be a couple that you could use.
There is a free geoportal server which I think does gather all that data into one place and allows for publishing the metatdata.
I have been wanting to install and get something going with this but time has me restricted. Check it out and see if it will help. The second link is to some add-ons that you would probably want.