W3C Library Linked Data Final Report Published

w3c_home The W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group has published it’s Final Report after a year of deliberation.

The mission of the Library Linked Data Incubator Group was to help
increase the global interoperability of library data on the Web by
focusing on the potential role of Linked Data technologies.

This report contains several messages that are not just interesting and relevant for the Linked Data enthusiast in the library community. It contains some home truths for those in libraries who think that a slight tweak to the status quo, such as adopting RDA, will be sufficient to keep libraries [data] relevant in the rapidly evolving world of the web.

On the NGC4LIB mailing list, Eric Lease Morgan picked out some useful quotes from the report:

  • Linked Data is not about creating a different Web, but rather about enhancing the Web through the addition of structured data.
  • By promoting a bottom-up approach to publishing data, Linked Data creates an opportunity for libraries to improve the value proposition of describing their assets.
  • Linked Data may be a first step toward a “cloud-based” approach to managing cultural information, which could be more cost-effective than stand-alone systems in institutions.
  • With Linked Open Data, libraries can increase their presence on the Web, where most information seekers can be found.
  • The use of the Web and Web-based identifiers will make up-to-date resource descriptions directly citable by catalogers.
  • History shows that all technologies are transitory, and the history of information technology suggests that specific data formats are especially short-lived.
  • Library developers and vendors will directly benefit from not being tied to library-specific data formats.
  • Most information in library data is encoded as display-oriented, natural-language text.
  • Work on library Linked Data can be hampered by the disparity in concepts and terminology between libraries and the Semantic Web community.
  • Relatively few bibliographic datasets have been made available as Linked Data, and even less metadata has been produced for journal articles, citations, or circulation data.
  • A major advantage of Linked Data technology is realized with the establishment of connections between and across datasets.
  • Libraries should embrace the web of information, both by making their data available for use as Linked Data and by using the web of data in library services. Ideally, library data should integrate fully with other resources on the Web, creating greater visibility for libraries and bringing library services to information seekers.

Also, from the report:

Relatively few bibliographic datasets have been made available as Linked Data, and even less metadata has been produced for journal articles, citations, or circulation data — information which could be put to effective use in environments where data is integrated seamlessly across contexts. Pioneering initiatives such as the release of the British National Bibliography reveal the effort required to address challenges such as licensing, data modeling, the handling of legacy data, and collaboration with multiple user communities. However, these also demonstrate the considerable benefits of releasing bibliographic databases as Linked Data. As the community’s experience increases, the number of datasets released as Linked Data is growing rapidly.

Talis Consulting has been closely and actively involved in the modelling, data transformation, publishing, and hosting of the British National Bibliography (BnB) as Linked Data.  A great overview of the approach taken to modelling of bibliographic data in a way that makes it easily compatible with the wider Web of Data, is provided by Tim Hodson in his post – British Library Data Model: Overview.  As can bee seen from their work, the modelling used for the BnB differs from the approach taken by many attempting to publish bibliographic data as Linked Data – it describes the resources (the books, authors, publishers, etc.)  as people, places, events, and things, as against attempting to represent the records that libraries keep about their stock of resources.

With intentions to release open library data specifically mentioning Linked Data, the sentiments from this report are already influencing the wider forward thinking library community.  I will leave the last word to the report’s final paragraph which some, in the traditional record-based cataloguing community, may have difficulty in getting their head around.  I encourage them to look at libraries from the point of view of the wider [non-library] web consumers, and read it again.

One final caveat: data consumers should bear in mind that, in contrast to traditional, closed IT systems, Linked Data follows an open-world assumption: the assumption that data cannot generally be assumed to be complete and that, in principle, more data may become available for any given entity. We hope that more “data linking” will happen in the library domain in line with the projects mentioned here.

This post was also published on the Talis Consulting Blog
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