The Three Linked Data Choices for Libraries

It seems like forever that I have been promoting the benefits of Linked Data for libraries, and hence the suppliers/vendors of the systems they use — actually it’s only been just over a decade!

So where are we now?

I believe we are [finally] on the cusp of establishing a de facto approach for libraries and their system suppliers – not there yet but getting there.  Out of the mists of experimentation, funded cooperative projects, [mostly National Library] examples, and much discussion, is emerging a couple or three simple choices.

The proverbial $64,000 question being – what are those choices?

  • BIBFRAME 2.0 – the currently promoted on the Library of Congress site BIBFRAME version, building on the previous disparate versions of BIBFRAME.
  • – the structured web data vocabulary, supported by all the major search engines, actively promoted by Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex, and many others to aid indexing of resources, and implemented on millions of web sites in all sectors.
  • Linky MARC – the ability/recommendations by the PCC Task Group on URIs in MARC to include entity URIs for people, organisations, etc. in MARC records.
    Note: the name Linky MARC is of my own construction to differentiate from previous examples of MARC syntax for URLs etc.
  • Do nothing – kind of obvious!

So what is the correct answer?  — Like most things in life, it depends on the answers to further questions:

  1. Do you, or your customers, want to take advantage of the benefits of Linked Data to:
    1. Share Linked Data with other libraries?
    2. Take advantage of entity based cataloguing, work based searching, etc.
  2. Do you, or your customers, want their resources to be more visible and discoverable on the web; being more likely to be an answer to a search/question asked of a search provider such as Google?
  3. Do you want to capture web links and URIs in cataloguing, but your system does not support Linked Data?

The simple message of this post is, if you answered yes to any of these questions is:

  1. BIBFRAME 2.0 needs to be in your plans for implementation.
  2. needs to be in your plans for implementation.
  3. Linky MARC is a good interim solution until you can answer yes to 1. & 2.

As referenced above, these choices are as relevant to the suppliers and developers of library systems, as much as it is to individual libraries, who are often only able to able gain advantage from features developed on their behalf.

For those interested in the thought processes and experience that lead me to my statements here: I invite you to attend, and/or watch out for my slides from, my presentation at the 84th IFLA General Conference and Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, 24-30 August 2018.  I am speaking in the Celebrating IT Innovations in Libraries session (13:45 Sunday 26th August), and will be around for chats & meetings for most of the conference (contact me if you would like to meet up).

For those who will not get the pleasure of travelling to Malaysia in August, here briefly are some of those thoughts and observations:

BIBFRAME 2.0, launched a few years after the first release of BIBFRAME by the Library of Congress.   That first version, was a major step forward towards a Linked Data standard for libraries, but it was viewed by many as unsatisfactory for being not a good enough Linked Data representation and yet not reflecting traditional cataloging practices sufficiently.  Several differing versions of BIBFRAME then emerged, pushing things forward whilst causing confusion for those wondering what to  do about potentially using it.

This second, published by the Library of Congress, version took on board some of those these criticisms and as a result has become a version that is probably good enough to implement. Perfect? No.  Complete and finished? No, But good enough.

With the weight and momentum, provided by the Library of Congress, behind it it is looking like being the one standard that all system suppliers and developers will eventually support in some form.  There are many potential benefits that could flow from implementing BIBFRAME (Work-based discovery, entity-based cataloging, interlinking with and enrichment by external resources, etc).  However benefits that will not flow directly from adopting BIBFRAME are improvements to the visibility and discoverability of resources on the web by library users — search engines showing no interest in harvesting BIBFRAME., launched at a similar time to BIBFRAME, is a general purpose vocabulary designed to be embedded in web pages (for crawling by search engines) from all sectors.

In the early days, it was a bit limited in its capability for describing bibliographic resources, but that was addressed by the W3C Schema Bib Extend Community Group.  Also, until recently, there was some scepticism as to if the search engines were utilising data to aid discovery. Something they have now acknowledged it does.

With the introduction of AI techniques at the search engines, and voice search making discoverability even more important, has become a significant factor for all those wanting to be visible on the web. therefore has become the de facto choice of vocabulary for publishing structured data on the web.

Linky MARC is a significant step forward in the world of MARC cataloging, enabling the capture and use of web URIs in a consistent way in MARC records. Unlike implementing Linked Data, enhancing a library system to be compatible with these features should not be a major reengineering process.  The move to a full Linked Data based system at a later date, could then fully capitalise on these previously captured URIs and links.

To summarise the choice isn’t really which vocabulary to adopt, but when to implement BIBFRAME 2.0 and when to implement, and do I need to adopt Linky Marc in the interim?