This is the first in a series of posts documenting some of the assignments I submitted as part of my Masters in Library and Information Studies (MLIS). I’ve decided to rework and publish extracts here for a number of reasons. I’m very proud of a lot of the work that I’ve done this year and I think this is a great way of demonstrating my interests and competencies within the field.
Why should digital libraries use linked data?
An edited version of an environmental scan submitted for IS40560 Digital Libraries.
In his Ted Talk from 2009 on the next generation web, web 3.0 or the semantic web, Tim Berners-Lee (2009) said:
“You do your bit, everybody else does their bit, and the data all connect, creating a power that is simply not available from hyperlinking documents.”
The area of linked data is fascinating to me and I was intrigued to read and learn more about this area of digital libraries. There is a lot of literature available about what linked data are and how they should be used but not much of it addresses why libraries should embrace linked data. I have some understanding of what linked data are from a technical point of view, however, I am interested to learn why digital libraries should use it, what are the benefits to the library?
I began by reading a blog post titled Linked Data 101 (Shotton, 2013a), in order to get an overview of the topic. In this post the author lays out his basic argument for publishing library catalogues in linked data and over a series of posts explains how this can be achieved. In another post Shotton (2013b) argues that we are at the mid-point in the digital revolution, somewhere between the print world and the online world, with the print world still exerting a lot of power over how things are done in the online world. He feels that libraries have still not fully committed to being online.
According to Bowen & Schreur (2012) linked data has the potential “to transform every aspect of how we create, acquire, and discover information.” The authors feel that linked data will make library resources available to users through new means such as search engines, mobile apps, and social media.
Bowen & Schreur (2012) also suggest that libraries “as primary purveyors of information” should be at the centre of this transformation. Breeding (2013) seems to agree with this point of view. In his column in Computers in Libraries he suggests that librarians “resonate” with the idea of the semantic web and linked data because we are strive to make content as open and available as possible. Similarly Byrne & Goddard (2010) agree with this point of view saying that “librarians should actually be well positioned to understand and implement linked data.”
To explain the power of the semantic web and linked data Byrne & Goddard (2010) give the example of a search engine that could distinguish between a resource that is written about someone rather than a resource that is written by someone. Shotton (2013b) makes the case that access to linked data permits their use in ways that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. He offers the example of a researcher being able to plot on a map records from different libraries or institutions relating to Mesopotamia. However the exciting thing about linked data is the creative things that other might do with it (Shotton 2013a, 2013b).
Söderbäck (2009) argues that a library catalogue should be designed within the larger context of the web and that we should not just accept a library catalogue as it is, but rather consider what it could become. He feels that the catalogues should be part of the wider network and weave itself into the web. Alemu et al. (2012) describe their five benefits of linked library metadata for digital libraries including openness and sharing of metadata, identifying resource usage patterns, facilitating serendipitous discovery of information resources, facet-based navigation and enriching metadata with links.
In accord with this Breeding (2013) sees linked data as reshaping library technologies and that the benefits to libraries include better discovery services initially but also better means of managing library collections into the future. Byrne & Goddard (2010) also describe linked data and the semantic web as offering solutions to precise web search, authority control, classification, data portability, and disambiguation. The benefits to digital libraries according to Fox (2011) are in the area of discovery services, with users being able to surf from one catalogue seamlessly to another, as no institution will hold all the relevant data on a specific area. This is described by Byrne & Goddard (2010) as “smart federated search” reducing some of the current problems with federated search such as “lack of granularity, inability to support sophisticated queries, poor relevancy ranking, inaccurate de-duping, and slowness.”
In response to the semantic web and linked data the Library of Congress launched Bibliographic Framework Initiative in May 2011, the aim of which is to transition from MARC metadata standard into a new bibliographic environment with interconnectedness and the network at its core. Library of Congress (2012) explain that with MARC libraries were at the coalface of change in the 60s with the goal of making information available in an electronic form. It seems to me that we find ourselves again in a similar situation when it comes to the next generation – linked data.
Despite all these positive and stimulating arguments there are those warning of the pitfalls of linked data. Sanderson (2013) begins his presentation on the topic by suggesting that the semantic web was a “great idea in 2003” yet “still a great idea in 2013” [emphasis in original]. He argues that already there are too many ontologies to choose from, leaving room for competing models or syntaxes. Metadata Quality in a Linked Data Context (2013) also cautions that in order for publishers of linked data to know what is expected of them and for users to understand their search results well understood metadata policies and operational practices are needed within the digital library. This suggests that there will need for education both on the librarian and users end of the equation
For me, the most important point that Bowen & Schreur (2012) make in relation to this shift to linked data is that as people move more of their lives to the web, libraries need to be represented. From the research and reading I have done I feel that transforming library catalogues into linked data is essential in keeping the library relevant in the digital era. The default information seeking strategy for most people is an online search engine. If our content is not being presented to potential users then it will not be discovered. I firmly believe that as librarians or curators of information we should be leading the way, applying our skills and showing the wider information world how it’s done.
Alemu, G., Stevens, B., Ross, P., & Chandler, J. (2012). Linked data for libraries: Benefits of a conceptual shift from library-specific record structures to RDF-based data models. New Library World, 113(11-12), 549-570.
Berners-Lee, T. (2009, February). Tim Berners-Lee on the next Web [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_berners_lee_on_the_next_web.html
Bowen, J. and Schreur, P. E. (2012). Linked Data for Libraries: Why Should We Care? Where Should We Start? Retrieved from http://www.cni.org/topics/information-access-retrieval/linked-data-for-libraries/
Breedin, M. (2013, April). Linked Data: The Next Big Wave or Another Tech Fad? Computers in Libraries. Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/apr13/Breeding–Linked-Data–The%20Next-Big-Wave-or-Another-Tech-Fad.shtml
Byrne, G., & Goddard, L. (2010). The strongest link: Libraries and linked data. D-Lib Magazine, Retrieved from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/november10/byrne/11byrne.html
Fox, R. (2011). Avoiding the weak link. OCLC Systems and Services. 27(3), 163-169.
Library of Congress. (2012). Bibliographic Framework as a Web of Data: Linked Data Model and Supporting Services. Retrieved from http://www.loc.gov/marc/transition/pdf/marcld-report-11-21-2012.pdf
Metadata Quality in a Linked Data Context. (2013, January 24). Legal Information Institute [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.law.cornell.edu/voxpop/2013/01/24/metadata-quality-in-a-linked-data-context/
Shotton, D. (2013, March 1). Linked Data 101 [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://semanticpublishing.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/linked-data-101/
Shotton, D. (2013, March 1). Libraries and linked data #6: Why publish library catalogues as open linked data? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://semanticpublishing.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/lld6-catalogues-and-linked-data/
Söderbäck, A. (2009). Why libraries should embrace Linked Data [Presentation]. National Library of Sweden. Retrieved from http://code4lib.org/files/LIBRIS_code4lib.pdf
Sanderson, R. (2013). RDF: Resource Description Failures and Linked Data Letdowns [Presentation]. Retrieved from http://www.cni.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/CNI_RDF_Sanderson.pdf