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Linked Data for Libraries: And we’re off!

I’m just out of the first meeting of the three universities participating in a Mellon grant — Cornell, Harvard, and Stanford, with Cornell as the grant instigator and leader — to build, demonstrate, and model using library resources expressed as Linked Data as a tool for researchers, student, teachers, and librarians. (Note that I’m putting all this in my own language, and I was certainly the least knowledgeable person in the room. Don’t get angry at anyone else for my mistakes.)

This first meeting, two days long, was very encouraging indeed: it’s a superb set of people, we are starting out on the same page in terms of values and principles, and we enjoyed working with one another.

The project is named Linked Data for Libraries (LD4L) (minimal home page), although that doesn’t entirely capture it, for the actual beneficiaries of it will not be libraries but scholarly communities taken in their broadest sense. The idea is to help libraries make progress with expressing what they know in Linked Data form so that their communities can find more of it, see more relationships, and contribute more of what the communities learn back into the library. Linked Data is not only good at expressing rich relations, it makes it far easier to update the dataset with relationships that had not been anticipated. This project aims at helping libraries continuously enrich the data they provide, and making it easier for people outside of libraries — including application developers and managers of other Web sites — to connect to that data.

As the grant proposal promised, we will use existing ontologies, adapting them only when necessary. We do expect to be working on an ontology for library usage data of various sorts, an area in which the Harvard Library Innovation Lab has done some work, so that’s very exciting. But overall this is the opposite of an attempt to come up with new ontologies. Thank God. Instead, the focus is on coming up with implementations at all three universities that can serve as learning models, and that demonstrate the value of having interoperable sets of Linked Data across three institutions. We are particularly focused on showing the value of the high-quality resources that libraries provide.

There was a great deal of emphasis in the past two days on partnerships and collaboration. And there was none of the “We’ll show ‘em where they got it wrong, by gum!” attitude that in my experience all too often infects discussions on the pioneering edge of standards. So, I just got to spend two days with brilliant library technologists who are eager to show how a new generation of tech, architecture, and thought can amplify the already immense value of libraries.

There will be more coming about this effort soon. I am obviously not a source for tech info; that will come soon and from elsewhere.

2 Responses to “Linked Data for Libraries: And we’re off!”

  1. From folks hoping that this L-D will be L-O-D (Linked Open Data), can we expect to get a clarification of rights in the metadata early on in the project? Perhaps following the examples of Europeana and DPLA with a CC0? Thanks.

  2. Karen,

    Yes, we are aiming at public domain. The following is from page 3 of the proposal:

    “While Linked Data can be used internally within an institution or across a collaborative group, it becomes much more valuable when it is Linked Open Data, and is publicly shared using an open license such as the Creative Commons CC-BY[1] or CC0[2] licenses, or the United Kingdom’s Open Government License[3]. For our Linked Data for Libraries project, our intention is that all SRSIS instances will share Linked Open Data with the world.”

    Dean Krafft adds: Since we’re publishing our own metadata, and we don’t actually have a lot of metadata for journal articles, there won’t be a lot of that in the mix. But what we do have should definitely be open.

Web Joho only

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