Linked Data and Libraries: Keynote

Today at the second Linked Data and Libraries meeting organised by Talis.

Lynne Brindley is kicking off the day…
Noting that the broad agenda is about getting access to information, linking across domains etc. See potential of Linked Data approach to increasing the use of their catalogue & so collections. Bringing better discovery and therefor utility to researchers – and to exploit the legacy of data that has been created over long periods of time.

The British library is ‘up for it’ – but need to look at the costs, benefits and may need to convince sceptics. But BL has history of taking innovative steps – introduced public online information retrieval systems to the UK around 40 years ago (MEDLARS in the 1970s). 10 years later UK was one of the first countries to publish National Bibliography on CD-ROM (now ‘museum pieces’! says Lynne).

And now exposing national bibliography as linked open data… – some history:

BL involved in UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) – repository of papers, patents, reports etc. etc. Contains many data types from many organisations. Provides better access to hard to find reports, theses etc. For Lynne this is also about ‘linking’ even if not built on “Linked Data” technology stack. – sees it as part and parcel of same thing and movement in a direction of linking materials/collections.

Also ‘sounds’ – UK Sound Map – linked across domains and also involved public in capturing ‘sounds of Britain’ – via AudioBoo – added metadata and mashed up with Google Maps…

‘Evolving English’ exhibition – had a ‘map your voice’ element – many people recorded the same piece of material – which has been incorporated into a research database of linguistic recordings – global collaboration and massive participation.

Lynne says – it is pretty difficult to do multi-national, multi-organisational stuff – and should learn from these examples.

The BL Catalogue is primary tool to access, order and manage the BL collections. Long operated a priced service where the catalogue records are sold to others – in various forms. Despite pressure to earn money from Government, BL decided to take step of offering BNB records as RDF/XML under a CC0. Today will be announcing a linked data version of BNB – more later today from Neil Wilson.

Hope that the data will get used in a wide variety of ways. Key lesson for BL says Lynne – is ‘relinquish control, let go’ – however you think people are going to use what you put out there, they will use it in a different way.

Promise of linked data offers many benefits across sectors, across ‘memory institutions’. But the institutions involved will need to face cultural change to achieve this. ‘Curators’ in any context (libraries, archives, museums) are used to their ‘vested authority’ – and we need to both recognise this at the same time as ‘letting go’ – from the library point of view no-one can afford to stand on the sidelines – we need to get in there and experiment.

Need to get out of our institutional and metadata silos – and take a journey to the ‘mainstream future’. Partnerships are important – and everyone wants to ‘partner’ with the British Library – but often proposed partnerships are one sided – we need to look for win-win partnerships with institutions like the BL.

Final message – we are good at talking – but we need to ‘just do it’ – do it and show benefits and convince people.

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