ACAT linked data question

On 03/03/2015 19.24, Anderson, William wrote:
> It’s interesting that the article “Ending the Invisible Library” posted earlier the thread, from my quick read seems to focus on the use of linked data the other way round, libraries sharing their catalog data with others over the open web. In other words, it is we that are the invisible library. >
> Our MARC data, beyond being a communication standard, does indeed consist of “semantic mark up”, but “mark up” semantically unreadable by the vast majority of computers beyond or own systems.
> > The upshot being we are judged a “trusted source” that just happens to speak in the data equivalent of obscure dialect (MARC) only spoken in a few towns up in the mountains (i.e. the library profession). It is not our wisdom that is questioned, but our communication skills. A facetious analogy, but hopefully apt.

There are some points to keep in mind when considering linked data/semantic web. The new formats (, Bibframe) are *not* there for libraries to be able to do new and wonderful things with their own data. Why? Because libraries already understand and control all of that data. Right now, so long as we have XML formats (and we have that now with MARCXML) we can do *anything* we want with the data. MARCXML is not perfect, but it is still XML and that means: librarians can search that data however we want, manipulate it however we want, transform it however we want, sort it however we want and display it however we want. If we want to search by the fiction code in the fixed fields and sort by number of pages or by 100/700$q we can. We can print out reams of entire records, or any bits and pieces of them we could want, collate them in any number of ways (or not), and print them out on 3D printers in day-glow colors, display them with laser beams on the moon or work with them in the virtual reality “wearable technology”. We can do all of that and more *right now* if we wanted. We’ve been able to do it for a long time. We don’t need or Bibframe to enhance our own capabilities because we can do anything with our own data now.

So, who is and Bibframe for? Non-librarians, i.e. for people who neither understand nor control our data. Libraries will allow others to work with our data in ways that they can understand a bit more than MARC. Non-librarians cannot be expected to understand 240$k or 700$q, but with or Bibframe, it is supposed to be easier for them–although it still won’t be easy. Nevertheless, they will be able to take our data and do with it as they will as they cannot do now with our MARC/ISO2709 records. It’s interesting to note that the LC book catalog in this format has been in the Internet Archive for awhile now ( but I haven’t heard that any developers have used it.

With Bibframe and people will be able to merge it with other parts of the linked data universe (oops! Not Freebase or dbpedia. They’ll have to go to Wikidata! Wonder how long that will last!) or with all kinds of web APIs (see Here too is a list of some of the web apis Web programmers can then put these things together to create something absolutely new, e.g. bring together library data with ebay so that people can see if something on ebay is available in the library or vice versa. But remember that those web programmers will also be able to manipulate our data as much as we can, so the final product they create may look and work completely differently than we would imagine, or that we would like. As a result, libraries and catalogers will lose the control of their data that they have always enjoyed. For better or worse, that is a necessary consequence of sharing your data.

Then comes what are–I think–the two major questions of linked data for libraries. First is: OK. We add the links, but what do we link *to*? Will linking into appeal to the public? I personally don’t think so since there is so little there, other than the traditional syndetic structures found in our traditional catalogs (i.e. the UF, BT, NT, RT for subjects, the earlier/later names of corporate bodies and series, the other names of people). This is not what people think of when they think of the advantages of linked data. While those things may be nice for us, I don’t know if that will be so appealing to the public. If it is to become appealing to the public, somebody somewhere will have to do a lot of work to make them appealing.

Concerning VIAF, it’s nice to know the authorized forms in Hebrew, French, Italian, and so on, but again, is that so appealing to the *public*? It may be, but that remains to be proven.

Second, there is no guarantee at all that anyone will actually do anything with our data. While I certainly hope so, there are no guarantees that anybody will do anything with our data. It could just sit and go unused.

I want again to emphasize that libraries should go into linked data, but when we do so, there will probably be more question marks than exclamation points. Just as when a couple is expecting a baby and they experience pregnancy: at least when I experienced it, I imagined that the birth of my son would be an end of the pregnancy. But suddenly, I had a crying baby on my hands! Linked data will be similar: it will be a beginning and not an end.

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