Linked Data for the Rest of Us: e-Forum Summary

The ALCTS e-Forum “Linked Data for the Rest of Us” took place on July 24–25, 2018. Anne Washington (coordinator of metadata services), Andrew Weidner (digital operations coordinator), and Xiping Liu (resource description librarian)—all of the University of Houston M.D. Anderson Library—moderated the discussion. Over 70 people posted around 200 messages during the two-day discussion.

Word cloud of e-Forum summary text

Day one’s discussion was focused on transforming traditional MARC records into BIBFRAME. Participants expressed interest in various topics that they wanted to learn from the discussion. Some had interest in identifying potential linked data projects to begin but expressed concerns about limited time and resources. Others wanted to investigate the benefits of linked data and learn more about whether or not it can provide better access to their collections. A few people expressed interest in transforming metadata into linked data within a library consortium. One person expressed interest in exploring Resource Description and Access (RDA) with linked data.

The first question about experimentation with BIBFRAME generated a few responses. The Library of Congress of Chile is working on transforming a small collection of video recordings into BIBFRAME. One person mentioned her project of converting a small number of MARC records to BIBFRAME after she took a linked data course. Another person shared her project of attempting to insert GND (Gemeinsame Normdatei, German National Library Integrated Authority File) identifiers into $0 for a local collection. There were quite a few cases of libraries using vendors such as Library Link or Zepheira to help convert their bibliographic data into BIBFRAME.

The second and third questions centered around identifying skill sets and available resources to facilitate learning BIBFRAME and linked data. Participants shared what they considered to be required skill sets for cataloging and metadata librarians. Some believe that understanding RDF, XML, BIBFRAME at the theoretical level is essential, while having hands-on experience is a plus. Others thought it should depend on how BIBFRAME would be implemented in the individual library.

The fourth question asked about concerns around implementing BIBFRAME. A few people expressed concerns about the cost of conversion and the staff learning curve. One person mentioned that because she is in a consortium, her institution needs to be especially mindful of decision-making because of its impact on other libraries. Someone also raised the question of whether linked data would lead to duplication of effort for individual libraries and suggested that OCLC could possibly step in to lead those efforts.

Some final thoughts about the discussion on day one included making sure there’s information about BIBFRAME available in other languages so that we can maximize understanding and participation. At the end of the day, a few people expressed the need to know more about how linked data works.

Day two continued the discussion from day one but with a shift to focus on non-MARC linked data projects. The moderator started the discussion by inviting the audience to share any non-MARC linked data projects underway or completed at their libraries. One person was adding Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) headings to their thesis collection. A team at the University of Texas at Austin was investigating how linked data principles would apply to their Latin American Digital Initiatives project built using Fedora 4. The UT Austin respondent noted the importance of linking metadata to other languages for international accessibility. A few people expressed their concerns about potential burdens to web servers as a result of linking on a large scale. The moderator responded that this is a recognized issue and referred to Linked Data Fragments as an attempt to address this issue.

The rest of day two’s discussion was centered around the challenges of working on linked data projects. One person mentioned the difficulty of justifying the cost of experimentation from a public library’s perspective. The moderator shared her personal experience of learning and working on linked data projects and also talked about challenges of skill-building. A few people shared the same challenges and added that it made the learning more difficult, especially with little financial support and the lack of affordable, accessible educational opportunities.

A few suggestions shared towards the end of the discussion included building a community of learning around linked data and consolidating resources in a central place.

The overall responses received for this e-Forum indicate the amount of interest in the development of BIBFRAME and linked data in libraries. We hope the discussion has helped us to mark where we are now, as well as pave the way for future implementation of BIBFRAME and linked data.


General resources


Books, presentations and articles

Linked data projects

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