The mission of the W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group, chartered from May 2010 through August 2011, has been "to help increase global interoperability of library data on the Web, by bringing together people involved in Semantic Web activities — focusing on Linked Data — in the library community and beyond, building on existing initiatives, and identifying collaboration tracks for the future." In Linked Data, data is expressed using standards such as Resource Description Framework (RDF), which specifies relationships between things, and Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs, or "Web addresses"). This final report of the Incubator Group examines how Semantic Web standards and Linked Data principles can be used to make the valuable information assets that library create and curate — resources such as bibliographic data, authorities, and concept schemes — more visible and re-usable outside of their original library context on the wider Web.
The Incubator Group began by eliciting reports on relevant activities from parties ranging from small, independent projects to national library initiatives (see the separate report, Library Linked Data Incubator Group: Use Cases). These use cases provided the starting point for the work summarized in the report: an analysis of the benefits of library Linked Data, a discussion of current issues with regard to traditional library data, existing library Linked Data initiatives, and legal rights over library data; and recommendations for next steps. The report also summarizes the results of a survey of current Linked Data technologies and an inventory of library Linked Data resources available today (see also the more detailed report, Library Linked Data Incubator Group: Datasets, Value Vocabularies, and Metadata Element Sets).
Key recommendations of the report are:
- That library leaders identify sets of data as possible candidates for early exposure as Linked Data and foster a discussion about Open Data and rights;
- That library standards bodies increase library participation in Semantic Web standardization, develop library data standards that are compatible with Linked Data, and disseminate best-practice design patterns tailored to library Linked Data;
- That data and systems designers design enhanced user services based on Linked Data capabilities, create URIs for the items in library datasets, develop policies for managing RDF vocabularies and their URIs, and express library data by re-using or mapping to existing Linked Data vocabularies;
- That librarians and archivists preserve Linked Data element sets and value vocabularies and apply library experience in curation and long-term preservation to Linked Data datasets.
I'm so happy to have been a part of the creation of this report. I think it is an important stake in the ground that documents where we are now and where we could be going with connecting library data to a wider world. There was such a huge interest in linked data at the American Library Association meeting this past summer in New Orleans that it was hard to keep track of all of the programs.
The question now becomes, "what next?" The W3C has a new type of work effort called Community Groups where work could continue, and there was some discussion on the Library Linked Data Incubator Group discussion list about continuing work as a community group. (To date, I don't think anyone has stepped up to lead it.) Or is this something that IFLA or JSC could take on?