Monday, December 22, 2008

LC forces take-down of

I am beside myself with fury. I hardly know where to begin. Not long ago, Ed Summers took the LCSH authority file and created an online site with the LC Subject Heading authority file re-formatted as a SKOS vocabulary. For the first time, Web services could link directly to LC subjects as represented in the authority file. And some did.

But the Library of Congress, our Federal, if not National, library, has required Ed to take down the site. A site that contained nothing more than LCSH in a usable form. Data that SHOULD be in the public domain, for anyone to use as they wish. This is an assault against libraries everywhere, an act of censorship.

You can read Ed's statement on

I would very much like to hear LoC's statement about this. They should not be allowed to control the use of this data, data that belongs to all of us.

Ed couldn't refuse the Library's demand, but anyone who isn't an employee of LoC should have greater freedom. Let's gather around a find a new home for LCSH, one that can't be removed from the public.


Ryan Shaw said...

This made me very angry too, especially since I was relying on for part of my dissertation work. Here's what I think needs to be done. First, a project should be undertaken to map LCSH concepts to Wikipedia topics. Once this has been done, a service can be established to translate LCSH assignments to equivalent sets of Wikipedia topics. This way the huge investment in assigning LCSH to books is not lost. But going forward, we could use Wikipedia topics directly, which are clearly in the public domain, are more up-to-date and more fine-grained than LCSH concepts, reflect a wider consensus, are more user-friendly, are native to the web, have associated articles that explain them and enable automatic topic assignment to full-text resources through text comparison techniques, etc. Making the LCSH accessible is a good first step, but the real goal should be to replace them completely.

Bruce said...

How feasible might it be to fold some variant of the service into OpenLibrary? Might that (or some similar alternative) be a good alternative to waiting for the LoC to finally get a clue?

Karen Coyle said...


It looks to me like a stand-alone product is not a difficult one to provide. There were hints that some folks were working on replicating Ed's service elsewhere.

There are issues to integrating LC authorities with the Open Library that make it something that will take some thought, but we're thinking about it. I definitely want to see the name authorities linked in so that we can capture the name identifiers. The subject authorities (which is the basis for are messy for direct linking (because they only match a portion of each actual subject heading), but if anyone has experience to offer I'd love to hear about it.