Tuesday, February 01, 2011

knowledge Organization in Norway

Last week I attended Kunnskapsorganisasjonsdagene 2011 in Oslo. (Knowledge Organization 2011 conference.) The topics ranged around linked data, the FRs, and RDA. I will try to give some flavor of the event, as I experienced it. That last caveat is because only three of the presentations were in English, the rest in Norwegian, and how much I understood really depended on whether there were slides with a lot of diagrams. I was somewhat in the position of the dog in this cartoon:

with "Ginger" being replaced by "RDA", "MARC", and "Karen Coyle."

I was the first speaker of day 1, and presented on the topic of RDA and linked data. The next talk was from the Pode project, a research project bringing together FRBR and RDF concepts and linking data to dbpedia, VIAF, and Dewey in RDF. I got the impression that while experimental, the results are sophisticated, particularly because of the mix of data sources the project is working with. The afternoon had an introduction to (and, from the moments of laughter, some commentary on) RDA by Unni Knutsen. There appears to be an equal amount of interest and skepticism about RDA. I am not sure that AACR had this same effect outside of the Anglo-American library community, and would be very interested to hear more about the impact of A-A cataloging rules, especially whether this impact is greatly increased due to the degree of international sharing of bibliographic data.

Maja Žumer, of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, a member of the FRSAD working group gave the best explanation of the meaning behind FRSAD's "thema" and "nomen" that I have yet heard. It is beginning to make sense. Maja is the co-author of a study on FRBR and library user mental models that was published in the Journal of Documentation in two parts. (Preprints [1] [2]) I will link to her slides when they are made available. A key take-away is that FRBR, FRAD and FRSAD have taken very different approaches that will now need to be reconciled. FRBR presents a closed universe of bibliographic data, with only FRBR entities allowed to be subjects of bibliographic resources. FRSAD essentially opens that up to anything in the known universe. Among other things this creates a possibility to link non-bibliographic concepts to described bibliographic entities. Or, at least, that's how I read it.

I was asked to do a short wrap-up of the first day, and as I usually do I turned to the audience for their ideas. Since we realized we are short on answers and long on questions, we decided to gather some of the burning questions. Here are the ones I wrote down:

  • If not RDA, what else is there?
  • Are things on hold waiting for RDA? Are people and vendors waiting to see what will happen?
  • Why wasn't RDA simplified?
  • How long will we pay for it?
  • Will communities other than those in the JSC use it?
  • Can others join JSC to make this a truly international code?
  • Should we just forget about this library-specific stuff and use Dublin Core?

I suspect that there are many others wondering these same things.

The next day there were more interesting talks. One was entitled: Må MARC dø? by Magnus Enger of Libriotech. The title means: Must MARC die? The first slide was one that needs little translation. It said simply:


Tom Scott of BBC gave a visually stunning talk about the data he manages around the nature and wildlife programming. He explained the reasons for pulling data from a variety of sources, including Wikipedia. (See this page -- and note that it encourages readers to improve the Wikipedia entry if they feel it is incorrect or insufficient.)

In another excellent talk, which I hope will come out in an English translation, Kim Tallerås and David Massey did a step-by-step walkthrough of moving from MARC-encoded data into fully linked data format, complete with URIs. There was another talk focusing on the Norwegian webDewey from the national library, with examples of converting that data to RDF.

About that time I ran out of steam, but I will post a link here when the presentations are up online. In spite of the language barrier, much content is accessible from these talks.

As is often the case I was very impressed at the quality of experimentation that is taking place by people who really want to see library data transformed and made web-able. I think we are at the start of a new and highly fruitful phase for libraries.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful presentation at the conference in Oslo. The memory of your presentation is still very vivid in my mind even now. Actually I was also one of you in the conference.
For us cagalogers in Norway, we still have some cataloging tasks. But every librarian knows that Bibliographic data linking to the semantic webs is the trend of future library's development. Should we catalogers get some training about triples' and RDF format's making? Otherwise we will be cast away by the new technologies. Don't you agree?
A confusing cataloger

Karen Coyle said...

Thanks for your thanks :-)

I do think it is important for catalogers to understand the basic concepts behind the semantic web, but only in a very general way. Triples are code for machines, and, to paraphrase something David Massey said at the conference, when we really have implemented the semantic web we will no longer have to explain these background concepts to people. Instead, they will have real applications to see and use, and those applications will give people an understanding of the capabilities that this new data format can provide. I look forward to the day when we can quit thinking about triples and put all of our attention on creating great discovery applications for our users.

serena said...

Hello Karen, from Italy :))) Today our AIB President, Mauro Guerrini, posted on AIBCUR (5800 italian librarians, but not only librarians) that RDA is now available in print format (more than 1000 pages) and wondering about this... your comment?
yours Serena (CNBA)

serena said...

Sorry, I forgot the link:


Karen Coyle said...

Hello (Ciao) Serena --

Yes, RDA is now available as a HUGE loose-leaf binder. This is a positive development for anyone who wants to stay up-to-date (changes to some parts of the code have already been made). For those who are just curious, however, there is a zipped copy of the final draft at
the Internet Archive..

The element set is also available in print, but you can access that at the metadata registry, which provides both human-readable displays and machine-usable RDF.

Hendrix said...

Hello, first sorry for my english, but is important to say that we are developing an application for catalogin based in semantic web just using the frbr vocabulary, is an application web for the OHC(Oficina del historiador) in cuba, we started this application this year (2011) and use all topics discuss here, by the way I affirm that triples are code for machine. Unfortunately I could not be in oslo but I read this document:
that serve of so much help.

when we finish (two years from now)
because is a proyect so enough ambicious, You can say that exist an application's dreams catalogers

Karen Coyle said...


This is very exciting news! I hope that you will provide information about your plans as you progress. I would like to suggest that you could probably publish a very informal article in the Code4Lib Journal (http://journal.code4lib.org), and I'm sure that there would be many of us willing to play an editorial role for some final polishing of the language. (No need to apologize: you have communicated superbly.)