Monday, December 06, 2010

Response to JPW

Note: John Price Wilkin of Michigan wrote a post on the Open Knowledge Foundation blog that is very critical of the library linked data movement and the creation of numerous disjoint files of bib data in linked data formats. I admit that it isn't clear to me what he thinks should happen, but it seems to be something like this photo, which I took at the Online 2010 exhibit hall. This is OCLC's booth.

A separate cloud for libraries. Totally the wrong idea.

I must say that I see things quite differently from JPW. Although I agree that a bunch of static bibliographic files do not open library linked data make, my view is:

1) Each file represents a person or group who got interested in transforming library data and went through the learning process of actually doing it. Therefore each file is a contribution to our collective knowledge about linked data. When we add these files to heterogeneous stores like Open Library or Freebase, we exercise that knowledge.

2) These files are the fodder for further experimentation with mixing library data and non-library data, which to me is one of the main points of linked library data. We are in the "training wheels" stage of this change, and like training wheels these early files may end up being discarded when we finally learn to ride. I see no harm in that.

3) This experimentation is taking place primarily outside of the US in places where the OCLC record use policy does not apply. The British Library, the National Library of Sweden, soon the Bibliotheque Nationale, and a handful of German libraries are at the forefront of this. If you cannot release your bibliographic data openly, you cannot participate in the linked data movement.

4) I do think that we will have library systems that make use of a different data format to the one we have today, but those are not the same as linked data, and are definitely not the linked open data that is the main focus of the linked data activity. How we manage our data for ourselves may well be different from how we share it with the world. We do need a well-ordered library data universe where we do our bibliographic work. That should exist in parallel with open sharing that reaches beyond the library cataloging community.


Jodi Schneider said...

"If you cannot release your bibliographic data openly, you cannot participate in the linked data movement."

It hinges on what the 'movement' is--but you can definitely have linked data that's not open. Especially, it's easy to link to existing open sources.

Of course, I'd rather have linked *open* data from all libraries!

Jodi Schneider said...

Possibly Wilkin means that it's a mistake to split libraries off from the main cloud. Many of the problems with OPACs are due to the small market share and limited reuse of existing components.

Karen Coyle said...

Jodi, yes, you can do linked data in an "enterprise" way, but then it's not "two-way" linking, it's just one-way. I suspect that much of the linked data mentions I saw at Online2010 were of the enterprise type. There will probably be some of that relating to internal library systems, but I don't think it's what we'll need to serve the user discovery function.

And I must say that I'm not at all sure what Wilkin means, since his post kind of went all over the place. I must admit that the negative tone is what struck me the most -- and froma board member of the OKFN, that is significant (and something of a shame).

Kevin Hawkins said...

For the record, John Wilkin is a member of the Working Group on Open Bibliographic Data at OKFN but is not a member of their board of directors or of their advisory board.

Karen Coyle said...

Thanks, Kevin. I had remembered wrong about his connection with OKFN. (Shouldn't trust the brain as a source of facts.)

Nicholas B. said...

Wow, just recently started reading your blog. Wonder why you are so obsessed with oclc? I really wouldn't mind, but it's the negative tone that is uncomfortable...especially for someone so travelled and active in the library community. They say you get more with honey...