Friday, April 06, 2012

VIAF gets serious

There has been an announcement by OCLC that the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) is "transitioning" to OCLC. Since it was already being run by OCLC, this may seem like no news, but in fact it is a sign of commitment on OCLC's part both to VIAF and to linked data. The announcement states:
The change has been made to assure that VIAF will be well-positioned to scale efficiently as a long-term, cooperative activity. The transition also assures that will continue to have appropriate infrastructure to respond to rising levels of traffic as VIAF gains momentum and popularity as a resource for library authority work and linked data activities.
 One of the many advantages of linked data is that you can role out your implementation of linked data gradually. This announcement about VIAF leads me to wonder if library linked data can't begin with names, followed perhaps closely by subject lists. The question then becomes how we can link from name data on the web to library catalogs. There are already links from VIAF to Wikipedia, Wikipedia to VIAF. This means that there are also links from DBPedia to VIAF, since DBPedia is a linked data form of Wikipedia. DBPedia is the center point of the linked data cloud, thus assuring maximum linking. After that, we reach a dead end, at least as far as library data is concerned, because many library systems do not make use of the authority file identifiers for names, and none, as far as I know, support the use of URIs as identifiers. We would need to pass through VIAF to get the appropriate text string to match against library data.

As for subject access, there are a number of library subject heading lists that have been coded in SKOS and that have some interlinking. The ones I know about are:
These can be found at the Data Hub under the "Bibliographic" group.

(I should mention that VIAF is being licensed as ODC-BY, meaning even commercial use is allowed. What isn't immediately clear is whether the 'BY' -- that is, attribution -- applies to the service as a whole or to individual records or even to individual headings. Attribution adds a small but significant burden on downstream users, so it would be great if the only requirement were that one acknowledge VIAF in appropriate documentation.)

Ideas on how to proceed from this point are very welcome.

1 comment:

Lorcan Dempsey said...

There are links between VIAF and various other library resources also.

In fact, we have tried to add links where we can although of course more could be done. Hopefully there will be Orcid and ISNI links as they come along.

I was interested in Andy Powells' remarks about linked data and links a while ago.