At the IGeLU 2011 annual conference in Haifa, on September 12, 2011 a session “Linked Open Data and Ex Libris Products” took place. The purpose of this session was drawing the attention to the subject of linked open data in libraries using existing Ex Libris library systems. A number of cases of publishing and consuming linked data using Aleph and Primo were presented in four talks. A list of recommendations for library systems vendors and Ex Libris in particular was delivered asking Ex Libris for their vision. Ex Libris articulated and demonstrated their interest at that session and the Linked Open Data Special Interest Working Group was established thereafter.
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Linked Data, especially Linked Open Data, has gained momentum in recent years. Within the library domain a considerable research effort is put into the investigation of this new paradigm of an interwoven Web of Data.
The W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group, charged to explore “how Semantic Web standards and Linked Data principles can be used to make the valuable information assets that library create and curate […] more visible and re-usable outside of their original library context”, has recently published its final report concluding that “Libraries should embrace the web of information, both by making their data available for use as Linked Data and by using the web of data in library services.” Similarly, the Bibliographic Framework Transition Initiative, promoted by the Library of Congress and its partners, is stressing the promising chances Linked Data holds for the future of cataloging. Its general plan notes that “The new bibliographic framework project will be focused on the Web environment, Linked Data principles and mechanisms, and the Resource Description Framework (RDF) as a basic data model.” and that “The semantic web and related linked data model hold interesting possibilities for libraries and cultural heritage institutions.”
The success of this new approach heavily depends on library software. A large number of libraries are reliant on existing commercial and/or open source library systems and do not have expertise and staff to implement linked open data ready systems from scratch.
The objective of the working group is to examine Linked Data technologies in the context of the Ex Libris product suite and to advise Ex Libris on the implementation of basic Linked Open Data features, enhanced data-services functionality and APIs in all products where appropriate. It will do so by focusing on the three major areas of publication, consumption, and integration of Linked Data. Publication refers to the process of creating and presenting data in compliance with LD principles, which, for instance, demand the use of URIs in place of other identifiers. Consumption refers to the ability to process external data sources to use them in the library’s own context. Finally, the Linked Data principles should be integrated in the workflows and systems that are used by libraries to avoid the long-term maintenance of two separate systems.
In order to achieve its goals, the SIWG will cooperate with the IGeLU Product Working Groups and ELUNA, collect input and use cases from Ex Libris customers and search to establish working relationships with Ex Libris strategic- and product management. The SIWG is particularly interested in participation from members prototyping linked-data applications using Ex Libris products.
Use Cases and User Stories
The IGeLU/ELUNA LOD Working Group throughout its history has solicited customer use cases and scenarios for Linked Open Data use by libraries involving Ex Libris products. This dialogue was encouraged by Ex Libris as they sought to gauge interest and future needs of customers for the development of product features.
From 2013 to 2015 these scenarios were discussed in several online meetings per year, including a presenter, Ex Libris representatives, and members of the LOD Working Group, and being open to any interested Ex Libris customers.
Later, the “Use Case” meetings were replaced by live-streamed “Show and Tell” sessions using Google Hangouts and YouTube. Many of these presentations showcased completed or in-process projects where Ex Libris products and linked data were involved. Occasionally these have been broadened to include presentations by participants in other forward-looking projects from which Ex Libris and its customers could learn and ask questions about new possibilities for linked data and libraries.
The LOD Working Group archive of publicly available documents includes use cases/scenarios, slides, and meeting notes for use case presentations as well as some conference presentations. For the Show and Tell sessions, YouTube recordings are openly available as well.
We’ve recently introduced a more “lightweight” way for interested customers to contribute use cases and “user stories” for specific functions that utilize linked data, within or dependent on data or features from Ex Libris products. You can use the LOD Working Group’s Linked Data User Story Collection Form to submit an idea or highlight a case you’ve worked on.
Contributing a “user story” use case does not commit a person or institution to future action, but can give the LOD Working Group an opportunity to share customer interests in linked data features with IGeLU and ELUNA Product Working Groups, foster discussion with Ex Libris, and might lead to requests for more information and detail, public sharing of the use case, and/or inclusion in future “Show and Tell” sessions or Linked Open Data Working Group Town Hall meetings. So we encourage your ideas and scenarios!