Linked data makes libraries more distinctive

There is a groundswell in the library sector as of late, and technology is at the center of these expected changes. Libraries have a responsibility to remain relevant to their patrons, and since the movement toward linked data is already happening, it's time to get on board.

Making your library relevant with linked data
Change is not something most people accept at first glance, and it makes sense. Even librarians are creatures of habit, and standards are often flexible in library systems, so it might seem like linked data is just a passing fad. However, according to the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, linked data is much more than a flash in the pan. In fact, the organization even compares it to 2.0 strategies. 

Humans crave information, as librarians know very well, and linked data is no exception to this rule. In the ALCTS paper "Transforming Library Metadata into Linked Library Data," Virginia Shilling walks through existing library search standards, the elements included in these schemes and several sources that back up the growing need for linked data in libraries.

The overarching reasoning behind linked data? Libraries need to remain distinctive and relevant in an increasingly technological world that relies on advanced Web semantics. We all have likely relied on Google search in the past to find out more information about various topics, whether we're finding out where to go out to eat for the evening or finding a quote from an historical figure. In many ways, according to the ALCTS paper, there are many similarities between library metadata and linked data - it's just the way these two entities are shared that makes them different.

"The difference between them lies in making the implicit relationships found in traditional library metadata, which are obvious to humans, explicit for machine understanding as well," Shilling wrote in the paper.

Below is a TED Talk from Tim Berners-Lee that further explains the possibilities of linked data:

Linked data in libraries still has some growing to do
As advanced as linked data has become, it still has a way to go in libraries. Web experiences are constantly evolving, and it's important for libraries to keep up. This is especially crucial as millennials continue to utilize library services and drive the need for linked data in libraries as well as other industries.

Libraries are considered traditional institutions, so accepting changes can be difficult. However, the impact that libraries could experience as a result of linked data could be huge and allow libraries to become much more distinctive and relevant. Think about it - exposing patrons to bibliographic data with social and digital objects could revolutionize the way that people come face to face with library services.

Issues with linked data
Not everything surrounding linked data is perfect. For instance, according to the ALCTS paper, there are practical concerns with many libraries still being tied to MARC systems. However, there are also issues related to copyright and online ownership. Privacy is also an issue we've seen in headlines for years, and is still being debated as many individuals turn to the Web for answers to just about everything these days. 

Yet, because linked data in libraries is still very much in the beginning stages, it's likely that these concerns will be addressed as the building blocks continue to grow in these endeavors.

Moreover, linked data has become commonplace for many individuals who are familiar with Google and other advanced Web semantics. Because the way that individuals gather information is not going to slow down anytime soon, now is the time to start implementing linked data into library systems. The ALCTS put it best: 

"Ignoring the transformation taking place risks rendering the data we have assembled so carefully and laboriously over so many years unusable for anyone outside of the library profession," the paper concludes. 


Robert Storer
Marketing Manager