This section characterizes the state of Linked Data readiness and awareness within the community of library services and product providers. Innovations in digital media applications on the Web from companies like Google and Amazon are clear wake-up calls to libraries and their service providers which, in response, need to expand their strategy to work in new and different ways. There are primarily two possible reactions to this major technological change: try to delay or deny the development, or seize the opportunity and use it to redefine the relationships between libraries and their communities of users.
Librarians and their service providers must work together to ensure that libraries are well positioned to take advantage of evolving technology and offer their rich resources to users in their communities and across the globe. In order to do so, library systems must become compatible with a range of external and internal systems including acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, discovery layers, and content management systems. An overview of the findings reported in this section can be found in Appendix A.
In pursuit of the objective to provide an assessment of Linked Data strategies in the library industry, a multi-method approach was employed. The information synthesized by this report was gathered through direct conversations with service providers and combined with material made publicly available to document the business and product development strategies of companies that provide library services. First, Zepheira worked with academic and public librarians to identify key library service providers. It then reached out to these companies in order to assess the following areas:
1. Have these service providers experienced demand for Linked Data integration or any Linked Data services yet?
2. Have the companies established any collaborative partnerships with customers or other companies for Linked Data developments, grant-funded or otherwise?
3. Have they published any reports, white papers or other public documents relevant to Linked Data initiatives?
For those companies who are not yet incorporating Linked Data into services, Zepheira then began educational discussions to explain the increasing interest in Linked Data their customers are experiencing in the library community. Some companies did not respond to requests for information, or were not willing to share information at the time of this report because their business plans are confidential for competitive reasons. In such cases, research was performed to gather public documentation on Linked Data products, services, and strategies. There may be service providers working on Linked Data products that are not addressed by this report. Due to the fast-paced and constantly changing nature of Linked Data adoption, this report is not intended to be comprehensive and does not provide recommendations to libraries for purchasing specific services.
Summary of Linked Data Assessment
With the exception of a few forward thinking companies including Atlas Systems, EBSCO, Ex Libris, Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III), OCLC, Overdrive, ProQuest, SirsiDynix, and Zepheira, library vendors in general are either unaware or minimally aware of Linked Data developments and benefits. Libraries, archives, and museums are starting to working together with their service providers to solve these challenges to move forward towards a future with visible resources on the Web that can be used by a variety of Semantic Web applications. The following summary of Linked Data assessment is divided up by service provider and arranged in alphabetical order. Details follow for each service provider on their plans for incorporating Linked Data to the extent they were willing to share publicly.
Atlas Systems is the provider of Aeon, circulation and workflow automation software for archives and special collections, and ILLIAD, resource sharing management software for automating interlibrary loans. Atlas Systems believes Linked Data and BIBFRAME will play a key role in how the Web understands libraries and reflects what libraries have to offer. Atlas Systems became a founding Libhub Initiative sponsor in spring 2015. The Libhub Initiative is an effort founded by Zepheira to bring people together to explore and experiment with Linked Data technologies in service of increasing library relevance through the Web. Atlas’ support, along with support from many other service providers, funded a forum and experimental space for librarians, libraries, and industry leaders.
In the fall of 2015, Atlas Systems partnered with Zepheira to start exploring Linked Data for Archives and Special Collections. At the end of 2015, Atlas Systems became a Registered Service Provider for ArchivesSpace, an open source content management and publishing platform for archives and special collections. At ALA Mid-Winter, Atlas Systems presented findings of their Linked Data research to the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services MARC Formats Transition Group in Boston. Currently, Atlas Systems is continuing to explore methods for integrating Linked Data with ArchivesSpace, Aeon, and ILLIAD.
EBSCO and Novelist
In February 2015, EBSCO announced that they will be funding development of Koha, an open source Integrated Library System created by librarians for librarians. Koha Linked Data updates will include MARC to RDF cross-walking to enhance capabilities of linking to online data repositories. However, in April 2016 EBSCO announced that they would no longer be supporting Koha or Kuali OLE development, and will instead fund the development of an open-source Library Service Platform. The outlined functional expectations for this new open-source Library Service Platform include support for Linked Data Services. An initial version of the software will be available in early 2018.
EBSCO and their subsidiary company, NoveList, became Libhub Initiative sponsors in October 2015. EBSCO explained that they are “showing support for Zepheira and moving forward to support BIBFRAME and Linked Data which are seen as essential to opening up library collections to the World Wide Web.” NoveList launched the Linked Library Service in April 2016 at the Public Library Association in Denver. The service, created for public libraries, publishes Linked Data to the Web via the Library.Link Network. The Library.Link Network provides global infrastructure for publishing library Linked Data. NoveList is currently researching enrichment products and services for Linked Data.
Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III)
In 2014, Innovative Interfaces, Inc. (III) demonstrated strong interest in Linked Data innovation and support for the library industry’s BIBFRAME transition by becoming a founding sponsor of the Libhub Initiative. In March 2016, after reviewing the results of Libhub Initiative experimentation done by III customers, the company partnered with Zepheira to release a new service, Innovative Linked Data. The goal of the Innovative Linked Data service is to extract bibliographic data from Polaris, Sierra, Millennium and Virtua library systems, transform the information, and publish the descriptions as Linked Data on the Web via the Library.Link Network. The Innovative Linked Data pages can be found on the open Web, including discovery via search engines. The pages direct users to the library’s interface where they can complete their interaction with the library. Leif Pedersen, Executive Vice President at Innovative, explains “the Innovative Linked Data service publishes regular updates of library data to the Web, and this constant exposure to search engines will help drive our library partners’ visibility among search results. Innovative Linked Data plays a critical role in the relevance and sustainable discovery of libraries, and catalog content and geographic locations are just the first step in our commitment to strengthen and expand the library user experience.”
III realized the importance of Linked Data before incorporating the technology into their tools and services. In early April 2015, III announced that “Linked Data is going to fundamentally change some of the assumptions which we have operated upon.” III continues to partner with Zepheira to streamline the transformation of their customers’ MARC records into Linked Data. At the 2016 Innovative User Group Meeting in San Francisco and the 2016 Public Library Association Annual Meeting in Denver, III launched Innovative Linked Data and made subscriptions to the service available.
Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC)
OCLC is broadly known for their support of Linked Data and actively speaks about integration of Linked Data into their strategy. Publication of the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) and Faceted Application of Subject Terminology (FAST) as Linked Data were early demonstrations of OCLC’s strategic initiatives to provide authoritative library data in open formats native to the Web. Connexion, OCLC’s tool for creating, acquiring, and managing bibliographic and authority records does not include Linked Data services. However, OCLC provides access to over 197 million bibliographic work descriptions in Linked Data format via WorldCat Works. These Linked Data entities are incorporated into WorldCat and made available to software applications via API. To support a more human-friendly understanding of these data, work entities are also available via the WorldCat Linked Data Explorer Interface. Libraries can use OCLC’s work entities to consistently identify works in a way the Web understands. Through creating actionable URIs to identify works, OCLC is providing the infrastructure that will be needed to identify works in future Linked Data based systems and services.
In January 2015, OCLC published a white paper with the Library of Congress entitled “Common Ground: Exploring Compatibilities Between the Linked Data Models of the Library of Congress and OCLC.” A major outcome of the paper is the recommendation that OCLC develop and test technical solutions that capture information expressed in BIBFRAME that cannot be expressed using the schema.org model. The report also recommends the development of services that can export and import BIBFRAME into OCLC systems without data loss.
In February 2015, OCLC featured BIBFLOW as part of the Collective Insight Series titled, “Linked Data [R]evolution: Applying Linked Data Concepts.” The goal of this session was to explain OCLC’s work with Linked Data and provide presentations from people experimenting with Linked Data in libraries, including “Linked Data in the Library Workflow Ecosystem” presented by Carl Stahmer, Director of Digital Scholarship at the UC Davis University Library.
A primary goal for OCLC’s work with Linked Data is to understand the library workflows that will drive the use of tools that use Linked Data. To support this strategy, OCLC is working with the Library of Congress, the BIBFRAME community, and the schema.org community. OCLC Research is also experimenting with the beta version of a discovery layer for Linked Data, called Entity JS, to demonstrate other uses for WorldCat Entities. In September 2015, OCLC announced a person entity lookup pilot project. The pilot aims to help library professionals reduce redundant data about people by linking related sets of identifiers and authorities. The libraries participating in the pilot include University of California, Davis, Cornell University, Harvard University, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, the National Library of Poland, and Stanford University. Together OCLC and these libraries will improve the relationships between authorities and the librarian’s ability to identify the vast number of people who create and are described by library collections.
To date, OverDrive has limited their public use of Linked Data to incorporating a limited amount of schema.org decoration into their interfaces in order to make high-level information available to Bing and Google. OverDrive continues to monitor Linked Data adoption in the library industry. The company is evaluating how Linked Data can be incorporated into their strategies for eBook, video, and audiobook access for public libraries. OverDrive is also engaged with Libhub Initiative partners and participants. Currently, OverDrive is working with customers to assess the potential utility of the Library.Link Network and possible integration with OverDrive content.
ProQuest and Ex Libris
In October 2015, ProQuest agreed to acquire the Ex Libris Group in order to “support ProQuest’s mission to innovate across libraries across the world.” In December 2015, Ex Libris announced their vision and roadmap for incorporating Linked Data into two products: Alma, their resource management service and Primo, their discovery layer solution, will enhance workflows and allow new methods for exploring library resources. In addition, Ex Libris plans to make the Linked Data provided by each product available to third party tools.
In the outline of their plan for Linked Data services, Ex Libris explained, “While there is a shared understanding that the use of Linked Data will have many benefits in the form of new services for both library staff and end users, the precise nature of the possibilities is still a matter of discussion and debate. Ex Libris is working closely with libraries around the world to identify the scenarios and use cases that are expected to yield the greatest value to libraries and patrons, and is actively leading the way in planning and implementing linked-data services as part of the Alma resource management and Primo discovery and delivery solutions.” Ex Libris plans to incorporate BIBFRAME into their Linked Data services, which will include BIBFRAME import and export from Alma. The Alma Linked Data pilot has already produced demonstration functionalities to this end.
SirsiDynix was the first company to offer a Library.Link Network service for integrated library systems in partnership with Zepheira. In Fall 2015, SirsiDynix launched BLUECloud Visibility in order to transform their customers’ MARC records into Linked Data and make library resources visible on the Web. To make library Linked Data freely available to search engines and other applications, the service allows any library using Symphony or Horizon along with the BLUECloud web application to have their catalog data harvested, transformed to Linked Data, and published to the Library.Link Network.
In an announcement about their partnership with Zepheira, Bill Davison, the CEO of SirsiDynix said “Our goal is to take the mystery and complexity out of Linked Data and deliver to our customers a product that is plug-and-play. We want libraries to easily transform their MARC data into robust, Web-searchable, geo-locatable Linked Data—ready for the world to find.” Many libraries are starting to set-up the infrastructure needed to publish a Local Graph of Linked Data. So far, 26 library organizations have published with SirsiDynix’s BLUECloud Visibility. These organizations include large consortia like the Houston Area Library Automated Network, the Library Integrated Network Consortium, and the System Wide Automated Network Consortium as well as individual libraries like Randwick City Library and special libraries like the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation in the Netherlands.
In Fall 2014, Zepheira founded the Libhub Initiative, an effort to bring libraries together with data and service providers to explore and experiment with Linked Data technologies in service of increasing library relevance through the Web. The Libhub Initiative sparked more than 500 conversations, meetings, interviews and experiments with library professionals as well as library data and service providers, all committed to greater library relevance through better library visibility on the Web. With many successful partnerships with libraries across North America and early support from Atlas Systems, III, SirsiDynix and EBSCO/NoveList, Zepheira felt there was strong confirmation from libraries and vendors alike and saw a clear need for global Linked Data infrastructure. Currently, Zepheira’s top priority is offering its Linked Data infrastructure service, the Library.Link Network, to libraries, cultural history organizations, and their service providers who wish to improve the visibility of libraries and their collections on the Web. Partnering with library service providers to create Linked Data services lowers the barriers of entry for libraries that may not be able to participate in experimental projects.
Launched in 2016, the Library.Link Network is a global infrastructure for allowing libraries and other cultural heritage organizations to increase their visibility on the Web while maintaining the uniqueness of their own local identity. The Library.Link Network is the direct result of successful library-led collaborations for large-scale Linked Data experimentation completed under the umbrella of the Libhub Initiative. The Library.Link Network brings together libraries and their providers on the Web to share their localized, comprehensive, connection-rich stories. While Zepheira established the Libhub Initiative as a community space for libraries to share best practices around implementing Linked Data, the Library.Link Network provides shared infrastructure that libraries can use to make their resources and events visible on the Web by publishing their resources in Linked Data format.
The Library.Link Network infrastructure is used to reveal library resources including events, collections, bibliographic data and archival description in a Web-actionable format. Zepheira works with publishing partners and libraries to transform data from MARC and other formats into Linked Data to seed the Web with structured, openly published and interLinked Data.
Library.Link Network partners include Atlas Systems, Counting Opinions, Innovative, SirsiDynix, and most recently, EBSCO’s NoveList. Contributions to and participation in Library.Link Network are possible at different levels. Some services are free to libraries, including the description of library locations and hours of operation with Linked Data. Other Library.Link Network services and partner services are fee-based, including Linked Data transformation for entire catalogs and publication of Linked Data to the Web via the Library.Link Network. Zepheira, SirsiDynix, Innovative Interfaces, and Novelist all offer library services that publish Linked Data to the Library.Link Network. All libraries are free to contribute their identifying information to the Library.Link Network in order to make the organization more visible on the Web. Participating in Library.Link Network gives libraries and archives the opportunity to contribute collection details into an open data store, known as a Local Graph. The Library.Link Network also connects the shared resources across Local Graphs to create trustworthy Linked Data on the open Web.
Over 1,110 public library locations have published Linked Data via the Library.Link Network, including Denver Public Library, Arapahoe Public Library, Dallas Public Library, Worthington Public Library, and Tulsa Public Library. In total, 29,378,381 MARC records have been transformed resulting in 118,799,193 Linked Data resources and 326,009,018 links connecting the data. Academic libraries are also beginning to join Library.Link Network. Most recently, Boston University transformed their MARC catalogs into Linked Data and published via the Library.Link Network. Jack Ammerman, Associate University Librarian for Digital Initiatives and Open Access, explains “We are committed to making the resources of Boston University Libraries discoverable in the preferred discovery environments of our users. Publishing our records as Linked Data is an essential first step for us. We are convinced that publishing these bibliographic data in Linked Data formats not only increases their discoverability, but enables their re-use in ways we can’t yet imagine.” The University of Manitoba was the first academic Canadian library to use the Library.Link Network. Les Moor, Head of Technical Services at University of Manitoba Libraries, is working to improve how users find resources. Les says, “Linked Data allows our faculty, students and researchers to use popular search engines like Google to find our resources. As a result, we take a big step towards closing a giant discovery gap.”