Friday, July 18. 2014
Since returning from my sabbatical, I've felt pretty strongly that one of the things our work place is lacking is open communication about the work that we do--not just outside of the library, but within the library as well. I'm convinced that the more that we know about the demands on each other's time and the goals that we're trying to achieve, the more likely we'll be able to work together towards the same goals and have a better understanding of each other's challenges.
Towards that end, I've decided to try maintaining a work blog so that my colleagues will have a better idea about what I've been up to. I wouldn't be surprised if some of my peers think that I sit in my office all day browsing the internet (which, actually, happens sometimes but I swear I'm doing it to try and find a solution for a problem!), because the day-to-day work of a systems librarian can be pretty esoteric. And when you know that they have many expectations for you to fix the many small annoyances they have to deal with, it might help them to develop some empathy if they understand what you actually are spending your time on.
Anyway, I decided not to mirror the content here because, well, it's probably too site-specific to really be of interest to you, my dear readers. Whoever you are. However, I will link to the two entries that I've cranked out so far; you can decide if you want to follow along from there:
Tuesday, July 1. 2014
On Sunday, June 29th Jenn Riley, Jason Clark, and I presented at the ALCTS/LITA jointly sponsored session Understanding schema.org. The build-up to the session was pretty amazing; I was delighted to learn that Jason and I had been working on pretty much parallel efforts over the past couple of years. Jenn did a great job of organizing the session, and by the time we started talking 276 people had indicated their interest in attending: that was two more than those who had indicated an interest in attending the BIBFRAME Forum Update scheduled in the same time slot. Our room was large and quite full.
Jenn started the session out string by advancing her concept that libraries need to target discovery elsewhere: that is, that there is no way that libraries can compete directly with major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, either through the discovery tools that we have to offer, our presence in the consciousness of most of the population as the starting point for discovery, or in the resources we can direct towards closing the huge gap in technology, usability, and mindshare that the search engines have opened up over the past two decades. But, we can take steps to start working with the search engines to enable our resources to be discovered and accessed more directly by them.
That led quite naturally to my own part of the session, in which I talked about
my attempt to turn cataloguing's efforts to provide access points in our niche
catalogues into access points for the open web by publishing schema.org
structured data from library catalogues like Evergreen, Koha, and VuFind. I
started things out by pointing out the legacy of restrictive
For this talk I used visualizations generated by the RDFa playground to illustrate the structured
data contained in some real examples of a production Evergreen system (thanks
to Bibliomation). Given that I'm normally a
text-and-talk kind of guy, the illustrations seemed to help out--particularly
in showing how holdings map quite readily to the
Of course, the evolution from unstructured, to structured, to linked data had its payoff beginning with the link from holdings to the libraries that hold the resources. We have plenty more we can and must do, but unlike other efforts which are still crystallizing and which will require significant architectural work to happen before libraries can even begin trying out real systems, you can use schema.org-enabled systems today. And adapting systems to publish schema.org structured data only requires access to the HTML templates for your system (which, hopefully, you have: otherwise you have bigger problems to deal with!) and following the patterns that have already been established by Evergreen, Koha, and VuFind.
Jason did a great job showing both a broader use case for schema.org, including
work he has led on digital collections such as embedding the
Perhaps the best part of the session, however, were the insightful questions from the audience (along with the genuinely enthusiastic response to our talks). We had deliberately left 15 minutes for questions, and we were not disappointed: from questions about how we move from structured data to more linked data (I riffed on the Dodds/Davis Progressive Enrichment linked data pattern, suggesting that we should be able to store links for each field or value of interest directly in our MARC records), to questions about what proprietary systems are doing this with schema.org today (alas, none that I'm aware of, unless something has changed since February).
Saturday, June 28. 2014
Good talk by Richard Wallis this morning at the ALA Annual Conference on publishing entities on the web. Many of his points map extremely closely to what I've been saying and will be saying tomorrow during my own session (albeit with ten fewer minutes).
I was particularly heartened to hear him talk about the great potential for disintermediation of discovery of library resources, from aggregation by national and global providers like OCLC to directly crawling a library's own data and providing links directly to the library resources. This was one of the conclusions of the paper I published earlier this year.
I would have liked to have heard some mention of Evergreen, Koha, VuFind and other open source systems that are already publishing schema.org linked data, either in the context of SchemaBibEx where they served as reference implementations and proofs of concept, or in the context of system procurement. But you can't win them all!
Friday, June 27. 2014
And now I've finished leading the RDFa + schema.org codelab that I've been stressing over and refining for about a month at the American Library Association annual conference Practical linked data with open source preconference. Long story short, most people got about as far as I expected (part-way through the first exercise), but they all got through the initial hurdles and learned enough to keep learning on their own. My hopes are that this leads to:
Oh, and for posterity, I temporarily marked up this page to link to our pizza order form as a really lame short URL service, and as I did that impishly polluted the schema.org vocabulary with the new type
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