One of the things that always happens for me after ALA is a compiling of notes and some reflection on what I saw and learned while in the whirlwind of meetings and activities. This year is no different. There were few real surprises—after all, like most of you I keep in pretty good touch with what others are talking about and thinking about all through the year. But in those areas where I play the closest attention, I’ve seen some important shifts in thinking, and it’s at the meetings at ALA that I see those shifts playing out. Another thing I like to do after conferences is to look and see what other people are saying about the meetings. Sometimes this helps me catch up with meetings I couldn’t attend, sometimes it gives me different perspectives on ones I did. One such post was Eric Hellman’s post about the linked data meetings at Annual on his blog, ‘Go to Hellman.’
“I’ve been at the American Library Association’s Annual Meeting this weekend. Given the common purpose of libraries and Linked Data, you would think that Linked Data would be a hot topic of discussion. The weather here has been much hotter than Linked Data, which I would describe as “globally warming”. I’ve attended two sessions covering Linked Data, each attended by between 50 and 100 delegates. These followed a day long, sold-out preconference. John Phipps, one of the leaders in the effort to make library metadata compatible with the semantic web, remarked to me that these meeting would not have been possible even a year ago. Still, this attendance reflects only a tiny fraction of metadata workers at the conference; Linked Data has quite a ways to come. It’s only a few months ago that the W3C formed a Library Linked Data Incubator Group.”
In the same conversation where Jon made his point about the the increase in interest in linked data over the previous year, I tried to convince Eric that the work we’d done on the RDA Vocabularies was a step in the ‘warmer’ direction, but I clearly didn’t make my point, to him, at least.** I think, though, that the ‘tiny’-but-growing fraction of metadata workers (both at the conference and not), are starting to get the point. It’s not an easy point to get, if you’ve been traditionally trained as a cataloger or not exposed to much of this work. I hope that the formation of the Library Linked Data Incubator Group will be very useful towards this end—ironically one of the arguments against a part of our work on the RDA Vocabularies, primarily from the more conservative members of the library world, is that as librarians, we’re not in a position to know what the Semantic Web wants and needs. If nothing else, the LLDIG will make those needs known, and we hope, do that as clearly as possible.
Eric went on to talk about the follow up to the preconference:
“On Friday morning, there was an “un-conference” organized by Corey Harper from NYU and Karen Coyle, a well-known consultant. I participated in a subgroup looking at use cases for library Linked Data. It took a while for us to get around to use cases though, as participants described that usage was occurring, but they weren’t sure what for. Reports from OCLC (VIAF) and Library of Congress (id.loc.gov) both indicated significant usage but little feedback.”
I was at the ‘unconference’ as well and participated in different breakout sessions than Eric did, but found them very useful to my own thinking (summaries are posted). Plans are in place to do additional follow up to those conversations at the Dublin Core Conference this fall, and then at Midwinter in San Diego. In particular I participated in a session led by CC:DA chair John Myers about increasing the understanding of the library community generally in regards to the ideas and technologies of linked data. As someone who frequently speaks at conferences and workshops, I believe this is a particularly important issue as the abstract ideas become understood and the implementation questions become more compelling. As a result of that discussion, I’ve been thinking seriously about developing a new workshop that I would attempt to take ‘on the road’ to groups and institutions. Given that my previous experience with doing this kind of thing in collaboration with institutions has been mixed (my discouraging experience with my Metadata Standards and Applications workshops comes to mind), it seems to me that it’s time to try doing it on my own, and, ensuring as well that I’m getting adequate compensation for the time spent providing it.
I’m hoping that I’ll be able to rely on interested members of the community for feedback as I think through the process of developing this kind of workshop. Watch this space for more …
** More about the building of the vocabularies can be found in our article in the January issue of DLib Magazine.