Through the Linked Data for Libraries (LD4L) project, Cornell University Library, the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, and Stanford University Libraries seek to make it easier to find scholarly information and to sort out the best and most relevant information from the rest. The project is currently funded for two years (through January 2016) by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support an investigation using Linked Data and the Semantic Web to improve discovery and access of scholarly information by the three libraries.
The Semantic Web is a set of conventions for making the human-readable information communicated on web pages more understandable and reusable by computers. Linked Data is a way of expressing data in large “clouds” on the Internet so that computers can make connections among different collections with a minimum of prior agreement.
“Currently, a lot of information about books, articles, and cultural materials that could make them easier to find and understand is hidden in scattered systems across many libraries,” said Dean Krafft, the Library’s Chief Technology Strategist. “We have an opportunity to use Linked Data as a common format to bring together all that scattered information. At Cornell, we’ve been working with the Semantic Web for more than a decade, and we’re very pleased that the Mellon Foundation has given us the opportunity to further that work with our colleagues at Harvard and Stanford.”
Ultimately, the goal of the project is to create a system that pulls information out of its existing silos — like library catalogs, finding aids, reading lists and more — into a common format that people can use to find and understand information. This new system would apply to all scholarly and creative disciplines, including the sciences, the arts and the humanities.
“This project will directly benefit students, scholars and researchers around the world, and it will indirectly benefit everyone who makes use of the work those people produce,” Krafft added.
“Our Lab is excited about the chance to work with such leading partners on a project that can make it easier for libraries to openly share more and more of what they know — not just about their content but about how that content is being used,” said David Weinberger, co-director of the Harvard Library Innovation Lab.
Stanford University Libraries, like Cornell and Harvard’s libraries, has had a long running interest in leveraging Linked Data for navigating information. “One of the exciting prospects for this project is that we will be testing the usability and utility of the data that is produced. Many elements of this grant project overlap with the Technology Plan developed as part of the Stanford Linked Data Workshop in 2011 and provide us opportunity for great collaboration across three library systems,” concluded Tom Cramer, Chief Technology Strategist at Stanford University Libraries.
The project will build on a large body of previous work, including:
- VIVO - a semantic web system and data interchange standard for describing researchers and scholars in the context of their research and scholarship
- Project Hydra - a software framework and community focused on creating digital repositories and collections, together with user workflows
- BIBFRAME - a project of the Library of Congress and Zepheira to create a linked data standard with which libraries can describe and exchange bibliographic information about scholarly resources
Over the two years of the grant, the project team will assemble an ontology, a formal specification for sharing linked data about scholarly resources; make available bibliographic and other data from all three institutions using the LD4L ontology; and release the ontology, data, and software tools as open source for use by the library community.