Tag Archives: LInked Data

OCLC Developer House December 2014

During the first week of December, I participated in OCLC’s second Developer House with nine other academic librarians and library IT staff. We spent the week working with OCLC APIs, especially WorldCat Discovery API which is still in beta.

Our group of developers ranged in experience and technologies that complemented each other well for the various projects that we worked on. In addition, several OCLC staff spent the week with Dev House, offering support and knowledge whenever possible and many others were on call as needed. This provided us with the opportunity to dig into the projects and even create working demos with some functionality by the end of the week. Even with a team, it is a tough feat to pull off but fun none-the-less.

My team’s project searched the Discovery API information with third party information to generate relevant content that the library already owned. Our idea was to create a quick display of library material based on a particular topic, person, or place. After considering many third party sources, we selected DBpedia for its organized data and easy-of-use, then based the information on a date in history. This gave us a good amount of results and flexibility since dates are associated with many topics in a multitude of ways (birthdays, commemorations, releases, publications, etc.). Our group has a guest post on the OCLC Developer Network, if you’re interested to know more details and watch a short video demo of our project.

Trying to list off all of the things that I learned would make this post much too long, so let’s stick with the top three. First and foremost is SPARQL, an RDF query language that searches for and manipulates data and is customizable to allow for getting back desired information in a specific way. While learning and then mastering SPARQL queries well enough to use them took some time, figuring out what information was available and how we wanted the data was the main focus. Thankfully, OCLC has an SPARQL expert who helped us with this, which meant that we had the chance to create and hone several different queries to use in our application. Apache Jena is a good SPARQL tutorial and the SPARQL Explorer is great for trying out queries.

Second is GitHub, a website for sharing and collaborating on code. Before Dev House, I had signed up and looked at some of the tutorials to get started but it helped having a project with a time restriction to put GitHub to use. There are multiple ways to use GitHub for whichever you prefer: online on the website, through the client, or in a terminal. It reminds me of DropBox in that it keeps everyone’s code updated but it is more complex and offers much more functionality along with the ability to fork, or branch, a project.

Finally, there is an engaged community of library coders and it was exciting to spend a week with several of them. Even though we all are at different institutions, librarians still find to stay connected wether it be through OCLC Developer Network or Code4Lib Annual or Regional conferences, or other outlets. If you want to be involved more with coding and technology, just jump in. And there is bound to be another awesome OCLC DevHouse around the corner to apply for.

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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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ALA MidWinter 2013: Solidarity Saturday

Sitting in Seattle right now, it is still hard to believe that ALA MidWinter is upon us–even having spent the day conferencing all around the city. Though enjoying seafood and 50 degrees, despite some drizzle, is enjoyable!

This is my first MidWinter but it is just as crazy and bustling as Annual, it seems. As co-vice chair for the Cataloging Norms Interest Group, I helped with our panel this morning and it had 60-some people attend. And that’s for MidWinter. It amazes me that thousands of librarians turn out for this mid-year event, though it shouldn’t because it seems to be gaining in size and clout each year.

Today, I attended four sessions, though two were closely related. That is a lot in one day for a conference. Cataloging Norms IG started off my day with two distinct presentations that dovetailed each other nicely. The first speaker, Harold Thiele, gave an in-depth look into the history and beginnings of cataloging, starting with Mesopotamia and Sumer up through RDA. He discussed how title main entry slow progressed and evolved to the form that we know in AACR2 and how with RDA the approach is more with its lack of main entry as we know it. Maura Valentino discussed the 21st century, focusing on metadata beyond that of description and how it affects workflows and process. Though very different, the two talks paired well together and truly gave a complete picture of how far cataloging and metadata have come.

The Catalog Management Interest Group focused on managing catalog workflows, content, metadata, and prepping for RDA field displays. This ended being a more practical session that I first anticipated. Sherab Chen spoke about his new role as an e-resource manager, focusing on personnel tips and his lessons learned so far. He balanced his talk well between a no-nonsence, realistic approach and having an optimistic, can-do attitude despite all of the work and problems that such a job entails. Next, Jessica Hayden covered demand driven acquisitions within an consortial environment. Not having worked in such a setting, I am fascinated by all of the collaboration and discussions that must go on in order for a consortium to function well, and yet there are myriads of benefits to such a arrangement. Also, the distinction of what is done at the consortial level versus local can create either more roadblocks or paved ways, depending on the situation. Sarah Beth Weeks, however, gave my favorite presentation due to her topic of using Google Refine to clean up data in the catalog. For a cataloger, the chance to provide more access and an easier search for the patron to find what they are looking for is the main goal that we all strive to achieve. At their college, rather than amend specific MARC fields to make them all uniform, they added the most common form of a term as a 9xx field for better access. Finally, Roman Panchyshyn closed off the session with his testing of RDA catalog display and how to best make it work for the patron. The 3xx, no surprise, were the oddest and trickiest to work with of the new fields. Since the 264 has a 2nd indicator to help define it, those were easier to display, as were the 502 field labels after a wording tweak. Next month, he will send of his recommendations, basically what he presented at the session, to Innovative in order to get their ILS to display RDA records and fields how they want them, and ensure that they are included in indexing for search results.

After a great lunch break–ALA plans out 1.5 hours over the lunch hour, thank goodness, for no sessions–a back-to-back linked data two part session began. The first hour was informative. Some of it I had heard in Anaheim at Annual but it was a good refresher and parts of it were new information, or said a different way. Eric Miller, president of Zepheria, discussed linked data, tying git in a little bit to Bibframe. Mainly he covered the underlying structure of linked data and why it is an important task to take on as a library community. If all of our libraries were linked data, search engines would include our books and items in the top results pages, allowing users more access especially if they begin their research in the web. Next, Richard Wallis from OCLC talked about all the different projects that they are a part of concerning linked data–mainly VIAF, FAST, Dewey Classification, and now WorldCat linked data. They hope to create a large, more prominent presence on the internet with library data, and are setting an example for member libraries. It is true that if all of the libraries work together, we could make a huge splash in online metadata and set president for all who are part of the web; we have the specialized knowledge and wonderful data, so we just need to make it accessible openly on the web through links that bring users back to the library websites and catalogs.

During the second part of the linked data session, two librarians showed the small-scale projects that they completed using linked data. Both approached the idea differently and created two unrelated yet amazing projects. Violeta Ilik linked her universities math department in Viewshare, allowing for new connections and analysis to be done on the faculty itself, including gender ratios and research areas. One of the coolest part of her data ended being the PhD. location of all the faculty, which displayed on a map. Jeremy Myntti used Viewshare for an entirely different purpose with a whole other type of data. His institution has an online collection of animal sounds recorded in several states. To get even more out of the data, he loaded certain information into Viewshare and was able to display not only a map of locations for the sound recordings but to show pie charts that broke down the kingdoms and genus. The link to the recordings for each animal was included so that a person could click and follow the link to the website with the player on it. Both Violeta and Jeremy said the from start to finish, their projects took no more than 1 hour to create the linked data. Though these were fairly small scale, the implications and ease of linked data are amazing to consider.

What a day! I love attending sessions that sound interesting and I always yearn to learn more while at a conference. That’s why I am here! However, there gets to be an overload point if you pack too much in, especially if you aren’t used to it. Thankfully MidWinter is slightly shorter in the sense that there aren’t as many sessions, so I can conference a bit harder today and tomorrow knowing that Monday will be fairly sparse and Tuesday I fly out before the crack of dawn.

So far it’s been a great conference. Let’s hope tomorrow can live up to today’s standards! We will see that that huge RDA afternoon session brings…

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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized


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ALA Anaheim: Super Saturday

Very busy day today! Lots of wonderful sessions which makes it hard to decide what to attend. In the end, the three sessions I chose today taught me a lot and were enjoyable.

Session 1) LITA’s Linked Data and Next Generation Catalogs covered a broad base of what Linked Data is, why libraries should lead the charge, and how to do so. Different libraries and vendors on the panel talked about the topic generally while also delving into specifics of projects and current use of Linked Data. Unfortunately, attending the all-day Linked Data workshop yesterday at the pre-conference meant that some of the speakers also presented at this event as well and while they weren’t the same presentations, there was overlap. But being new to Linked Data, it was good to have things reiterated and spoken about more broadly. A few others from yesterday came as well but doing one or the other would have been sufficient, especially since this session lasted 4 hours and covered lots of ground.

Lesson learned: Instead of trying to hit all the same topics, vary your sessions to learn more and expand your horizons–plus you have the chance to meet so many more people of all different types.

Session 2) Transforming Technical Services: Growing IT Skill Sets Within Technical Services Departments provided a practical realistic look at how to increase tech savvy among TS staff. Several libraries each gave their take on what it takes to increase, encourage, and support professional development in application development, software training, and bringing more tech into library work to ensure projects are done by librarians who understand the system, users, and needs rather than hand it off to already busy IT people. Oddly enough, all the speakers rounded back on the same or similar tips and concerns but each offered their own way of how they handled their situation and what their solutions and realizations were. So useful. And not just for TS–this applies to libraries in general as well as general business. In a nutshell, talk the the staff to find out what they use and need but remember that they don’t know what they don’t know at time, encourage and support relevant learning that will make their work easier and more effective, start with small and meaningful projects that are achievable and leave a lasting impact to increase buy-in, and work within the knowledge and abilities of the staff to drawn on the best of what they can offer pairing it with the technology to increase their effectiveness.

Lesson learned: Though libraries are becoming more techie and librarians with tech savvy skills are needed and necessary these days, as one speaker said “Remember, we are not growing programmers”.

Session 3) Traveling the Spectrum: From Interstellar Adventures to Epic Fantasy, the influence of Science Fiction and Fantasy on the World Today (i.e. the George R.R. Martin talk!) was my guilty pleasure session of the day and a great way to relax and enjoy a fun author-talk. Besides George R.R. Martin, Blake Charlton also spoke and, for some reason, Lois McMaster Bujold wasn’t billed but was on the panel as well. Each talked about themselves, their paths to reading and writing books, and how Sci-Fi and Fantasy shaped them and the world. Though I’ve not read a word by any of these authors (I LOVE the HBO Game of Thones show), they are now three of my favorite authors and I vow to read their works as soon as my year of reading my bookshelf is up, which isn’t going so well this month, lol. Each was so humble and had tough lives that lead them to not only books that engaged and inspired them to read and eventually to write. Authors that talk realistically about writing and what it took to get their win me over instantly because, like most things, book writing is not magic and neither is getting published. Hard work and persistence win out. Once I finish Camp this June, I might be crazy enough to write another 50,000 words in August for it again and this time return to my roots of Fantasy and Sci-Fi as well; it’s been a decade since I began my Fantasy novel that never really got off the ground but after this talk today, I’m ready to commit a month to returning to those worlds and characters and actually writing the novel now.

Lesson learned: Listening to them all made me realize that fantastical literature/fiction is escapist for a reason; most Fantasy and Sci-Fi authors and readers lead hard lives, in one aspect or another, and the release and travels and adventures that those genres provide enrich everyone’s life who writes or reads them. And as with most genres, there is quality and fluff so there is something for all tastes and preferences and if you haven’t read any, find out about them (use Reader’s Advisory at your library) and crack open some books and see what they are all about!

Now, time to briefly look over my schedule tomorrow to set a game plan for more sessions! Are you ready for yours?


Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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ALA Anaheim: Pre-conference and kick-off!

Even though #ALA12 officially began with the Opening General Session at 4 this afternoon, I arrived late last night in order to attend a pre-conference session about Linked Data. Being an all-day session, it was jam-packed with great presenters, attenders, and information. The Twitter hash tag was #ala2012_ldpre and many of us tweeted during it, so definitely check it out if you’re interested in seeing how the day progressed.

The format helped keep the momentum going for the entire day: a key note, lightning talks, small group discussions, and reporting back to the whole group. Though the session focused on Linked Data, a whole range of aspects and depths were discussed. From theory to how to get started, global implications to SPARQL queries.

The presenters represented vendors, libraries, and even LC. Each honed in on a different part of the Linked Data topic and yet the talks fit together well because it built a larger tapestry of the topic and issues surrounding it. The fun part was hearing and seeing examples of how LD could advance libraries but also the web more generally. Yet there are many problems and concerns that get in the way, mainly time and money. However, as the keynote speaker Eric Miller pointed out, catalogers and libraries are particularly well poised to lead the way to make use of LD and have been doing so for 40 years with MARC already: think controlled subject headings and names. All controlled fields and the accompanying authority files are Linked Data.

My brain still buzzes with all the new information and ideas and hope for the future. Cataloging is changing quite rapidly with FRBR and RDA, and now Linked Data. Yet it isn’t changing, really. The theory and the purpose are the same but now technologies are advancing to allow us to create things that were never possible before. For some it’s a scary unknown but it could bring libraries back into the conversation more if we helped create and guide standards that would organize and maintain data on the web as well as in libraries.

Several people at this session today called for action. Not just holding meetings and being aware of what’s going on with Linked Data but actually creating and doing something to test and set up projects to find out what best works and begin stepping into the future today. How apt a statement with Disneyland across from my hotel. 🙂 But, as was reiterated as the day’s session wound down, there is no magic involved–it’s all hard work by smart and dedicated people working together to build off each other to make some. So let’s create Linked Data and help build better libraries and a better world with excellent data! Who’s with me?


Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Uncategorized


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