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Sharing and Distributing Authority: Six Projects Supporting Linked Open Data Infrastructure for Libraries

May 05, 2016 ET

By Dr. Trevor Owens, Senior Program Officer, Office of Library Services, IMLS

This is the third post in a four-part series highlighting recent awards made by the Office of Library Services in the National Digital Platform priority area, through the National Leadership Grants for Libraries program and the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian program. To learn more about each project, click on their IMLS log number for links to components of their grant application.

Linked data projects are helping to connect collections from different disciplines and across a range of all kinds of libraries, museums, and archives. My blog post last year on the Linked Data for Libraries meeting at Stanford, describes how more libraries are turning to linked open data to work together to make collections discoverable and useful.  Linked data was also one of the key enabling technologies identified in the report from last year’s IMLS focus meetings on the national digital platform (PDF). The concept clearly resonated with grant applicants. We received a range of proposals for linked data projects, and through the review process six of them rose to the top and emerged in this cycle of funding for the national digital platform.

Distributing Control of Name Authorities

As libraries and archives work to connect their collections online it becomes increasingly critical that the terms they use for people, places, and subjects align. This has generally meant relying on centrally provided data from the Library of Congress. However, the central data cannot always address local and regional uses of authoritative data, and until recently there hasn’t been a good way for projects at the local and regional level to coordinate with national efforts. To support the development of a strategy in this area, IMLS is supporting three related projects.

Through the National Strategy for Shareable Local Name Authorities forum (LG-73-16-0040-16),              

Cornell University Library and an impressive array of partners will identify solutions for facilitating the creation of more shareable authorities. This national forum is complemented by two more targeted exploratory projects on particular aspects of this problem. Through Linking People: Developing Collaborative Regional Vocabularies (LG-72-16-0002-16) the Mountain West Digital Library network of partners will begin refining the Western Name Authority File (WNAF), a first step in collaboratively analyzing existing vocabularies, developing a data model, exploring infrastructure, and testing workflows that could be used throughout the country. Through the University of Florida’s project, Towards engaging researchers in research identity data curation (LG-16-73-0006-16), researchers will work to understand issues around how to incent and engage researchers in playing an active role in managing their name and identity records.

Rachel Frick, Digital Public Library of America, and Jeffrey Reznick, National Library of Medicine, at the IMLS Focus Meeting on National Digital Platform.

Caption: Rachel Frick, Digital Public Library of America, and Jeffrey Reznick, National Library of Medicine, at the IMLS Focus Meeting on National Digital Platform.

Temporal and Geographic Open Data

Other promising opportunities for the use of linked open data are related to temporal information and information about geographic place-based data. I am excited to report on two efforts IMLS is supporting in these areas.

Through Periods, Organized: Linking, Discovering, and Reconciling Information about the Past (LG-70-16-0009-16), the University of Texas at Austin and partners will significantly expand the usefulness of the PeriodO platform and dataset beyond archaeology to meet the needs of  a broader audience of librarians, data managers, and scholars and students across the academic spectrum. Along with improving this dataset, the project will also complete a set of visualization tools for searching and filtering. Subsequent workshops with partners will explore the role PeriodO might play in the management and discoverability of data in disciplines as varied as modern history, literature, library science, and museum studies. Ultimately, this project has the potential to enable library metadata which describes historical time periods in text to be machine readable and actionable as temporal and geographic data.

Through Building a Gazetteer of Anthropocene North America (LG-70-16-0056-16) the Alexandria Archive Institute will expand and improve the Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA), which aggregates archaeological and historical data from state and tribal governmental authorities that manage United States cultural resources. The results of this work will be a rich resource of chronological, legal, and environmental metadata for between two and three million archaeological sites. As a result, researchers, museums, libraries, government offices, and members of the public will have access to a comprehensive linked open data gazetteer of historical and archaeological sites in the United States.

Tooling to Access Research Data in Repositories

As academic libraries build out their infrastructure to provide access to research publications and data, it is becoming clear that simply depositing and subsequently downloading data will not be sufficient. In support of a vision of data management where data are packaged with information that records and preserves connections to publications and software, the Sheridan Libraries at Johns Hopkins University will develop a service to complement the open source Fedora 4 software platform that will facilitate the exposure of repository contents as linked data web resources. Fedora 4 API Extension (API-X) Architecture (LG-70-16-0076-16) will provide a tool to the existing user base of Fedora software for institutional repositories. By providing architecture to deploy repository services as lightweight extensions, institutions that use Fedora 4 for their institutional repository needs would be automatically positioned to extend their platforms for more robust data management. This investment complements investments made into the open source Fedora Hydra system last year in the Fostering a New National Library Network through a Community-Based, Connected Repository System (LG-70-15-0006-15) project.

Together these six projects illustrate how libraries are working together to develop strategies to leverage linked open data technology as a means to better integrate their work to provide content and services to users across the country.

Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program
National Leadership Grants for Libraries