21st-Century Approaches to Access and Discovery: [T]he Library Community as a Whole Was Finally Willing to Apply ... [Linked Open Data] and the Semantic-Based Structures and Processes Included in the BIBFRAME Metadata Standard

By Adamich, Tom | Computers in Libraries, April 2019 | Go to article overview

21st-Century Approaches to Access and Discovery: [T]he Library Community as a Whole Was Finally Willing to Apply ... [Linked Open Data] and the Semantic-Based Structures and Processes Included in the BIBFRAME Metadata Standard


Adamich, Tom, Computers in Libraries


The purpose of this article is to take a look at several approaches to library materials access in the early 21st century, including the metadata elements that power discovery and the systems that provide access to expanding digital collections. Several use cases--involving a newly formed library linked open data (LOD) discovery community and existing technology solutions--will be featured, all of which depend on collaboration.

Past as Prologue

The concept of delivering access to library collections has been traditionally, at least throughout the 20th and the early part of the 21st centuries, driven by the ability for libraries to provide materials-holding information such as MARC records via a searchable interface, typically the library catalog portion of an ILS. Libraries have been required to maintain materials metadata according to accepted bibliographic cataloging rules--first AACR, then AACR2, and now RDA--using controlled name and subject authority sources (such as LCSH) and accepted classification schema (Dewey decimal classification, Library of Congress classification, etc.).

Most of these 20th- and early 21st-century cataloging metadata processes were built on the foundation of static data constructs--information that was obtained and maintained primarily by human data entry or, in rare instances, automated extraction. Even in the latter instance, the evaluation and editing of cataloging metadata involved human manipulation at a highly granular level (such as item records, bibliographic records, and authority records).

During the early 2000s, the delivery of digital content--whether in the form of print manuscripts, journal articles available in digital format, or media objects (such as sound files, images, or video)--dictated the need to examine cataloging metadata processes that were more dynamic in scope and capable of being adapted to global community needs and interests. Also, the presentation nature of library materials content (both traditional and digital) had begun to feel the effects of the internet and its HTML-based architecture. Traditional library catalogs and ILSs continue to be silo-based sources of access, and content metadata remains static due to the inability for MARC-based metadata to be able to interact with LOD elements and structures. But here's how things are rapidly evolving.

Library.Link and Zepheira

Back in 2016, a group of public and academic libraries joined forces with the metadata research firm Zepheira and ILS vendor Innovative to launch a community of practice called Library.Link. Its purpose was to help participants convert legacy library materials cataloging (as displayed in their own Innovative-based library catalogs) and present those holdings in linked data format using BIBFRAME as the metadata standard.

This transformation was significant in that it was the first time a group of libraries with traditional MARC-based library catalogs altered its cataloging metadata to the point that it no longer could be considered MARC-based. It also emphasized the fact that the library community as a whole was finally willing to apply groupthink with respect to optimizing web access for library collections through the use of LOD and the semantic-based structures and processes included in the BIBFRAME metadata standard.

Most of the MARC-to-BIBFRAME metadata modifications were performed by Zepheira with assistance from Innovative's data engineers (for translating and recoding Innovative catalog software to accept and display the changes). Other ILS vendors, including Sirsi Dynix and Atlas Systems (the creator of the ILLiad interlibrary loan platform), have joined Zepheira in providing similar metadata conversions using LOD designs and elements (Zepheira 2016).

California Digital Library

As Library.Link projects attempt to present legacy MARC cataloging for library collections in a linked data/ BIBFRAME format, the California Digital Library (CDL) uses traditional metadata approaches but focuses on providing common interfaces to massive collections, including those managed by the University of California (UC) system, the largest university system in the U. …

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