Back in May I was among others who welcomed the initiative by, Talking with Talis interviewee, Ed Summers in setting up lcsh.info. This site was set up by Ed to demonstrate how the Library of Congress Subject Headings could be represented as a Semantic Web application using SKOS.
In the intervening months many including myself used Ed’s work as a pointer to how useful publicly available data could, with the use of open Linked Data principles, become a valuable part of sites and services across the globe. For instance another Talking with Talis interviewee Martin Malmsten, from the Royal Library of Sweden, almost immediately made use of the links to the LCSH data. Ed went on to get lots of feedback, and wrote a paper which he then presented at DC2008.
It is therefore with great disappointment that I read this on the lcsh.info site the other day:
On December 18th I was asked to shut off lcsh.info by the Library of Congress. As an LC employee I really did not have much choice other than to comply.
As a LC employee he was put in an untenable position when they obviously decided that they didn’t like this useful service based on publicly available data being delivered from a domain that doesn’t end in loc.gov. I wonder if there are any other Linked Data enthusiasts, not held back by who their employer is, who would pick up from where he left off?
Ed goes on to say:
It was always my intention for concept URIs at lcsh.info to be cool. I advertised the service as ‘experimental’ and indicated it was going to hopefully inform the development of a similar continually updated service at LC where I work. … My thought was I could leave the service running until there was something similar at LC that I could redirect the concept URIs to. After a year or two when people had rewritten there data to point at loc.gov I could retire lcsh.info. I never imagined I would be asked by LC to take it down.
LOC should have listened to Ed in the first place and taken the high ground in leading the work in to creating a semantic web of data with their valuable publicly available data. At the end of his post Ed hints that LC is still considering running a service like lcsh.info at loc.gov, but it’s not there yet. Why-o-why did they not learn from his work and ride the wave of introducing their own service based on his great initiative. Instead they present to the world a short-termist not-invented-here attitude, that reminds me of other well established leviathans of the world of library metadata.
Let’s hope that Ed’s hint is correct and we will soon be able to welcome the release of Open Linked LCSH and other Data from the electronic portals of the LofC.