Panlibus Blog

Archive for January, 2009

Library of Congress will run Linked Data service

After forcing the closure of the service, which was set up by, Talking with Talis interviewee, Ed Summers to demonstrate how the Library of Congress Subject Headings could be represented as a Semantic Web application using SKOS [as I reported last month], there has been speculation as to when and what LC itself would do.

The following quote from a presentation [¹]  at ALA Midwinter show that they have been thinking, and doing, something about it.

LCSH in SKOS. In 2008 the Library began a pilot to make a subset of LCSH freely available in SKOS format on the Internet. Making LCSH available in SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System) will facilitate its use for data manipulation and other applications on the Semantic Web and elsewhere. The web site on which it resided,, was not on an LC server, and was taken down in December 2008 to be replaced by the official site, expected to appear as <> within the next couple of months. The Library of Congress remains committed to providing LCSH freely through SKOS. The former site will redirect users to the new URI.

A visit to reveals the following [on a page last updated on January 22nd 2009]:

This site serves as a placeholder for forthcoming web services that will enable both humans and machines to programmatically access authority data at the Library of Congress. The initial services offered are influenced by — and therefore implement — the Linked Data movement’s approach of exposing and inter-connecting data on the Web via dereferenceable URIs. We aim to make resources available on this site within 6-8 weeks. Check this site regularly for more updates as we continue to develop this service!


Initially, within 6 to 8 weeks, the Library of Congress will release its first offering: the Library of Congress Subject Headings. This will be an almost verbatim re-release of the system and content once found at the popular prototype service. The primary exception will be that the URIs for the data values will no longer take the form{identifier}. Instead, they will start with{identifier}. If you have used the legacy metadata in an application, we advise updating to the new URIs, as we cannot guarantee a permanent redirect from old URIs to the new URIs at

Great to hear, and great for Ed.  Both that his work has stimulated the LC in to action and also demonstrated how it should be done.

My only thought on this is why did they go through all the fuss and negative PR about taking down before the LC service that replaces it was up and running a couple of months later?

[¹] (page 5)

Traffic Squad Police (LOC) image published in the The Library of Congress’ photostream on Flickr

‡ – Free Cataloguing. Josh Ferraro Talks with Talis

Josh Ferraro ‡  – Is a free service for librarians to create, edit, and share bibliographic records backed by an equally free and open store of over 30 million library records available for all to access, search and download.

Cataloging LibLime CEO Josh Ferraro joins me in conversation as he launches ‡ at ALA Midwinter in Denver. 

We explore how this is a really free and open service that has been made possible, not only by technology and open source software, but also by the availability of open data licensing in the form of Open Data Commons.  Josh also explains how the core software behind ‡ is itself open source.


Bowker take a stake in LibraryThing and get the exclusive on LibraryThing for Libraries.

Bowker-LT Bowker, part of the Cambridge Information Group, have acquired a minority stake in LibraryThing and in return get the exclusive distributorship of LibraryThing for Libraries, their “cool catalog-enhancement project. LTFL puts tags, recommendations and reviews directly into your library catalog

Bowker join AbeBooks, themselves owned by Amazon , as a second minority stake holder.  LibraryThing founder Tim Spalding points out, in his blog post on the deal, still owns the majority of the company .

He goes on to say:

There is no downside whatsoever. Nothing else has changed. Member data stays with us, under the same rules. All our free, public or Creative-Commons data, including covers, stays as it was. Management and majority ownership stay with me. We stay small, quirky and in Maine.

LibraryThing for Libraries was already being used by Bowker to add value to it’s Aquabrowser product.  With Aquabrowser, ProQuest, Serial Solutions, RefWorks, Syndetic Solutions, and others, LibraryThing for Libraries is joining a significant stable of products for adding value to online library services.

The LibraryThing for Libraries service has so far been adopted by 150 libraries (65 of those via an Aquabrowser installation), I expect that this should ramp up once the Bowker Sales team (something LibraryThing doesn’t have) starts pushing it.

The injection of finance will go to add stability to LibraryThing and help them scale their servers and people.  Good luck and well done to Tim and his team.

Sharing Usage Data – Dave Pattern & Patrick Murray-John Talk with Talis

My guests for this Talking with Talis podcast demonstrate a great example of how openly sharing data will stimulate innovation.

Last month, Huddersfield University’s Dave Pattern announced that he was sharing usage data derived from circulation transactions held in their Library Management System

I’m very proud to announce that Library Services at the University of Huddersfield has just done something that would have perhaps been unthinkable a few years ago: we’ve just released a major portion of our book circulation and recommendation data under an Open Data Commons/CC0 licence. In total, there’s data for over 80,000 titles derived from a pool of just under 3 million circulation transactions spanning a 13 year period.

Within a matter of days Patrick Murray-John from Mary Washington University had taken a copy of that data, transformed the data to RDF and published it in a Semantic Web form.

In this conversation we explore the motivations behind Dave’s work and the benefits to the sharing process of the Open Data Commons license he chose to release the data under.   Patrick then takes us through how he worked with the data and demonstrated how simple it was to produce and RDF version.

We then explore how the principles demonstrated by their work could be expanded upon to add wide value to the library scene from recommender systems to a sales aid for Universities trying to attract students.

OCLC is listening.

The introduction of the new Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records has been delayed, with an intention to review, amend and aim to release in Q3 2009. This is a massive opportunity for the library world to help OCLC develop a policy that really helps libraries innovate.

There has been sustained negative reaction to OCLC’s planned introduction of the new Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records across the library world from the first moment it was published. Reactions have varied in their strength and their has been support for the stated aim – to open WorldCat data for more uses – but a strong reaction against the ways in which the policy tries to do that.

OCLC has clearly listened to that reaction, and the many conversations that I’m told have happened behind closed doors and in private calls and emails. The result is the announcement a day ago that a review board will be convened in order to gather input from the membership and wider library community.

Karen Calhoun, who managed the production of the controversial new policy will act as liaison between the review board and OCLC. I presume that role will include providing clear statements to the review board on such things as the Copyright status of the various aspects of WorldCat – something that has not been forthcoming so far.

DRM provider causes eBooks to disappear

At the time when Apple announces, in Phil Schiller’s keynote address at Macworld, that it has struck a deals with all the major music labels so that music purchased via iTunes will be free from Digital Rights Management (DRM) controls, we get a story from the eBooks world that highlights that DRM encryption can have unintended negative consequences.

As boingboing reports, some customers of eBook supplier Fictionwise will no longer be able to download books that they have purchased because one of their suppliers of  DRM encrypted feeds of books is ceasing to provide that service.   From the Fictionwise FAQ on the issue:

Fictionwise obtains "feeds" of eBooks from several different content aggregators, and these aggregators use their servers to deliver encrypted files to our customers. One of these aggregators, Overdrive, recently gave Fictionwise notice that they would cease serving files to Fictionwise customers as of January 31, 2009. That means that eBooks purchased from Fictionwise via Overdrive’s servers will no longer be downloadable after that date.

In attempt to not leave their customers in a position that they cannot use the eBooks they purchased, they wherever possible are trying to source the books in another format (eReader – owned by Fictionwise) but as they say “we are simply still tracking down the publisher to obtain permission. In some cases the eBook in question was not yet converted to eReader format.”  Of course readers will need to load new reader software to use this format.

Approximately 30,000 purchases have been effected in this way.

The question obviously is, what happens in the hypothetical situation of Fictionwise going away – would you loose what you have paid for then?   Unlike eBooks, the physical rights management of a physical book (it’s hard to physically duplicate it) doesn’t cause your original to break if any part of the supply chain fails.  The discussion that the boingboing article generated, features advice on how to bypass DRM and the need to fight the imposition of DRM.

As with the recent Google announcement about the their agreement with authors and publishers over payment for their works viewed via Google services, there is much similarity between these issues in the music world.

We seem to be spectators to a slow-motion replay of the painful birth of the online music business, being played out with scanned copies and created digital versions of books.  It was bad enough for music, there is far more history, copyright complexity, and entrenched business models in the books world – I can see the tectonic upheaval here being even more painful.

Meanwhile, does your library provide eBooks served up via Overdrive?  If it does, you have until the end of January to source them via alternative routes.

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A day out with libraries@cambridge

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of spending the day in the impressive, Norman Foster designed, Law Faculty building at Cambridge University. The occasion was the annual get together of staff from the 100 plus individual libraries and the University Library.

The conference was organised by libraries@cambridge, which brings together all those libraries. It was a good thought provoking conference, identifying many issues that many academic libraries are grappling with as the landscape in which they are operating is changing dramatically.

With so many individual departmental, faculty, college and other associated libraries within the University this problem is magnified, giving rise to issues such as skills, experience and projects that would be beneficial for all being located in a small single library.

The opening presentation by Anne Poulson from RLUK, was a broad brush view of the Research Library landscape. Whilst addressing the challenges of the Google Generation and the massive increase in electronic recourses, librarians should not forget that the old is not dead. Sensible stewardship of local unique collections is and will continue to be important. Digitisation of these local unique resources, so that they can become globally unique, is needed as well as the continuing importance of investing in the physical preservation of special and printed collections.

Anne sees a new role for Subject/Data librarians emerging for them to operate on the institutional and national stage, as part of research teams. Librarians will need to improve their lobbying and communication skills to promote their value in these situations.

University Librarian Peter Fox provided a slightly bleaker view, which he felt able to do as he is retiring from the post, of how the current set of services the academic library offer will be disappearing or at least diminishing greatly over the next few years. The rapid move to electronic only journals will remove the need for all that physical journal management of binding, chasing etc. The shelf space taken up by those not very often used journals will soon be up for grabs. The same trends, although probably much slower, will be reflected in monographs as more and more course material becomes born digital. As many reports are showing that the screen-age generation are bypassing the library there could also be a drop in the need for reference assistance and guidance.

As I say, a bit bleak for librarians for whom that lot is a list of what they currently do. Peter wasn’t downbeat though. He obviously has confidence that they will rise to the challenges and was in agreement with Anne that they have an important role to play especially in research.

My presentation ‘Linking the library’s data to the rest of the world…’, which was part of the metadata track, took as it’s theme that libraries should be looking outside their world when envisaging where their data might be used and linked to. In the short term there is no need for standards like Marc, or even RDA, to be ditched but don’t expect the rest of the world to use them. These, library focused standards are fine for creating metadata but we should expect to have to make our data more accessible for others to use it and to make it easier for us to add value for our users from external data sources.

An excellent day in a good venue – pity about the road back to home from Cambridge, but you can’t have everything.

DS Disappears

DS Axiell_3 Following DS’s merger with the Axiell Library Group back in April 2008, they have made the unsurprising announcement that the DS name is now to disappear as they become the UK Division of Axiell.

Scandinavian based Jerk Sintorn, Axiell Library Group CEO, commented “Changing the name of DS to Axiell is a logical step”.  From the Axiell group point of view, I’m sure it does but it does have the effect now that there remains only one significant UK supplier to the UK public library market – Talis.

In the web site refresh that goes along with the name change it is good to see that their blog and forum are prominent so that they can engage with the community.  (Although I note that the forum is login access only)

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