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Notes from the LITA National Forum: Linked Open Data

LITA Forum Image

On September 30, two of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries' staff attended the American Library Association's LITA (Library and Information Technology) National Forum. The three-day conference was titled "Rivers of Data, Currents of Change". Although it was not explicitly defined, there was a common thread of conversation surrounding Linked Open Data throughout the conference.

For this reason, the presentation given by the Smithsonian Libraries' digial projects librarian Keri Thompson and lead developer Joel Richard, along with Trish Rose-Sandler of the Missouri Botanical Garden, was well-received. Titled "Building the New Open Linked Library: Theory and Practice," the talk gave a high-level overview of the redesign of the Libraries' website, a brief summary of Linked Data, how the Libraries' website redesign centers around the concept of Linked Open Data, and some of the unique things that happen when open data is made available on the web, specifically with the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL).

Keri Thompson gave a summary of where our website is today and a very concise overview of the types of content we have. She also gave a brief introduction to Linked Open Data to help get the audience up to speed, since only about half were familiar with the concept.

Joel Richard talked about implementing Linked Data in Drupal 7 and one in-depth example of the data we are planning to put online. The data set provided Taxonomic Literature 2 (or TL-2) is a database of botanists, their publications and detailed information about their contributions to botany and is being digitized by the Libraries'. He also discussed how we are mapping the TL-2 data to the Linked Open Data model, and challenges that we foresee in this development.

Trish Rose-Sandler discussed and presented examples of the new and unique types of things that people can do when we make our data available on the web. These included repurposing BHL content as well as new visualizations of data that were impossible before BHL. 

Overall, the presentation was well-attended with between 50 and 60 people in the audience and a number of good questions posed after the presentation and in subsequent days at the conference. Fortunately the Libraries' talk occurred early in the conference and it was good to see that Drupal and Linked Data were mentioned in a number of talks throughout the conference, including the closing keynote presentation by Barbara McGlamery, a Taxonomist at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The Libraries' staff plan to attend the 2012 LITA National Forum in Columbus, OH to follow-up on our experiences as we build the Digital Library in the upcoming months.

View the Powerpoint slides of the presentation from the ALA Connect Site.


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