From #elag2011 to #lodlam

June 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

Prior to the LOD-LAM summit, ELAG2011 took place in the impressive Czech National Technical Library in Prague from 24th to 27th of May under the slogan “It’s the context, stupid!”. ‘ELAG’ stands for “European Library Automation Group” which  is an annually meeting of technicians from the European library world plus some international participants. This conference stands out from other gatherings of librarians: It is attended by a lot of technical staff or other practitioners.

There is no formally elected ELAG planning group, anyone can join in and participate in the organization of ELAG. This grassroots approach combined with the attendees’ hands-on attitude guarentees most of the time really exciting workshops and presentations. Also, marketing language is frowned upon by the practitioners which attend ELAG (just take a look at the tweets to get an impression). Consequently, the sponsorship is only promoted decently and no products are presented along the way. The perfect basis for a great conference!

Giving LOD its place

Obviously ELAG 2011 was a good preparation for the LOD-LAM summit and I hope that the discussions that took place and the topics that were discussed at ELAG 2011 will be picked up at the summit. Linked Open Data played a central role during the whole ELAG conference. According to the program, there were at least eight of fifteen presentations, one of four pre-conference bootcamps and two of ten workshops which obviously had Linked (Open) Data as subject.

I offered two activities on LOD at ELAG which also may be topic at the LOD-LAM summit:In a bootcamp during pre-conference – mainly led by my colleague Felix Ostrowski – people learned how to enrich webpages providing information about one’s organization with RDFa to make the institution part of the Linked Data web. I also led a small workshop that dealt with open data licensing issues. People interested in opening up their institution’s data discussed the problems they encountered as well as strategies to cope with them. (BTW, I started a list of projects using or publishing open bibliographic data for this workshop. I am happy about hints to relevant projects that aren’t listed there.)

Pushing the vendors

“We, the participants of ELAG 2011, holds these truths to be self-evident, that MARC must die, and that Linked Open Data is the future.”
With these words Anders Söderbäck in his presentation “Who controls bibliographic control?” tried to capture the spirit of ELAG2011 and to draw the attention of two big library system vendors to the topic of LOD.
Preceding Anders’ post in the session on cloud computing, represantatives of OCLC and ExLibris had the opportunity to talk about their companies’ future cloud-based library management systems. While Paul Harvey from OCLC held the usual OCLC presentation about the company’s Webscale Management System (in development), Carl Grant didn’t talk too much about ExLibris corresponding product Alma (also in development) but about his general approach to cloud computing.

How about web integration of library data in future systems?

Being directly asked by Till Kinstler what both companies do to integrate their systems into the web, none of the vendor representatives managed to actually provide an answer. To me it looks like OCLC and Ex Libris started one or two years too early with buidling their new cloud-based systems and now – understandably – have problems to adjust to the looming fundamental changes to cataloging, data formats and data licensing in the library world.

Open WorldCat?

Some news during ELAG2011 made it seem that at least OCLC moves into the right direction. A blog post by John Mark Ockerbloom brought the good news on the licensing aspect, pointing to OCLC’s strategy change to investigate open licensing and allowing or even encouraging the publication of Open Data by member institutions. Hopefully, OCLC will further pursue this path.

Be consequent!

For me, the most significant insight at ELAG2011 was how important for single institutions as well as for the whole community a consequent approach in adopting LOD is. By now, most of the active institutions are experimenting with this new technology, playing around with Linked Data best practices. But as most libraries are closely tight to a vendor they also make their future development more or less dependening on the products that will be offered by this vendor.
To really pursue a consistent strategy one has to make clear: We really want LOD and we will only invest into future products which really support the LOD best practices! In case vendors won’t comply with this, it may be time to cooperatively build appropriate Open Source technology…

3 responses to From #elag2011 to #lodlam

  1. nice summary! +1 for the last paragraph: demanding a paradigm shift in handling catalogue data. Its about time!

  2. I agree that OCLC should open World Cat!

  3. #ELAG2011 sounds like a great prelim to #lodlam – I’m almost ready to be a born-again librarian after many years on the GLAM web fringe. Thanks for the report back!

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