The 2013 Stanford Prizes for Innovation in Research Libraries (SPIRL) were announced this week, and among the recipients and commended institutions are those where semantic web technology and Linked Data are on display.

One of the recipients is the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France), for both its Gallica and Data Digital Libraries. The discovery service, Data (data.bnf.fr), has integrated numerous BnF catalogues and finding-aids using a Semantic Web approach, so that the BnF’s collection holdings, including those of Gallica (which promotes French cultural heritage in digital form), “are visible through a single, high-tech lens,” according to the announcement of the awards.

“Together, both efforts drive a wider audience to the digital library from search engines,” the SPIRL announcement reports.

In its application for the award, Bibliothèque nationale de France drew attention to Data (data.bnf.fr) as the younger companion application to Gallica, and the second half of its two-part digital strategy. Data, the application notes, “demonstrates the Library’s capacity to take a fresh look at an old yet fundamental library object – the catalogue. The promising start of data.bnf.fr shows that our institution has thus been capable of turning rather ancient data and applications into new, inspiring sources of innovation. Thanks to those combined approaches, both primary documents (digitized collections) and secondary references (bibliographic records) now converge towards the Web where their users have moved as well.”

Semantic Web technologies and standards, it calls out, promote increased online visibility and linking opportunities for library bibliographic records at a time when “traditional library catalogues are seriously rivaled (if not defeated) by generic search engines.”

Less than two years in existence, data.bnf.fr, the application explains, uses Semantic Web standards and Linked Open Data technologies along with new bibliographic data models  for better visibility, management and usage of library metadata on the World Wide Web. In addition to making bibliographic records much more visible and attractive and linking them to a variety of other datasets, the application points out that the service also “reveals collections which have not been digitized yet and had remained hidden in the long tail of catalogue silos until then. Data.bnf.fr thus demonstrates the high potential of the BnF to change its bibliographic legacy into big, linked and open data just as Gallica had led the Library to experiment the many aspects of managing the transformation of analogue to digital collections.”

SPIRAL Judge Richard E. Luce, Associate Vice-President, Professor, and Dean of Libraries, University of Oklahoma, noted of the effort that BnF “has aggressively adopted Linked Open Data and semantic web technologies to better position these collections and their associated metadata for use and reuse in the rapidly shifting external environment.”

Let’s Hear It For The Semantic Web

The other award recipient was Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, a digital library based at the University of Alicante in Spain that disseminates Hispanic culture on the web. Singled out in the announcement of its win was its open, user-oriented design that’s guided by a service-oriented architecture and that relies on open-source development.

That’s the start of a multi-pronged strategy that is aimed at ensuring that the the library, as noted in its application, is prepared for the continuous challenges raised by the internet environment — in particular, the social web and the semantic web. “With regard to the next goals of the innovation programme,” the application cites, “they will be centered in the semantic and collaborative technologies.”

In his judgement commentary, Luce noted that it was the combination of several characteristics of this project, all working together, that in aggregate are notable – including “ the continuous focus on constantly evolving and improving the underlying technologies supporting the user experience, especially an adaptive architecture which makes use of the semantic web.”

A commendation was also awarded to Australia’s Griffith University for its non-traditional Research Hub. Griffith University does not have a university library in the traditional sense, but instead co-locates traditional library services with eResearch services within its Scholarly Information and Research unit in the Division of Information Services.

The Research Hub service, the institution reports in its application, “has been developed as the first step in helping to make university research data more discoverable and accessible, while following open access and linked data best practice models.”