Linked data is becoming even more interesting to the OCLC, a non-profit, membership, computer library service and research organization of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories around the world. It’s named Richard Wallis — formerly of the U.K.’s Talis Linked Data and Semantic Web Technology company and one of our frequent Semantic Web Blog guest authors — to the position of Technology Evangelist.
The OCLC has as a major asset Worldcat, a global catalog comprising the collections of more than 10,000 libraries and adding up to more than 258 million records and 1.8 billion-plus holdings, in traditional library metadata format. WorldCat.org is the publicly searchable view of their core data in library format based upon library records (Marc records). More semantic web-oriented is other work the OCLC been doing over the last couple of years, Wallis explains, including experiments with using RDF/Linked Data at viaf.org, where the Virtual International Authority File publishes authoritative descriptions of names or organizations, and something similar for the Dewey Decimal Classification system at dewey.info.
In his new role, Wallis will collaborate with members and facilitate projects with OCLC teams as libraries and the cooperative drive efforts to expose WorldCat data as linked data, and will represent OCLC and WorldCat to the global library and web/IT leader communities. The VIAF and Dewey projects certainly provided an opportunity for OCLC to see the benefit of linking things together. On top of that, “the climate for Linked Data and libraries has changed dramatically over the last 12 months,” Wallis says.
Interest was evident at the Linked Data in Libraries event he ran for Talis this past summer, for example, and efforts like the W3C’s Linked Data in Libraries interest group, the Linked Open Data in Libraries, Archives & Museums work, the British Library’s work on the British National Bibliography as Linked Open Data, and the Library of Congress’s Bibliographic Framework Initiative General Plan all are adding fuel to the fire.
The opportunity is there for the OCLC to take the lead on Linked Data in the somewhat fragmented library world as those organizations start to hear more and more about the concept. “Linked Data is starting to be something talked about in the library world, but like any other world, it’s still a bit of an enthusiast environment,” Wallis says. As he evangelizes to the library community what Linked Data is about – and to the web community about what the OCLC is doing with its chunk of data that is relevant to the wider Linked Data and Web of Data world – he hopes “to be in at the beginning of a process where those two communities come together to help come up with the best way of applying Linked Data principles to library data.”
In a statement announcing the appointment, Robin Murray, OCLC Vice President, Global Product Management, said, “Richard Wallis is a leader in Semantic Web and Linked Data technology, and we believe he will help the OCLC cooperative extend our efforts to help libraries move to Webscale.”
Data Liberate, the consultancy Wallis began upon leaving Talis, will continue as a personal blogging site. “I still have interest wider than the library community and I believe that those interests can keep me up to date with the wide world and advise my advice into the OCLC,” he says.