Friday, March 07, 2008

Librarians and Web 3.0

For better or worse, Web 3.0 is around the corner. Okay, maybe the technology is lagging; but we must admit that the third generation (third decade) Web is coming. In a post I had made back in September, Paul Miller of Talis made an insightful response, one which is relevant for today's discussion.
Although I'm slightly surprised at the sector's lack of overt engagement with this obviously synergistic area too, there are certainly examples in which librarians are grasping the Semantic Web and in which Semantic Web developers are recognising the rich potential offered by libraries' structured data...

Ed Summers over at Library of Congress would be one person I'd pick out to mention. Also, the work OCLC and Zepheira are doing on PURL, and our own focus on the Talis Platform within Talis; that's Semantic Web through and through, and we have significant products in the final stages of beta that put semantic technologies such as RDF and SKOS to work in delivering richer, better, more flexible applications to libraries and their users. Things really begin to get interesting, though, when you take the next step from enabling existing product areas with semantic technologies to actually beginning to leverage the resulting connections by joining data up, and reusing those links, inferences and contexts to cross boundaries between libraries, systems, and application areas.

There's also library-directed research at institutes such as DERI here in Europe, and even conferences like the International Conference on Semantic Web and Digital Libraries, which was in India this year.

Finally - for now - there's also a special issue of Library Review in preparation; Digital Libraries and the Semantic Web: context, applications and research, and I'll be speaking on The Semantic Web and libraries - a perfect fit? at the Talis Insight conference in November It's funny that you mention Jane in your post, because I'll also be doing something for her later in November that encompasses some of these themes...

Sometimes moving forward doesn't necessarily mean progress. Sometimes we need to take one step back before we can move two steps in the right direction. But it appears as if the infrastructure is there for us to move in the direction of Web 3.0. What does this mean for librarians? I suspect it means we should stop the bickering about Web versions, and start reflecting on the reasons why patrons are physically relying on library collections and coming to the libraries for information. Googlization of information has resulted in fears for the future of librarianship. But what are we to do? Standing idly by and playing the trumpets as the ship sinks isn't the right way to take it. What to do? Let's try move in the right direction.

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