Is there a Library shaped black hole in the web? Event summary.

Is there a Library shaped black hole in the web? was the question posed by an OCLC event at the Royal College of Surgeons last week that focused on exploring the potential benefits of using linked data to make library data available to users through the web. For a comprehensive overview of the event, I’ve put together a Storify of tweets here: https://storify.com/LornaMCampbell/oclc-linked-data

Following a truly dreadful pun from Laura J Wilkinson…

Owen Stephens kicked off the event with an overview of linked data and its potential to be  a lingua franca for publishing library data.  Some of the benefits that linked data can afford to libraries including improving search, discovery and display of library catalogue record information, improved data quality and data correction, and the ability to work with experts across the globe to harness their expertise.  Owen also introduced the Open World Assumption which, despite the coincidental title of this blog, was a new concept to me.  The Open World Assumption states that

“there may exist additional data, somewhere in the world to complement the data one has at hand”.

This contrasts with the Closed World Assumption which assumes that

“data sources are well-known and tightly controlled, as in a closed, stand-alone data silo.”

Learning Linked Data
http://lld.ischool.uw.edu/wp/glossary/

Traditional library catalogues worked on the basis of the closed world assumption, whereas linked data takes an open world approach and recognises that other people will know things you don’t.  Owen quoted Karen Coyle “the catalogue should be an information source, not just an inventory” and noted that while data on the web is messy, linked data provides the option to select sources we can trust.

Cathy Dolbear of Oxford University Press, gave a very interesting talk from the perspective of a publisher providing data to libraries and other search and discovery services. OUP provides data to library discovery services, search engines, wiki data, and other publishers.  Most OUP products tend to be discovered by search engines, only a small number of referrals, 0.7%, come from library discovery services.  OUP have two OAI-PMH APIs but they are not widely used and they are very keen to learn why.  The publisher’s requirements are primarily driven by search engines, but they would like to hear more from library discovery services.

Neil Jeffries of the Bodleian Digital Library was not able to be present on the day, but he overcame the inevitable technical hitches to present remotely.  He began by arguing that digital libraries should not be seen as archives or museums; digital libraries create knowledge and artefacts of intellectual discourse rather than just holding information. In order to enable this knowledge creation, libraries need to collaborate, connect and break down barriers between disciplines.  Neil went on to highlight a wide range of projects and initiatives, including VIVO, LD4L, CAMELOT, that use linked data and the semantic web to facilitate these connections. He concluded by encouraging libraries to be proactive and to understand the potential of both data and linked data in their own domain.

Ken Chad posed a question that often comes up in discussions about linked data and the semantic web; why bother?  What’s the value proposition for linked data?  Gartner currently places linked data in the trough of disillusionment, so how do we cross the chasm to reach the plateau of productivity?  This prompted my colleague Phil Barker to comment:

Ken recommended using the Jobs-to-be-Done framework to cross the chasm. Concentrate on users, but rather than just asking them what they want focus on, asking them what they are trying to do and identify their motivating factors – e.g. how will linked data help to boost my research profile?

For those willing to take the leap of faith across the chasm, Gill Hamilton of the National Library of Scotland presented a fantastic series of Top Tips! for linked data adoption which can be summarised as follows:

  • Strings to things aka people smart, machines stupid – library databases are full of things, people are really smart at reading things, unfortunately machines are really stupid. Turn things into strings with URIs so machines can read them.
  • Never, ever, ever dumb down your data.
  • Open up your metadata – license your metadata CC0 and put a representation of it into the Open Metadata Registry.  Open metadata is an advert for your collections and enables others to work with you.
  • Concentrate on what is unique in your collections – one of the unique items from the National Library of Scotland that Gill highlighted was the order for the Massacre of Glencoe.  Ahem. Moving swiftly on…
  • Use open vocabularies.

Simples! Linked Data is still risky though; services go down, URIs get deleted and there’s still more playing around than actual doing, however it’s still worth the risk to help us link up all our knowledge.

Richard J Wallis brought the day to a close by asking how can libraries exploit the web of data to liberate their data?  The web of data is becoming a web of related entities and it’s the relationships that add value.  Google recognised this early on when they based their search algorithm on the links between resources.  The web now deals with entities and relationships, not static records.

One way to encode these entities and relationships is using Schema.org. Schema.org aims to help search engines to interpret information on web pages so that it can be used to improve the display of search results.  Schema.org has two components; an ontology for naming the types and characteristics of resources, their relationships with each other, and constraints on how to describe these characteristics and relationships, and the expression of this information in machine readable formats such as microdata, RDFa Lite and JSON-LD. Richard noted that Schema.org is a form or linked data, but “it doesn’t advertise the fact” and added that libraries need to “give the web what it wants, and what it wants is Schema.org.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about Schema.org, Phil Barker and I wrote a short Cetis Briefing Paper on the specification which is available here: What is Schema.org?  Richard Wallis will also be presenting a Dublin Core Metadata Initiative webinar on the Schema.org and its applicability to the bibliographic domain on the 18th of November, registration here http://dublincore.org/resources/training/#2015wallis.

ETA  Phil Barker has also written a comprehensive summary of this even over at his own blog , Sharing and Learning, here: A library shaped black hole in the web?

Open Scotland at CILIP Scotland Conference

Earlier this week I was invited to present about Open Scotland at the CILIP Scotland Conference in Dundee. This is the first time I’ve attended the CILIPS conference and it was a really lively and engaging event with over 300 participants and an inspiring keynote on “Challenges, Choices and Opportunities” from Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie Trust.  My Open Scotland presentations seemed to be well received and I was very encouraged to have a couple of questions about the potential role of public libraries in opening access to educational resources, particularly for the school sector.  When we held the first Open Scotland Summit in Edinburgh in 2013 it occurred to me that the education sector potentially has much to learn from the public library sector in terms of open practice.  My presentation session was ably chaired by Heather Marshall, Senior Librarian at Glasgow Caledonian University Library and in conversation with her afterwards I was struck yet again by GCU Library’s commitment to promoting open educational resources and encouraging open educational practice among their staff.

cilips14

Encouraging news from the Wellcome Library and Europeana

I’m a bit pressed for time for blogging at the moment, but there have already been two news items this week that are worth highlighting.

First of all, the Wellcome Library have followed the lead of the National Portrait Gallery, the J. P. Getty Museum and many other institutions worldwide, and announced that they have made over 100,000 high resolution historical images available free of charge.  All the images, which include of manuscripts, paintings, etchings, early photography and advertisements, carry a a CC-BY licence and can be downloaded from the Wellcome Images website.

Among many fascinating collections, Wellcome Images includes works by my favourite Georgian satirical cartoonist Thomas Rowlandson, along with his contemporaries James Gillray and George Cruikshank.

Swimming by Thomas Rowlandson

“Side way or any way” by Thomas Rowlandson

In a press release accompanying the launch, Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library, said

“Together the collection amounts to a dizzying visual record of centuries of human culture, and our attempts to understand our bodies, minds and health through art and observation. As a strong supporter of open access, we want to make sure these images can be used and enjoyed by anyone without restriction.”

The BBC also published a rather entertaining article about the collection here:  Grin and bare it: buttock cupping & other health ‘cures’.

The other announcement that caught my eye was the launch of the second release of the Europeana Open Culture app.  I haven’t had a chance to try the new app, but I haven’t had too much success searching Europreana in the past, so I’m hoping that it will be an improvement.   The new app promises to bring “enhanced functionality, new content,  a more user-friendly layout” and is available in seven languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Bulgarian, and Swedish).  The press release states:

“you can now download the hi-res image for free and use it however you want to – for your work, study or leisure projects”

However, as I haven’t had a chance to load up the app, I don’t know what licence or licences these images carry.   However the app code for the Muse (Museum in your pocket) Open Source iPad App used by Europeana is available from Github.

It’s really encouraging to see more and more museums, libraries and galleries making their content freely available under open licence, these are invaluable resources for teachers, learners and researchers worldwide.  I just hope we will see more education institutions joining them!

Norwegian Government MOOC Report and Digitization Programme

(Cross posted from Open Scotland)

Norway MOOC report

Earlier this week the Nordic OER Alliance announced that the Norwegian Government has published its first governmental report on MOOCs and the role of OER: Norwegian MOOC report: Tilrår satsing på OER!

Although the report is in Norwegian, the recommendations have helpfully been translated into English by Tore Hoel, and are copied below. Even without being able to read the entire report, it’s very encouraging to see a national government recommending further investment in innovative pedagogies, teacher and learner support and infrastructure development for technology supported learning. Amongst other recommendations, the Committee has recommended the allocation of a 15 million NOK annual grant for “research-based knowledge development and transfer of knowledge related to learning analytics”. Perhaps more significantly the Committee has also recommended a further 10 million NOK to be allocated to “pursue further development of digital literacy among staff in the higher education sector”. Enlightened thinking indeed. Additional funding has also been recommended for education technology infrastructure development in general and MOOC infrastructure in particular. The report also covers accreditation and recognition, but does not recommend a radical overhall of the current system.

The publication of the Norwegian Government’s MOOC report, comes hot on the heels of reports in the tech press earlier this month that the National Library of Norway is planning to digitise all the books in its holdings within 15 years. While the essence of this story is true, the NLN is a legal deposit library, and it does have a policy to digitise its entire collection over the course of 20 – 30 years, the initiative has actually been running since 2006, but seems to have come to the attention of the US press only recently. That aside, it’s an admirable and ambitious initiative which, together with the Government MOOC report,  speaks volumes about Norway’s commitment to openness.

Resources

Nordic OER: http://nordicoer.org/
Government MOOC Report: http://khrono.no/sites/khrono.no/files/moocutvalget_delrapport_1_13122013.pdf
National Library of Norway – Digitization Policy: http://www.nb.no/English/The-Digital-Library/Digitizing-policy
National Library of Norway – What is being digitized?: http://www.nb.no/English/The-Digital-Library/What-is-being-digitized

Government MOOC Report Recommendations

Chap. 6.2 Innovative pedagogy and quality

The Committee recommends a systematic focus on research-based knowledge development about ICT and learning.

The Committee recommends the establishment of an environment for research-based knowledge development and transfer of knowledge related to learning analytics in 2015 with an annual grant of 15 million NOK. Structure and shape must be considered in relation to current participants and funding agencies.

The Committee believes that the higher education sector has limited use of incentives at the individual level associated with the development of teaching. This does not work stimulating and motivating to adopt new technologies and new forms of learning. The Committee therefore recommends that the operative environment in general and incentives for the educational area are reviewed, both at the individual, institutional and national level. These must be connected together and clearly have the same effect.

The Committee recommends that the allocation of funding to pursue further development of digital literacy among staff in the higher education sector. The Commission proposes to allocate NOK 10 million.

The Mooc Committee recommends that the ministry appointed committee to assess competencies outside the formal education system also considers expertise developed through Mooc deal with exams and credits.

Chap. 6.3 Infrastructure for Mooc and other digital learning

The Committee believes there is a need to continue and increase national spending on technology infrastructure. The Commission proposes to increase funding for further infrastructure development for online education in general with 10 million annually and 10 million annually to develop new infrastructure for Mooc deals specifically.

The Committee recommends that there be further assessed whether it is appropriate to have a common national Mooc portal or alternative solutions are better.

Chap. 6.4 Trade and labor market skills needs

The Committee recommends that business and industry sector uses Mooc and similar offerings in skill development of the employees.

There is appropriated 10 million to further education of teachers using Mooc and similar offers. The Committee recommends that there be an additional 10 million to develop and gain experience with the use of Mooc and similar offerings in continuing education within other relevant educational fields.

Chap. 6.5 Mooc that part of the Norwegian degree system: accreditation and recognition of Mooc deals

The Committee believes that Mooc not necessitate a change of the Norwegian regulations for accreditation and recognition of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system. Mooc exams and credits from both Norwegian and foreign institutions may naturally be part of this system as it is today.

The Committee recommends that institutions utilize the room for maneuver which lies in the administration of the rules for crediting of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system, by facilitating better and smoother practices across Norwegian institutions.

The Committee recommends an assessment of whether current practices are appropriate and what can be done to strengthen the institutions’ utilization of leeway inherent in the current rules for crediting of subjects and topics to be included in a degree system.

The Committee recommends trial of admission to Mooc offerings at Norwegian institutions for applicants who do not meet the traditional requirements for admission to higher education.

Chap. 06.06 Copayment and the principle of free higher education

The Committee believes that Mooc offerings in Norway in the first place should be free.

The Committee recommends that the Ministry is undertaking a review of the rules for personal payments to institutions opportunities to claim fees for parts of a group of participants will be made clear.

Chap. 6.7 Educational support

The Committee recommends that considered whether to grant educational support to learners in Mooc and similar offers with flexible workload and duration. With similar offerings means other forms of online promotions or offers that combine online and campus education.

The Committee believes that Mooc and similar offerings outside Norway and the EU / EEA area should be considered to provide the basis for educational support.

The committee believes that the assessments of changes in education funding scheme also must asses the impact on foreign students.

Chap. 6.8 Funding of higher education

The Committee recommends that the funding system should facilitate incentives or arrangements which support the cooperation between the institutions on the development and supply of Mooc and similar offers, such as flexible ways to share the benefit of credit production.

The Committee recommends considering the introduction of an incentive for education relevance in the funding system. Cooperation between educational institutions and actors in the labor sector on Mooc and similar offers can be an indicator of such relevance.

The Committee recommends that there be annual allocation within the strategic assets of the funding, to support the development of educational content and the development of technological infrastructure for Mooc and similar offers.