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About Thing 1

Purpose: Linked data will change how we work as catalogers and metadata creators, our systems, and also change how users find and use library data. 

Learning Outcomes: Introduce yourself to the concepts of linked data, linked open data, how it relates to libraries, and the main expectations and challenges. 

Intended Audience: Beginner

Expected Duration: 45-60 minutes

Author: Sara Ring, Minitex

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Getting Started

Linked data is a set of best practices and standards for publishing and connecting structured data on the web. With linked data, one can also connect with related data more easily. Linked data is also tied to the Semantic Web, a term coined by Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. The Semantic Web is a vision for the web where data is machine-readable, represented by facts, concepts, places, and people in a way that a computer can process. Instead of searching through billions and billions of text-based documents, imagine being able to query the web as if it was one huge database. Linked data is the means by which to achieve the vision of the Semantic Web.

Why is linked data an attractive option to libraries? Much of our library data is often stored in proprietary databases and in various different locations, or in formats such as MARC that are not easily understood outside of the library community, which in turn makes it inaccessible to web search engines and other systems. One of the benefits to publishing our library data to web-friendly standards as linked data is that it can lead to better web visibility for libraries. Another expectation of linked data is that it will lead to better discovery experiences as users will be presented with more rich and related data to their area of interest. There are other benefits that will come to light as you complete the other Things.

As you learn more about linked data, you will also see that moving towards linked data is not without its challenges. There are certainly technical barriers as one needs to know how to create, store, and query linked data. The resource barriers that exist are prevalent, including having staff to train and the costs to initially implement new workflows and new systems. There is also the question of the return on investment in adopting linked data in libraries. You will learn about some of the latest projects that show great strides in this area as you learn about the other 23 Linked Data Things.



  • Watch The next web, a TED talk by Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) from 2009, which kicked off the "raw data now" movement. (16:04)
  • Watch Linked Open Data - What is it? Created by Europeana, it explains what linked open data is and why it’s useful. (03:42)


From the W3C Library Linked Data Incubator Group, read:


How would a move towards linked data at your library impact you? What benefits or challenges do you think you would face? Consider sharing your reflection responses in the Comments section at the bottom of the page.

Additional Resources

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How would a move towards linked data at your library impact you? What benefits or challenges do you think you would face? 

The impact would initially be on staff learning and training, as well as work flow modifications, along with testing to make sure things are working as they should across all genres and collections. This of course means updated relevant documentation and development of a best practices guidelines and troubleshoots. The ultimate hope would be that our patrons and other users would notice and approve of and appreciate the enhancement.

I think about all the old MARC records that has been in our local catalog. The move towards linked data will offer a great opportunity to reexamine and reactivate them, while creating a synergy with the ongoing reparative work.

Linked data will make it easier to describe our assets and investment in it will expand the potential of discovery and use of library data in the longer term. The challenges include the labor intensive work of preparing our data for linked data and updating our technology to work with it.

Yes, I do agree that there are massive challenges in preparing and updating our data and technology. That being said, there are some pretty smart people who have already helped the library community with much of the time-consuming, labour-intensive metadata work we have to do. Just think of all of the things we can do with MARCEdit that we couldn't do 10+ years ago. What sort of a pickle would we be in with all of the MARC record sets we get nowadays without it? We can only hope that more tools like it are on the horizon. What I think I bigger challenge might be is to convince library leadership and non-metadata and cataloguing library staff that it is worth all of the time and effort to make linked data work for libraries. So far when I talk to many library staff about this topic, I feel like I am the teacher in the Charlie Brown cartoons (wah, wah, wah...)