Archive for the ‘Library 2.0’ Category

Linked data


What is linked data? (Note that I’m ignoring any of the specifics of RDF, on which Linked Data depends.)

The “data” of linked data is metadata on the web that describes documents and resources; the linked part refers to the links that exist between metadata items. If this seems a little abstract, consider the following:

I own ten books related to my four interests:

  • Anglo-Saxon language (properly, Old English)
  • The history of Winchester, England
  • Computer programming
  • Cookery

The titles I own are:

Arnow, G. W. D. M. (1998). Introduction to Programming Using Java: An Object-Oriented Approach. Addison-Wesley.

Arnow, D., Dexter, S., & Weiss, G. (2003). Introduction to Programming Using Java: An Object-Oriented Approach (2nd ed.). Addison Wesley.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, H., & Carr, F. (2008). The River Cottage Family Cookbook. Ten Speed Press.

Gamma, E., Helm, R., Johnson, R., & Vlissides, J. M. (1994). Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (illustrated edition.). Addison-Wesley Professional.

Hagen, A. (2006). Anglo-saxon Food & Drink. Anglo-Saxon Books.

Hawkes, B. A. L. M. A. S. C. (1970). Two Anglo-Saxon Cemeteries at Winnall, Winchester, Hampshire. Maney Publishing.

Hervey, T. (2007). The Bishops Of Winchester In The Anglo-Saxon And Anglo-Norman Periods. Kessinger Publishing, LLC.

Mitchell, B., & Robinson, F. C. (2007). A Guide to Old English (7th ed.). Wiley-Blackwell.

Sweet, H. (1982). Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Primer (9th ed.). Oxford University Press, USA.

Sweet, H. (2008). An Anglo-Saxon Primer (3rd ed.). Tiger Xenophon.

I want some way of keeping track of my book collection, so I create a catalogue of RDF files where I tag the various books with their topics:

  • Books by Arnow, Arnow et al. and Gamma et al. are tagged as Computer Science
  • Books by Fearnley-Whittingstall and Hagen are tagged as Cookery
  • Books by Hawkes and Hervey are tagged as History — Winchester
  • Books By Mitchell & Robinson and Sweet are tagges as Language — Old English

Immediately, I see that I have several editions of the same book, so I add a simple SameAs relation between these books by adding a URL to the RDF metadata of the other book, so Arnow (1998) and Arnow et al. (2003) link to one another in this way, as do Sweet (1982) and (2008). In this way I can easily see which books are related by following a link (technically “dereferencing” a URL).

The book on design patterns is so fundamentally important within computer science that I add a SeeAlso link to this book from the other computer science titles; in the same way, I can choose to add a SeeAlso relation between the other books tagged with the same tags, allowing me to easily access each title from a related title.

Because my interest in Winchester primarily relates to the Anglo-Saxon period, and especially linguistic/onomastic aspect of its history, I find it useful to link (SeeAlso) the titles on Winchester to the books on Old English. At the same time, I also add a SeeAlso to the book on Anglo-Saxon cookery for each of the titles on Winchester and Old English.

Based on this, I can at any time explore my book collection in a novel way; from any given starting point, I have numerous avenues to explore. I have a simple way to see that there are several editions of a title, and that the titles in my collection relate to a number of topics, which typically interlink. It is difficult to find a link between cookery or Anglo-Saxon history and language and computer science, but I am sure that more formal analyses within computational linguistics would fit into the model I have described in an understandable fashion.

It is worth noting that it is debatable whether my use of SeeAlso and SameAs strictly speaking correct, but it illustrates the point about enriching a collection of metadata with links. More information about metadata schemas for linked data can be found in the links section below.

It is also worth noting that this interlinking is two way, and that this leads to redundance (in order to get from A to B you need an explicit link, in order to get from B to A, you need another explicit link). This isn’t really a problem because the data-storage overhead is minimal, and the dereferencing of URLs can be done in such a way that redundance does not create unnecessary work (by, for example, not dereferencing URLs that have already been visited).


RDF homepage (for RDF basics, schema and ontologies)


emtacl10: a website for the academic conference


I have updated the emtacl10: emerging technologies in academic libraries website; the changes add a lot of content (and some new dates!) to the information that was published previously.

For me, the interesting thing was combining a set of technologies:

  • blueprint css
  • jquery
  • eXtensible Metadata Platform (XMP)
  • RSS
  • AJAX

The really cool thing about these technologies is that they made everything really quite easy; easy to create valid, accessible code, and easy to do all of this quickly.

The “assets” list is created from metadata embedded into the files that are listed there; this, and the rest of the content is updated using AJAX provided by the jquery framework. Blueprint css is used for the layout.

Two day’s work inclusive of everything! (And I really dislike creating webpages, but this verged on fun.)



Flock, the webbrowser — I haven’t tried using* it before, but there you go. This was posted from Flock, the integration services is an interesting idea.

*I did test the NTNU Library toolbar on Flock

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Integrated search & news


I gave a presentation of what was termed “integrated search” and “news” at NTNU Library’s internal seminar last Thursday (2009-05-28); what I presented can be characterized in the following:

  • context-based services
  • RSS/Atom
  • Search

The last two aren’t really that interesting, but the first item really is.

I made the point that our users are dependent on profile-services (i.e. services where they have a username and password that links them to an account that contains some details about them). These profile services often contain information that is relevant to their research/study interests (remember that we’re talking about a university library here).

I created two mock-ups, one of the university intranett, where a member of staff or student will have their department listed as part of their profile data; and a second one based on the learning management system in use at NTNU, Its:Learning. In the latter, it is possible to specify search sources including recommended reading, and resources linked directly to a programme of study.

Connecting the profile data on their interests with a set of resources/news feeds can hardly be described as difficult, so why is this not yet being done? To be honest, it is difficult for the library to get access to the necessary APIs to enable us to link our data to the data in these restricted, profile-based resources. We had extensive communication with Its:Learning, only to be told that they weren’t interested in working with us (they had other priorities). A shame really in this latter case, because we pretty much had everything ready from our side.

The idea of creating relevance by linking known research/study interests together with the library’s resources is not new, and in fact I have just taken receipt of the result of a customer-driven project by some students from NTNU’s computer science department. The students delivered a nice example of a feed aggregator that can also classify feeds according to “Norsk inndeling av vitenskapsdisipliner”, a Norwegian classification system for scientific disciplines. This kind of aggregator was designed to slip easily into a model where the data si fed into other systems, preferably using the APIs mentioned above. In fact, that was the whole point (the students did a good job, by the way :)).

It was pointed out to me that Google (Scholar) rules the roost when it comes to search, but I still reckon that providing quality information to academics based on relevance criteria will provide time-savings compared to the Google alternative. Google Scholar is a really good tool, but it just can’t beat the relevance of information in the small, commercial subject databases that the library provides its users. The problem is getting the users to look at these databases first — and it is here that the integration of search is a big issue.

The news approach provides links to the latest results from the databases and journals and is really a supplement to searching, it saves users time by providing users with the newest research in their field. Google can’t really do this acceptably well yet (sort by latest is hit and miss at best), so we have a good reason to provide this kind of service.

Standards: journal table of contents alerting


I work a lot with the academic community at university, and I note that a lot of the work of finding new articles can be simplified by using news feeds. Unfortunately, the quality of news feeds that can be subscribed to varies immensely.

If I were to take the step of aggregating the various news feeds for the different academic communities using the Java-WS FeedAggregator, the content I would be presenting would not be coherent. Some of the news feeds do not contain the journal information (“hey this is the feed for journal X”, which works fine as long as the content isn’t aggregated away from the context of “this journal’s feed”, others lack other information such as year, volume and issue.

Not a problem you might say, but I have a scenario I’d like to paint for you: all of the journals use a common standard design for their feeds containing at a minimum:

  • Article title
  • Article authors
  • Article abstract
  • Journal title
  • Journal year, volume and issue
  • Journal ISSN (print and online)
  • an OpenURL
  • DOI

Based on this standard, it wouldn’t be difficult to aggregate content from various sources and create a simple, duplicate-free feed that staff and students could use to keep themselves up to date.

As it is at the moment, the best a library user can hope for is that their favourite research database provides a search-to-RSS service.

This thing is though that as journal publishers slowly realise that content of this kind is best represented in multiple formats that an XML format will allow them to transform their journal TOCS to precisely this: email alerts, RSS, ATOM, JSON and so on. There is no real incentive to create a standard way of presenting this kind of data as a feed, but it would provide benefits for everyone concerned (yes, the publishers too!)

iPhone, NTNU Library continued


As part of the last round of development, we continued adding content to the XML sources. We’ve supplied all of the details for each of the 11 branch libraries at NTNU Library.

A very dull, intensive job, but it is done now.

Take a look 🙂

Conference: emtacl10 — emerging technologies in academic libraries


I happen to know that the first announcement of this conference is just around the corner, so I thought that I’d give it a bit of press now: emtacl10: emerging technologies in academic libraries. [Update: dates 26-28 April 2010!]

In layman’s terms, this is a web 2.0 conference with a difference: it’s aimed fairly and squarely at the higher educational library sector. Sounds exciting? I hope so!

Head on over to for more information.

iPhone — NTNU Library


We pushed out a little web-app that creates an iPhone webapp for NTNU Library.

The web app can be viewed in any Safari browser, but is best viewed via an iPhone or iPod Touch.

The current prototype features a few non-functioning mockups, but it gives an impression of what we’re currently thinking. The project is in a review phase during the current development cycle, so any comments/feedback gratefully received! (Comment below!)

Is there anything special here? Well, in a way: the data you see is all gathered from a set of XML files that also form the basis for a few other related projects. More on these projects later.

Oh, and everything is available to you in both English and Norwegian (BokmĂ„l) depending on whether you’re using BokmĂ„l as your interface language on your iPhone/iPod.

The develepment track can go in many directions, and we’re looking at different ways of achieving the same results including but not limited to XML/XSLT and an iPhone App (as opposed to a web app).



FRIDA, eller Forskningsresultater, informasjon og dokumentasjon av vitenskapelige aktiviteter, er den grei, eller dĂ„rlig … altsĂ„ er den konge, eller does it BITE? You decide!

Seven great things about Zotero


Just a quick list (doncha love ’em?) about Zotero:

  1. It’s free and open source
  2. It does more or less what every other reference management tool does as well, or better
  3. It’s where I work (in the web browser)
  4. It works on my Linux machine, my Mac laptop and the Windows machine at the help desk
  5. I can work with the same references from multiple computers without having to think about it
  6. I can save webpages as is, and annotate them
  7. Getting references into my documents works, irrespective of whether I’m using LATEX, Google Docs, OpenOffice, Microsoft Word…