The beautiful French city of Strasbourg played host to the fourth Meeting of the OCLC EMEA Regional Council in February. The 300 delegates, from 28 countries, enjoyed a sparkling programme organised under the banner of Dynamic Data: A world of possibilities, exploring the opportunities that today’s data aggregations present.
The opening keynote, Jean-Baptiste Michel spoke about his research at Harvard University with collaborator Erez Lieberman Aiden. They asked Google for access to all the books so far digitised by the corporation, and found themselves with a databank of “50 million books, 12 per cent of all books ever written anywhere – a huge chunk of human culture.” They slimmed the dataset down to five million – those with annotated publication dates and attributed authors – and extracted ‘n-grams’, chunks of words and phrases, counting the number of occurrences of each one in books published between 1500 and 2008. The data is available at books.google.com/ngrams.
“This is really a tool that we can point to anything,” Michel said. “Libraries and text repositories are at the front line of a real revolution in the social sciences and humanities, which changes the way we’re approaching questions about the human experience,” he concluded.
Mining the gems of the library world
OCLC’s Roy Tennant gave a presentation on the insights he has derived from mining WorldCat’s 290 million records. A list of the most widely held works in libraries around the world, generated from WorldCat, points to significant cultural influences and the way they are distributed. He spoke of the shift from “cataloguing to catalinking” with the growing influence of Linked Data. “Instead of having all the data in the record,” he said, “you have linkages out to these authority sources, and you can pull data in, process it, index it, but you do not manufacture it.”
Libraries in the vanguard of the Linked Data revolution
OCLC’s Technology Evangelist, Richard Wallis, laid out the basics of Linked Data. “For any Linked Data representation, you start with an identifier,” he began. “The URL uniquely identifies that resource in any dataset. We can then interrogate that identifier to find out more about the resource.” Wallis took the audience through OCLC’s work in this area, explaining that all WorldCat records now have embedded linked data.
Klaus Ceynowa’s presentation on innovations at Bavaria State Library brought to a close the fourth OCLC EMEA Regional Council meeting, with its towering themes of data aggregation and collaboration. He started with Treasures of the Bavarian Library app, which provides mobile access to 50 medieval manuscripts. More recently the Library has combined its own content with augmented reality browsers and similarity-based image searching, to deliver a mobile app which can access historical images of buildings that previously stood on the site where the user is currently located. “Content is king, and librarians have the content,” said Ceynowa, “but context is queen, and we must focus the delivery of content to the contexts in which our users find themselves.”
The EMEA Regional Council 2013 videos are now available on the event website where you can watch the full length presentations.