Give me your data — please

Tim Berners Lee gave a talk about what can be done with the open data released by governments, scientists and institutions. Here’s the video from the TED 2009 Conference where he shows the principles of linked data.

“Give me your data, put your data on the web, on the basis that if people put data onto the web […] it will be used by other people to do wonderful things, in ways that they never could have imagined” Tim Berners-Lee

But wait, all this is not a new concept for us. We had historically been favourable to deliver all types of information to users for free. The aim to share all the knowledge and bring it all to the world is written in the DNA of every single librarian. Yes, it is true, but we can go one step further.

The data of the Library of Congress’ catalog, for example, has been accessible online for years, including bibliographic records, authorities and subjects. This is a benefit for all the librarian comunity because it allows to share, adapt, improve, contribute back and reuse all this content.

We need data. Raw data. Open raw data to allow lots of different people -librarians or not- to analize, reuse and visualize it. It will be easier to make new and more intelligent tools to search and browse if data is fully available and interoperable. We have plenty of metadata to release. Maybe if we go for open data, from librarians to content providers, our future discovery tool will be smarter than Google.

There is lots of information on the Internet that is not managed or generated by us –yes, it’s true! And some of this data is already available as linked data, so we can use it. We can create mashups with YouTube, Twitter or Wikipedia in creative ways, for only mentioning some examples, and make better tools.

But what if people that are not librarians want to mash up our data? Will they understand it? Well, if it is in MARC format, of course not! We have standards like Z39.50, SRU, OAI, DC, RDA and other letter soup that have been our tools to make our data interoperable between different library systems. And the web has its own too. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

About this post

This post was first published on LibTechNotes, a blog from the Library team at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya to share our everyday findings, solutions and inspirations.