Thanks to a tip from Ian, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) attending the Linked Data Planet conference in New York City as a volunteer. The idea is that I just have to pay for my hotel, and the cost of admission is waived. It seems my travel money is a bit limited at the moment (sometimes it’s there, sometimes it isn’t), so I figured minimizing costs would be appreciated. But today I got a request to “justify” my attendance at the conference. It was actually kind of a good exercise to sit down and write why I think the conference and Linked Data in general is important to the Library of Congress.

One of the challenges of Digital Repository work is modeling the context for digital objects. The context for a digital object includes the set of relationships a particular digital object has with other objects in the repository. 30 years of relational database research and development have allowed us to do this modeling pretty effectively within the scope of a particular application.

Very often, particularly in institutions the size of the Library of Congress, the context for a digital object includes digital objects found elsewhere in the enterprise–in other applications, with their own databases. In addition some institutions (like LC) also need to make their digital resources available publicly for other organizations to reference. The challenge here is in making the objects found in silos or islands of application data (typically housed in databases) reference-able and resolvable, so that other applications inside and outside the enterprise can use them.

As a practical example, a picture of Dizzie Gilliespie found in the America Memory collection

is related to the book:

To be, or not–to bop: memoirs / Dizzy Gillespie, with Al Fraser.

which we have described in our online catalog. The person Dizzy Gillespie is also represented in LC’s name authority file with the Library of Congress Control Number n50033872, and the Linked Authority File at OCLC. And perhaps this picture of Dizzie Gillespie in American Memory will find it’s way into the World Digital Library application that is currently being built. How can we practically and explicitly identify and then represent the relationships between these resources? Is it even possible?

The Linked Data Planet conference is a two day workshop describing how to use traditional web technologies in conjunction with semantic web technologies (RDF, OWL, SPARQL, RDFa and GRDDL) to enable this sort of linking of resources inside particular applications, within the enterprise and around the world. My hope is that the conference will provide guidance on simple things LC can do with web technologies that have been in use for 20 years, to model the relationships between digital resources at the Library of Congress.

Hopefully that will convince them :-)

Apologies to Madonna for the blog post title…