oxford dictionary of national biography

It’s interesting to see that the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has created Cool URIs for their index of notable people. So for example if you want an identifier for JRR Tolkien you can use:


Alas, the full content of the biography isn’t available (unless you subscribe), but I guess some publishers still have business models to hold on to. To see all the entries you have to browse them.

I think it’s a nice simple example of how authority files can be integrated into the web as we know it. Thanks to Caroline Arms for forwarding this on to me…

March on Washington


Begins: Sat, 27 Jan 2007 at 11:00 AM

Ends: Sat, 27 Jan 2007 at 2:00 PM


Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets

Washington, DC 20002


Link: more info

Mark your calendars, and let me know if you need a place to stay...

identifiers and authority records

Authority files are rather important for unambiguously talking about a person, place or thing. In database lingo they essentially amount to a primary key for a table. Given the time and effort libraries spend in maintaining authority records and assigning control numbers to individuals it makes sense that a URI could be assigned to an individual in such authority files. I realize this idea is nothing new, but until recently I hadn’t seen it put into practice particularly well.

I imagine this has been there all along but I just noticed that OCLC’s Linked Authority File includes PURLs for authors now. For example the following URL contains a LCCN:


When you GET this your browser is automatically redirected with an HTTP 302 to:


which you’ll notice is a OAI-PMH request to fetch a DublinCore record with the identifier n79-7035:

  <dc:creator xmlns:rdf="http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#">
    Borges, Jorge Luis,--1899-
  <dc:description xmlns:rdf="http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#">
    SuaÌrezLynch, B.--nnnc

So now we know who this identifier is for, and the established heading for the individual. But it gets better (or worse depending on your perspective). Since this is an OAI-PMH server you can issue a ListMetadataFormats request to see what other flavors this record might be available in. If you do you’ll find out that this record is also available as marcxml in all its unholy glory (if you follow that link your browser will use a stylesheet to turn the raw xml into something a bit more presentable). Putting aside my snideness about MARC for a moment, this is a lot of useful data being made available.

You can also search the name authority file and get relevant PURLs via a SOAP/REST service. For example the irc bot panizzi in #code4lib actually has a bit of logic that allows it do lookups in the linked authority file:

06:56 < edsu> @naf borges, jorge
06:56 < panizzi> edsu: [20 matches] [~1] Borges, Jorge Luis, 1899- 
                 <http://errol.oclc.org/laf/n79-7035>; [~2] Macedo, Jorge 
                 Borges de. <http://errol.oclc.org/laf/n82-149895>; [~3] 
                 Borges, Jorge G. (Jorge Guillermo), 1874-1938 
                 <http://errol.oclc.org/laf/n90-681877>; [~4] Sua?rez Lynch, B.                  
                 <http://errol.oclc.org/laf/n82-21644>; [~5] Borges, Jorge 
                 Wheliton Miranda <http://errol.oclc.org/laf/n92-76758>; [~6] 
                 Canido Borges, Jorge Oscar (3 more messages)

All in all it’s an impressive mix of technology, standards and practice. It is not entirely clear to me how this work relates to the Virtual International Authority File. Perhaps LAF wasn’t considered a good acronym? If you are interested in such things Thom Hickey had a really interesting talk at Access2006 which has audio available.


DemoCampDC is an adaptation of BarCamp to provide an informal mechanism for sharing technology shtuff in the DC area. If you are interested and in the DC area please add your name to the list of attendees and stay tuned.


22:01 < edsu> i would try to separate them now before it's 
      too late :)
22:02 < erikhatcher> it's never too late, but i certainly want 
      to keep this clean from the start

New Years Resolution #9 - never underestimate the power of a positive attitude…


Yes it’s almost as though consumers have moved on because mainstream media has abdicated its responsibility…



In case you missed it linux.com is running an article by Michael Stutz on Evergreen, an open source integrated library system developed by the state of Georgia to support a consortium of 44 different libraries. (Thanks for the link Adam)

Hanging out with miker_ and bradl in irc and having open-ils in my feed reader makes me take this sort of work for granted sometimes…and Michael’s article made me wake up and marvel at how truly remarkable the work they’ve done is.

The evergreen folks are hosting this years code4libcon where I’m supposed to be doing a presentation on the Atom Publishing Protocol. It’s a low cost/pragmatic alternative to the usual library technology conference options–and will be a good opportunity to buy these Evergreeners a beer. I hope to see you there.

the beeb and file sharing

Recognizing and leveraging the benefits of protocols like bittorrent in “legitimate” media distribution seems like a huge step forward. I guess I have to admit I’m also pretty excited about the prospect of .torrent files for Red Dwarf and Doctor Who episodes. But, still there will be some kind of digital-rights-management built in, so it won’t be totally open.

Imperiled Federal Libraries

Tim Reiterman has a good article about imperiled federal libraries, and their collections…some of which are already ending up in dumpsters.

I think we are living in a world of digitized information…In the end there will be better access.

(Linda Travers of the EPA)

Which makes me wonder what “end” she is talking about. I think there is a real danger as more and more information goes online that people simply assume that paper collections are no longer necessary.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the libraries that are currently in danger the most belong to the Environmental Protection Agency, whose library budget is being slashed by 80 percent. These collections and others that are in danger (like NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) have collections that support research into global warming.

If you are interested in learning more and what you can do about it ALA has a useful resource page that allows you to contact your representative using a service similar to EFF’s action center.

miniature earth

If there world’s population were reduced to 100, it would look something like this.

(thanks Jeroen)