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Exploring the Challenges & Uses of Linked Open Data for Digitized Special Collections

Over the last 2 decades, libraries and cultural heritage institutions have expended resources digitizing their important special collections. However, many of the resulting digital collections exist on the Web today only as standalone silos of content, not well connected to related resources. This impedes discovery and limits available context when using this content. The core hypothesis of this University of Illinois research project, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is that a Linked Open Data (LOD) approach to description could improve the connectedness of many digitized special collections. To begin testing this hypothesis, we are experimenting with LOD for 2 collections of theater-related images and 1 text-based collection pertaining to the life and works of Marcel Proust (~20,000 items in all).

In this webinar we describe outcomes to date, highlighting a few unique challenges in transforming legacy metadata into the more RDF-compatible semantics of and the automated and manual means we used to identify and add links to item descriptions. We also will show how we have leveraged LOD to enhance end-user views of resource descriptions. Now when a user views images in context, JavaScript on the page reads embedded LOD and retrieves additional links and descriptions in real-time from external LOD services. Mustache.js templates are then used to dynamically add this related information to the HTML display providing additional context and clickable links regarding the people (authors, actors, directors, etc.), venues (theaters), plays and performances related to each digitized image.


Professor Timothy W. Cole is Mathematics Librarian and Coordinator for Library Applications in the iSchool’s Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is Principal Investigator of Exploring Benefits for Users of Linked Open Data for Digitized Special Collections and has published widely on metadata, Web annotation and the use of Linked Open Data in libraries. Cole is past co-chair of the W3C Web Annotation Working Group. A member of the Illinois faculty since 1989, Cole has held prior posts in the Library Systems Office and Engineering Library. He will receive the 2017 LITA/OCLC Kilgour Award for Research in Library and Information Technology at this summer's meeting of the American Library Association.

Alex Olivia Kinnaman received her Master's in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2017. She has also previously served as a research assistant for the HathiTrust Research Center and completed a thesis focused in digital repository certifications. As a graduate research assistant for this project, Alex played key roles in metadata cleaning, identifying links for entities mentioned in metadata descriptions, and in conducting and analyzing user testing.

Deren Kudeki, visiting Research Programmer, graduated from the University of Illinois in 2014 with a degree in Computer Science. He previously worked at the University Library's Content Access and Management unit (cataloging and metadata), developing tools for fixing authority data in bibliographic records and generating new records. As the primary developer for this project, Deren is responsible for the JavaScript code that enriches end-user interface displays with information from and links to resources on the Web related to the items in the 3 collections being used for LOD experimentation.