The Libhub Initiative - Increasing Library Relevance through the Web.

Here's an awkward little secret – while libraries have a vast set of unique, high-quality, curated resources, the Web can't see them in any consistent or actionable way.

As libraries work to assert themselves as relevant, they need to speak in a way the Web can see and represent consistently. Our users live on the web and rely on the Web to deliver information resources, yet the lack of access to harvestable library data and a consistent way to understand that information has removed libraries from view of Web users. This lack of visibility comes from our industry's use of legacy systems and, in part, the limitations of legacy, non-Web, data standards like MARC 21.

The Libhub initiative focuses the community on moving beyond legacy limitations and making libraries visible again where our users need us – the Web.

1. What is the background behind Libhub?

In 2011 The Library of Congress contracted with Zepheira, LLC a consulting company with standards and data expertise especially with libraries, to define the way forward for moving library data into the Web. The current vehicle for sharing library data, the MARC record is not feasible as an ongoing method. For the past 2 years, Zepheira has been defining a linked data model called BIBFRAME. When MARC data is converted to BIBFRAME and exposed to the Web, it is discoverable via Web search engines and other Web discoverable applications. BIBFRAME has been tested by many large libraries (British Library, German National Library, Princeton to name a few) in early experiments. Zepheira is now starting a project called The Libhub Initiative that aims to convert hundreds of library’s bibliographic records and publish them on the Web to build a core set of library data on the Web. As you can imagine, simply loading one library’s data onto the Web wouldn’t make any impact and therefore a large dataset must be collated and linked.

2. What is the goal?

The objective of The Libhub Initiative is to publish BIBFRAME resources to the Web, cross-link resources which are common among libraries, and, through cross-linking improve the ability for people to discover these resources on the open Web. The goal is ultimately that users would then be able to click on appropriate resources and be taken back to the library’s catalog.

3. Will I need to change my ILS to participate in Libhub/BIBFRAME?

No. Even though the MARC record will not be evolving, it will take years for the industry to migrate fully over to the BIBFRAME standard. Libraries would continue with their existing workflow in obtaining and loading MARC records in their current environments. To participate in Libhub, libraries would only need to export their MARC records. 

4. Will this replace my current discovery layer or OPAC?

No. The Libhub initiative would work in parallel with existing discovery layers and OPACs. The benefit of BIBFRAME is that persons using a search engine would happen upon library data and be then taken to the local OPAC or discovery layer.

5. What is the relationship between the Libhub Initiative and OCLC?

While there is no official relationship between the Libhub Initiative and OCLC, it is important to note that OCLC is broadly known for their support of Linked Data and actively speaks about integration of Linked Data into their strategy. In January 2015, OCLC published a white paper with the Library of Congress entitled “Common Ground: Exploring Compatibilities Between the Linked Data Models of the Library of Congress and OCLC.” The white paper recommended that OCLC develop and test technical solutions that capture information expressed in BIBFRAME. In February, OCLC hosted a Collective Insight Series titled, “Linked Data [R]evolution: Applying Linked Data Concepts” to explain their work with Linked Data and showcase people experimenting with Linked Data in libraries.

6. What are the costs?

For the experimental phase, there are no costs to Libraries. If we can deliver on the promise of BIBFRAME and have library results presented at or near the top of page results, it is our intent to offer a modest subscription service that would have a Library export existing and subsequent additions and deletions to the Libhub / BIBFRAME cloud service.

7. What are the top three reasons to participate in The Libhub Initiative?

Reason #1 Allows libraries to have a strong voice in the transition: Today, vendors are steering the features and functions of the tools libraries use to interact with their patrons. These tools keep libraries from effectively participating in the Web as data is locked away in their proprietary systems and is not made available to be indexed by major search engines. Libraries have an opportunity to take the reins in this inevitable transition and tell vendors what they require. As a proving ground for the new BIBFRAME standard, the Libhub Initiative will be a vehicle for driving requirements to library systems vendors. Inviting vendors to participate in the Libhub Initiative as partners initiates a critical conversation that will allow libraries to have a voice in the transition of the tools and services on which they rely as they adapt to the new standard. 

Reason #2 Demonstrates that libraries can transform their role in the modern world:  The Web represents the biggest alternative, threat, and, at the same time, opportunity for libraries. To “leap frog” the current state and demonstrate the impact to local funding sources, existing patrons and non-library users, libraries must use the power of the Web. To date, legacy standards and systems have limited libraries ability to reach their patrons via the Web, but new standards and tools are emerging as a solution. The Libhub Initiative provides a proving ground for the effectiveness of the new BIBFRAME standard, identifies opportunities for refinements/improvement and accelerates community adoption by demonstrating the impact of BIBFRAME in a tangible way.

Reason #3 Develops an immediate on-ramp and resources for the library community:  While MARC is dead, it will continue to be in play for several years. Libraries need to move to a new standard way of exposing library data on the web sooner, but how?  Who will lead the way with information on how to adopt the standards, provide tools and infrastructure, and give the community a place to have a conversation about the change? This is the purpose of the Libhub Initiative -- it provides resources for the community to make the transition and is key to accelerating adoption and speeding the return of libraries to the forefront of people's minds as an information resource.  Those who participate in the Libhub Initiative will be paving the way to provide the "on-ramp" for the rest of the library community to make the transition.  

8.  When will The Libhub Initiative begin?

Libhub was launched at the American Library Association Conference in Las Vegas, June 2014. Libhub Initiative Founding Partners - public libraries from across the US and Canada - purchased the "Early Adopter Package" of training, assessment services and data pilots, all with the goal of creating Web-ready BIBFRAME resources from existing MARC records.  As of the end of March 2015, twelve public libraries had committed to the effort, and their resources are being revealed to the Web for greater Visibility.

9. How can I get involved?

In addition to adding your support to The Libhub Initiative and contributing MARC records, there are other BIBFRAME services that Zepheira offers such as training and readiness assessment. Several organizations have gone through our Linked Data and BIBFRAME training courses including the National Library of Medicine, National Library Board of Singapore, Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University and George Mason University. Librarians that have been actively involved in the evolution of RDA will definitely want to learn more about the much broader application and appeal of BIBFRAME.

10. Where can I learn more?

Zepheira and both the Libhub Initiative Partners and Sponsors are making information available on their experiences in public presentations, webinars, and other media.  You can also contact us with your direct queries.


Eventbrite - Linked Data in Libraries and Libhub Initiative Introduction

By registering your support, we will add you to the list of recipients to be notified of the regular Webinar schedule.