Opening up library databases with linked data

Databases like the WASH Library and the SuSanA Library would be of far greater value if their catalogue records were made available as open linked data, i,e,

available to anyone, in a machine-processable format that [can] immediately be integrated automatically with similar data from other sources, rather than available only to human eyeballs via the library’s online catalogue (excellent as that might be) [Semantic Publishing, 01 Mar 2013].

An OCLC video provides a good introduction to the linked data concept and how libraries can use and are using linked data.

It is clear that classic stand-alone library applications are on the way out.

Libraries can either participate in the larger metadata community via technologies like linked data and the Semantic Web or they can be pushed aside and ignored. [Virginia Schilling, 2012]

Following a digital review, IRC will be launching a new website later this year. The intention is to transform the WASH Library into a central document repository, which be fully integrated into the new website. This will require the development of a system-wide ontology (tagging system) for the website. One of the sources for the ontology will be IRC InterWATER Thesaurus.


Crowdsourcing publishing initiative for a library toolkit

Two US libraries are using crowdsourcing to develop an open access publication, the Library Publishing Toolkit.

The Toolkit is a united effort between Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo and the Monroe County Library System to identify trends in library publishing, seek out best practices to implement and support such programs, and share the best tools and resources.

The Rochester Regional Library Council is funding the Toolkit project.

Both academic and public libraries are being asked to submit 2-5 page best practice case studies, describing

innovative ways [they] are creating and distributing materials as a part of their public services, or how they are helping patrons with these tasks.

The project also encourages libraries to fill in an online survey describing their publication services.

Conferences of course use crowdsourcing principles too for collecting contributions (papers), but their end product – the conference proceedings – are generally unwieldy documents, lacking coherency and the least quoted of all research outputs.

For WASH information projects with limited resources, crowdsourcing (with the right incentives) is an option worth considering.

RDA: Resource Description and Access

The RDA: Resource Description and Access is set to become the new international cataloguing standard for all kinds of materials, especial;y digital resources.
Some interesting elements from the RDA brochure:
  • RDA emphasizes ‘taking what you see’, thus encouraging machine-capture of metadata without extensive editing – saving cataloguers’ time.
  • RDA’s use of FRBR entities makes it possible to design better displays in catalogues for clustering information about the same title together (e.g., translations,abridgements, different physical formats).
The full table of elements of  RDA is published in RDA Element Analysis (July 2009) [PDF format]
It would be worthwhile for a WASH Information Consortium to set up a working group on information standards/cataloguing that would look more closely at the usefulness of RDA, digital identifiers etc.
Web links:

On abstracts, summaries and blurbs

What dfferent types of abstracts and summaries are there and why should every publication have one? Three types and their uses are summarised below. Elements from these abstracts & summaries form the basis of publication announcements, which can be augmented with author quotes, infographics and  related multimedia.

Type Description Use
Indicative abstract Stand-alone description, 100-250 words Verso title page, library databases
Executive summary Structured summary of background (context & significance), methods, findings/outcomes & conclusions In publication before table of contents
Blurb Brief promotional statement (1-2 sentences) Web announcements & press releases

Indicative abstracts

For the IRC WASH Library, Bettie Westerhof produced guidelines for writing indicative abstracts, see

Important is that an indicative abstract should “ be complete in and of itself; that is, it should be able to serve as a stand-alone description which provides a complete picture of the document” with a length of 100-250 words.

“Its purpose is to acquaint users with the subject content of the document and to help them decide whether or not to consult the original document.”

Traditionally indicative abstracts are used in bibliographic databases and on the verso of the title page of books and reports.

Descriptive abstracts, executive summaries, author summaries

Academic publications (journal articles/dissertation) use descriptive abstracts with structured formats, e.g.:

Background, Methods, Results, Conclusions

Objective, Design, Setting, Participants, Interventions, Main outcome measure, Results, Conclusion

Here is a structured format for dissertations:

  • Study background and significance, Methodological components, Findings, Conclusions

Executive summaries are similar to descriptive abstracts but are usually used in project and business reports. Here are some examples guidelines:

PLoS Biology requires author’s to include an Author Summary, a “150-200 word non-technical summary […]to make findings accessible to an audience of both scientists and non-scientists. Ideally aimed to a level of understanding of an undergraduate student, the significance of the work should be presented simply, objectively, and without exaggeration”.

Blurbs & grabs

Blurbs are brief statements, one or two sentences,  about a publication, written to entice readers. Academic publisher PLoS Biology requires writers to include a blurb with their manuscript –

In business proposals the “grab”  has a similar function: “in two or three sentences you should tell the reader why your business is special” (

The blurb or grab is what you would use in a promotional announcement of the publication on your web site or in a press release Video gives users the ability to set up a themed topic, or multiple topics, so they can curate and update themes as content is discovered. Content can be added via a bookmarklet or using a post button on the topic page. It posts to Facebook and Twitter. [Mashable article on curation tools, 06 Jan 2011]

Internet prices in Africa: a comparative study

Internet prices are set in different ways in different countries. Often the customer has to pay part of the subscription in local currency and part in US dollars. Comparison between countries therefore becomes difficult and misleading. For this paper, Olof Hesselmark located the prices for a standard package consisting of the annual cost of a dial-up Internet service with 10 hours of day-time use per month, including telephone charges. The cost is given both in local currency and in US$, using the exchange rate of October 25-30 of 2003.

Bandwidth continues to be expensive. In many countries the telecom monopoly insist on remaining the sole supplier of international gateways and bandwidth. In many cases they deliberately hold back the supply of international bandwith, creating imbalances betweeen the demand and supply. The resulting high prices create sometimes large profits for the monopolies. The charges for bandwidth are outrageous, sometimes ten times higher than what can be obtained from independent suppliers of satellite connections6. 10 000 to 20 000 US$ per month per Mbps are the current prices charged in several countries. An ISP that has to pay 240 000 dollars per year for bandwidth needs the revenue from 600 customers before other costs begin to be covered.

Read the full paper (4 p., 03-11-2010)