Semantic Web and library applications

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					Semantic Web and library applications.
This document gives some starting points for the Semantic Web and libraries workshop. Even
though it specifies some questions, the actual targets of the workshop will be formulated during the
first part of the session. The workshop is a true workshop in the sense that participants are asked to
actively approach the subject and work together on the final results and presentation. However,
nobody will be assumed to be an a priori specialist on the topic, and this includes the author of this

The Semantic Web focuses on creating a web of data, as opposed to the current Web, which is
focused on documents. This new approach will allow machines and automatic processes to access
information and reason about the (intended) meaning of documents. "The Semantic Web is a
vision." As the W3C, the consortium in charge of the definition of norms on the Web, sates in their
Semantic Web Activity Page: "the idea of having data on the Web defined and linked in such a way
that it can be used by machines not just for display purposes, but for automation, integration and
reuse of data across various applications." (Taken from the W3C Semantic Web activity statement
[]) The focus is on under the hood techniques. Quoting VU artificial
intelligence professor Frank van Harmelen in the European Research Consortium for Informatics
and Mathematics' special issue of January 2008 dedicated to the Semantic Web: "Semantic Web
technology is like Nikasil coating in the cylinders of a car: very few car drivers are aware of it, but
they are aware of reduced fuel consumptions and the extended lifetime of the engine. Semantic Web
technology is the Nikasil of the next generation of human friendly computer applications that are
being developed right now."

Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, stated in their
may 2007 report about the Semantic Web: "During the next ten years, web-based technologies will
improve the ability to embed semantic structures in documents, and create structured vocabularies
and ontologies to define terms, concepts and relationships. This will offer extraordinary advances
in the visibility and exploitation of information- especially in the ability of systems to interpret
documents and infer meaning without human intervention. ... The grand vision of the semantic web
will occur in multiple evolutionary steps, and small-scale initiatives are often the best starting

The opportunities raised by the technologies the Semantic Web could offer, are not perceived only
in a positive way in libraries. In some libraries the fear exists that "We're so far behind the curve
that, by the time we get some sense of Web 3.0 (red. Web 3.0 = Web 2.0 + the Semantic Web) it
will already have been surpassed. I wonder if we in LibraryLand are even aware that the
Singularity is near?" (comment by Mark Andrews on Fiona Bradley's weblog, which is dedicated
to library professionals discovering the semantic web: Fiona
Bradley is web manager at IFLA.) Fiona Bradley responds to this fear by stating that: "Often in
libraries, we don't really know what others are developing or thinking about until we see the
finished product. And that might be an unveiling of a new product at a conference, or a blog post.
And that might be a year or more after the library started developing that new service or
technology." I think this last statement perfectly formulates one of the goals of this workshop:
discover more about the Semantic Web and about what other libraries perceive as fruitful
ideas, changes and/or opportunities.
A proposed agenda (adding points to the agenda is very welcome):

   -   Discuss and explore current developments in Semantic Web standards, companies, products
       and examples. (SKOS, DCMI, FOAF, Museo Suomi and the NWO Choice project).
   -   Talk about Semantic Web expectations.
   -   Share Semantic Web ideas, plans, projects and experiences
   -   Openness of SW standards and some semantic web best practices suitable for libraries.

Three possible interaction points between Libraries and Semantic Web activities are: enrichment,
interoperability and access to data using semantics.

Interesting sub questions:
   -   What problems do enrichment, interoperability and access to data using semantics solve for
       the libraries?
   -   How do enrichment, interoperability and access to data using semantics change the role of
       the library of the future?
   -   Can we implement enrichment, interoperability, access to data using semantics in our own
       environment and what would it take/cost?
   -   What projects and ideas do we have with respect to enrichment, interoperability, access to
       data using semantics?
   -   Do's and don'ts when creating enrichment, interoperability, access to data using semantics.
   -   What time span do we need to think about before we would see the Semantic Web being
       implemented within libraries?
   -   What companies exist that are implementing these kinds of techniques?
   -   What is currently available with respect to software / methods etc.?

Interesting Sem. Web projects, conferences and workshops for librarians:
   -   Workshop on Semantic Interoperability in the European Digital Library
   -   Read a trip report on the first Semantic Web and Digital Libraries Conference
   -   Multimatch project (

Further reading:
   -   York Sure and Rudi Studer, two Semantic Web scientists have written: Semantic Web
       Technologies for Digital Libraries http://www.aifb.uni-
   -   blog on the semantic web and libraries by Fiona Bradley, IFLA web manager and librarian
       with interests in Open Access, technology, web services and access to information:
   -   Frank van Harmelen: Semantic Web Research anno 2006: main streams, popular fallacies,
       current status and future challenges. (
   -   Summary of Semantic Wave 2008: Industry Roadmap to Web 3.0 and Multibillion Dollar
       Market Opportunities:
   -   Slides of a presentation by one of the Semantic Webs founding fathers James Hendler:

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