Library professionals and vendors who had gone through this training wanted a platform for sharing what they had learned and for having more conversations about linked data and how it could help libraries. This informal alumni group has more than 600 members, including library vendors such as Atlas Systems, Inc., Innovative, SirsiDynix, and EBSCO Information Services. “The goal there was to bring together people based on these great questions libraries were bringing up,” says Penka. Libhub’s pledge became, “I believe everyone benefits from the visibility of libraries and their content on the web.”
Libhub offers focus groups, discussion forums, and other avenues for sharing information. From this, Zepheira gained more library customers that wanted to work individually to see what their data would look like as linked data. Zepheira can point these customers toward Libhub and encourage them to share what they’ve learned. Penka says that although Zepheira had been doing these types of data audits since 2007, now there is a conversation involving libraries and their vendors. “So it’s kind of a fun little ecosystem,” he says. “We were doing training, we were doing special projects with libraries, but vendors that we were talking to and founded the initiative with wanted to go through the training, and then they wanted to work on special projects, so a lot of learning really happened under the Libhub Initiative … in libraries, within the web, and within the different library service providers.”
What came out of all of this sharing and learning, says Penka, “was that everybody realized we had a real opportunity to change the lack of library visibility on the web in a measurable fashion pretty quickly. That would allow us … to amplify these libraries’ stories.”
In 2016, 2 years after Libhub’s creation, Zepheira introduced the Library.Link Network, which “brings together libraries and their providers to tell the Web localized, comprehensive, connection-rich stories.” While Libhub is an ongoing group, Library.Link is a shareable infrastructure that allows libraries to leverage their data as a way to become more visible on the web. Additionally, on Library.Link, libraries can purchase solutions such as SirsiDynix’s BLUEcloud Visibility, Innovative Linked Data, and NoveList’s Linked Library Service.
According to the website, there are four steps to becoming part of the network:
- A library claims and activates their Local Link Graph domain on The Library.Link Network.
- The Library adds key descriptive information like locations, hours, links, and services to their Local Graph.
- The Library determines how much additional information they wish to make visible (e.g. catalog, events, special collections, and archives).
- The Library works with their providers to begin publishing the desired content to their Local Graph.
Zepheira uses BIBFRAME to transform the source data into linked data, which is then linked across the Local Graph and external websites and published in a variety of vocabularies, allowing the web to harvest the data and begin pointing to it. “[T]he web will come in and consume it, and now the web will start to learn what libraries are—what we provide that’s unique besides being a local business that has a street address, what we actually have to offer these communities. And we found that in talking to the libraries, there’s a willingness to participate in this with their existing partners and new partners.”
Zepheira began working with vendors to help libraries make visibility on the web a turnkey solution, one that is low-cost and not proprietary. “And that’s been our requirement, as we’ve worked with different partnerships—SirsiDynix, Innovative, NoveList, Atlas, EBSCO—is that we’re saying, ‘We’ll work with you, but this isn’t allowed to be limited, it has to be something that everyone can participate in,’” says Penka. Library.Link could be considered visibility-as-a-service, he says. Libraries use their own URL, but Zepheira runs the infrastructure, conversion, servers, and other elements on the technology side. It just needs a library’s data.
Zepheira is currently building an advisory group made up of industry heavyweights from the library, web, and data spaces. “[W]e were looking at the Libhub Initiative, the Library.Link Network, and more broadly, some other activities, and we brainstormed a list of people that we’ve trusted for personal and professional advice in the space over the last 20 years of work with the Web,” says Penka.
“For the group that we’re trying to assemble around advisory work, the folks that we’re talking about will bring together many points of view, and our goal is to make that a balanced perspective about how can we make sure we’re using web and data technology to better serve the Web users out there with quality data and quality fulfillment options.”