Through the Imagining Canada’s Future initiative, SSHRC selected “How can emerging technologies be leveraged to benefit Canadians” as future challenge area #5. Linked data, a web-native metadata standard that will replace MARC, the aging 1960s metadata structure currently used for library catalogues, is one of the emerging technologies that libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions in Canada need to adopt to ensure that Canada’s cultural heritage is easily discoverable on the ever growing and expanding world wide web (SSHRC 2016).

In response to this challenge, and to the realization that our colleagues in the United States and Europe are outpacing us in application of linked data, librarians at the University of Toronto, McGill University, Université de Montréal, University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia together with partners at Libraries and Archives Canada and la Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec formed the Canadian Linked Data Initiative (CLDI) in June 2015 (Canadian Linked Data Initiative 2015). The CLDI is planning a three-day summit on linked data in Montreal on October 24 to 26, 2016. 

This summit is critical because the shift away from MARC to linked data using the Resource Description Framework (RDF) can be equated in terms of complexity, expense, and difficulty to the shift from card catalogues to the first online library catalogues. Linked data presents a new way of thinking about resource description and will allow libraries to change the current practice of creating specialized metadata in different units of one library (cataloguing, special collections, archives, maps and data, the institutional repository, digital collections). To be successful, librarians in Canada must work across departments, institutions, and countries to create new workflows and tools and provide the training that allows professionals to adapt to a new conceptual understanding of descriptive metadata. 

The summit will consist of presentations and panel discussions involving linked data innovators from across the US, Europe, and Canada on the first day, practical hands-on workshops on the second day, and a working meeting on the third day in which sponsoring members collaborate to identify concrete next steps and draft a strategic plan for linked data in Canadian libraries. 

Attendance at the summit during the first two days will be open to librarians across Canada. We expect approximately 100 attendees in total, and that the event will primarily be of interest to those library staff specializing in cataloguing and/or technology. In an effort to involve Canada’s newest library professionals in the changes to come, we will also invite graduate students in the Library and Information Science schools at each of the sponsoring institutions. A social event is planned for the first evening to enable attendees to network and build relationships.

The goals of the summit are twofold. First, the conference will increase awareness of the importance of Linked Data for libraries, share expertise, and foster collaborations between emerging and established scholars and practitioners and between large and small institutions, both nationally and internationally. This will be accomplished by inviting a wide swath of Canadian librarians and library school graduate students, and hosting speakers from large scale collaborative linked data projects and other Linked Data leaders. The second goal is to provide an opportunity for the CLDI members to mitigate the difficulties of working across units, across institutions, and across the country by providing a venue for all members to meet face-to-face and discuss methods of moving forward.


contact email: clds2016.library [at] mcgill.ca

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