rusq: Vol. 52 Issue 3: p. 255
Sources: Facilitating Access to the Web of Data: A Guide for Librarians
Margaret Henderson

Research Services Librarian, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

When first looking into e-science, data curation, or linked data, it is easy to become overwhelmed when confronted with information-packed websites such as the e-Science Portal for New England Librarians (http://esciencelibrary.umassmed.edu/index), the Digital Curation Center (www.dcc.ac.uk), or Linked Data (http://linkeddata.org/home), even before learning about the Semantic Web (http://semanticweb.org/wiki/Main_Page). So, it is a relief to find a book that pulls together all the basics in these areas into a readable volume of reasonable size. In this book, the web of data is defined as “data that is structured in a machine-readable format that has been published openly on the web” (x).

What makes this book useful for all librarians is the breadth of data covered. Dr. David Stuart is a researcher at the Center for e-Research at King’s College London, and as the e-Research in the name suggests, he covers more than just the traditional science research data sets that many people think of when they think of data. Museum artifact data, library catalog data, population data, even personal data, such as contact information, are all considered in this book.

The book begins with a discussion of open data, such as government data and science and commercial data that have been made available to all users. Stuart notes that libraries can play a role in the promotion of local government data sets that are of interest to a limited number of users. His chapter on the semantic web is a great introduction to the topic; it distinguishes between metadata for documents and additional semantic information for data to make it more findable and usable. Resource description framework (RDF) and Simple Protocol and RDF Query Language (SPARQL) are introduced as semantic web tools. Stuart also includes a discussion of the ontologies and new vocabularies that are being developed for the Semantic Web. The suggestion and development of ontologies is a task especially suited to librarians. In fact, according to Stuart, “Unless library and information professionals become more involved with the semantic web, they risk users reinventing the wheel” (86).

This book is filled with clear explanations of the many technologies and software types that may be encountered when one is searching for data. Stuart addresses various ways to collect and organize data to make it usable for patrons who need the data, including the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and some computer codes that will help. In addition, he provides some data analysis solutions for users who don’t have the skills to analyze the data on their own.

This book is ideal for practicing librarians who want learn about this new service area. But it also pays homage to the underlying philosophies of librarianship, which broadens its appeal and makes it suitable for LIS students as well as practicing professionals. For instance, Stuart looks at data through the lens of Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Librarianship, paraphrasing the first law (“Books are for use”) as “Data is for use, whatever its format.” Looking at data in this way makes it clear why librarians need to learn the basics about data and how to access and use it. Stuart also notes that while information technology services may have more experience with data than librarians do, librarians have the interpersonal skills and subject specialization that will help get users to the data they need (122).



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