Metadata priorities and focus profile: VIAF
The Metadata standards committee exchanged emails with Hayley Moreno (OCLC-VIAF Liaison, Database Specialist II), who in turn shared our Outreach Survey with her colleagues on the VIAF team. Hayley’s role as VIAF Liaison exists to serve as support for VIAF and as the main contact person for the VIAF Council. She is also involved with maintenance of the VIAF database working directly with VIAF contributors and data providers regarding accuracy with authority clustering.
The VIAF® (Virtual International Authority File) service — an OCLC service since 2012 — has its origins as a collaborative activity of the United States Library of Congress, the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek), the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France) and OCLC Research. This OCLC service provides access to a global set of library name authority files and has the distinction of being one of the most frequently used datasets in the library domain. It also serves as an excellent example of an important linked data hub.
The distinctive work of the VIAF is to cluster authority records from different countries for the same entity. In concert with OCLC’s non-profit mission to make information more accessible and useful to people on a global scale, the VIAF aggregates and makes available valuable library authority work from national libraries and other agencies.
OCLC provides shared technology services, conducts original research, and hosts community programs to address the ever-evolving needs of library users, libraries, archives, and other interested communities. As the world’s largest library cooperative, OCLC and its members continually improve metadata creation, interoperability, and indexing.
VIAF Council represents the VIAF Contributor agencies and advises OCLC on both strategic and tactical matters related to the VIAF. VIAF Council and the VIAF team at OCLC routinely monitor standards activity and other relevant work by the ALCTS MARC Advisory Committee (MAC), the DCMI (Dublin Core Metadata Initiative), Europeana, ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier), ORCID, the LITA /ALCTS Authority Control Interest Group, NISO, the PCC (Program for Cooperative Cataloging), the SAA (Society of American Archivists) Metadata and Digital Object Section, schema.org, and the W3C.
More information about VIAF is available on the OCLC website: https://www.oclc.org/en/viaf.html.
VIAF focus and future work
The VIAF database can ingest various versions of MARC and output data in a variety of linked data formats. The VIAF service utilizes RDF, an important metadata schema, since it is widely consumed on the Web and supports linked data. At the same time, one challenge for consumers of RDF is that external systems output RDF differently. The VIAF team would like to see more harmonization or a commitment to a common output form that is standard.
The VIAF team continually works to improve matching algorithms for clustering in the VIAF and to support FRBR-inspired clustering of WorldCat bibliographic data. Currently, the VIAF team is supporting internal discussion of OCLC’s plans for linked data, and the team views linked data as critical to VIAF’s future work and development.
Critical work in diversity, inclusion and accessibility
Aggregation is central to the work of the VIAF and as such they accept authority files in native form from a diverse domain of experts. VIAF has implemented Unicode support and can handle a wide variety of scripts presented by the files VIAF ingests. Aiming for inclusivity, the VIAF team has actively worked with users to translate the VIAF interface into several different languages.
On the “subjects” side of OCLC operations, the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system’s editorial team has been consulting with indigenous nations to create DDC numbers reflecting their geographic, political, etc. perspectives of these peoples. This work, led by Rebecca Green, has recently been presented at the SIG/CR workshop, October 27, 2017, “Providing for Indigenous Nations in the Dewey Decimal Classification.” See: https://sigcr.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/2017sigcrslides-green.pdf.