Reflections on the European BIBFRAME Workshop

Attending the European BIBFRAME Workshop in Florence, Italy, was a great way to wrap up my first month with Index Data — and it wasn’t just about the hills, art, and food. The workshop proved to be an excellent introduction to the BIBFRAME community and the variety of exciting initiatives taking place around the globe.

The first thing that struck me was the true international nature of BIBFRAME. Of course the fact that there is a European BIBFRAME Workshop at all goes to show that BIBFRAME has grown well beyond its origins at the Library of Congress. This year’s workshop included more than 80 participants from countries across Europe, as well as a handful from North America and Asia. In his introduction to the meeting, Leif Andresen of the Royal Danish Library echoed this observation, saying he believes BIBFRAME has the potential to become more international and more collaborative than MARC.

If the workshop was any indication, that’s already well on its way to being true. While BIBFRAME originated in the States, it’s the European national libraries — with their centralized models and willingness to take risks — who have really taken taken the BIBFRAME baton and run with it. For me their work was a great illustration of the way that many nations working together, while still playing to their own strengths, can make real progress in moving the library profession forward .

This success was especially obvious in the discussions surrounding the National Library of Sweden’s recent move to a full linked data environment within its union catalog. Attendees were eager to learn more from Sweden’s implementation, but they were equally inspired by the fact that it had been done at all. Niklas Lindstrom, who presented on the project, really summed up the mood of the room when he described Sweden’s efforts as “Not done, just real.”

A similar emphasis on the value of learning through implementation flowed through many presentations. Philip E. Schreur from Stanford University said that Phase 2 of the LD4P project would be strongly focused on implementation, with 20 new partner institutions exploring everything from record creation to discovery. And Richard Wallace presented a range of actionable possibilities for libraries interested in exploring linked data, from starting points like adding URIs to MARC to as-yet untackled challenges like converting BIBFRAME to Schema.org.

Wallace also echoed one of the other major themes of the conference, the importance of developing a true community approach to BIBFRAME. With individual libraries implementing projects on their own, BIBFRAME approaches are often too different to allow for real collaboration. The community needs to work on consistency, cut down on duplication, and focus on creating connections between the most well-established projects.

Many other presenters addressed this same issue, offering up potential ideas and solutions. Sally McCallum of the Library of Congress described plans to harness external authority data, including standards like ISNI. Schreur talked about the role that a Wikimedian-in-Residence will play at LD4P, working to figure out how wiki data can be used to support library linked data. And Miklós Lendvay of the National Széchényi Library of Hungary shared his library’s decision to implement the FOLIO library services platform in the hopes that it will extend the sharing mindset and allow for possible interactions between the BIBFRAME and FOLIO communities.

Having worked extensively with BIBFRAME and FOLIO, Index Data is especially excited about this last possibility, and I had the opportunity to present a lightning talk outlining some of the ways this might be achieved. So far it’s just a starting point, but I’m confident that the experiences and ideas I heard at the workshop will help shape and inspire Index Data’s future work with the BIBFRAME community.

Kristen Wilson is a project manager / business analyst working on efforts related to BIFRAME, FOLIO, and resource sharing. She joined Index Data in August 2018 after more than a decade of academic library experience.