v.22 #3 “The Semantic Web and Online General Reference — Are We There Yet, or Any Time Soon?

by John G. Dove (President, Credo Reference) dove@credoreference.com

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Column Editor’s Note: In this paper I propose an approach to applying the concepts of the Semantic Web to the area of online general reference for libraries. This is motivated by a belief that if content owners can prepare their content in an appropriate fashion for participation in online environments, then user interface developers can provide users with compelling capabilities that go across a very broad spectrum of library-acquired content. This will make that content far more valuable to users and will even mean that user interface developers working for one publisher would have ways of interacting with content from many other publishers and vice versa. This would open up a significant set of opportunities for innovation for the benefit of users, libraries, and the publishers who provide them content. (Based on a talk, “The Problem of the Common User Interface,” Charleston Conference, November, 2008, presented by John Dove and Robert Scott.) — JD

“In an information-rich world, the real design problem to be solved is not so much how to collect and distribute more information but rather how to increase the rate at which persons can find and attend to information that is truly of value to them.”
Peter Pirolli, Information Foraging Theory, Oxford University Press, 2007

Tim Berners-Lee, James Handler and Ora Lassila laid out a clear vision in the May 17, 2001 issue of Scientific American, of how the Semantic Web could truly change our lives. Just over seven years before then, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, provided the world with some of the first WWW information servers and started the remarkable explosion of practical uses of the Internet.

It is now seven years since this Semantic Web paper was published and it’s fair to ask, how much has the vision affected the world of Online General Reference in libraries which is the world that we are both involved with, myself as president of Credo Reference, and Bob as the Head of Electronic Text Services for Columbia University Libraries?

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