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Understanding the Semantic Web: Bibliographic Data and Metadata

If there is one constant, it is that throughout these nearly two centuries, the modern library has continually transformed itself in an effort to respond to the needs of its contemporary user.

Today, we face another significant time of change that is being prompted by today’s library user. This user no longer visits the physical library as his primary source of information, but seeks and creates information while connected to the global computer network. The change that libraries will need to make in response must include the transformation of the library’s public catalog from a stand-alone database of bibliographic records to a highly hyperlinked data set that can interact with information resources on the World Wide Web. The library data can then be integrated into the virtual working spaces of the users served by the library.

If all of this sounds otherworldly and vague, it is because there is no specific vision of where these changes will lead us. The crystal ball is unfortunately shortsighted, in no small part because this is a time of rapid change in many aspects of the information ecology. The few things that are certain, however, point to the Web, and its eventual successors, as the place to be. For libraries, this means yet another evolutionary step in the library of our catalog: from metadata to metaDATA.

--Karen Coyle

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