A linked data platform with the potential that metadata professionals long for

Jackie Shieh, a Descriptive Data Management Librarian at Smithsonian Libraries, recently completed our Wikidata how-to course for beginners. Here, Jackie provides a detailed account of what that experience was like.

Logo of the Smithsonian Institution.

Learning the way of triple statements is something very new to librarians, especially metadata professionals who are no strangers to rules and the interpretation for application when describing library collections. For the last two years, the momentum of library data migration from once-siloed library MARC data to an open data structure, such as Resource Description Framework (RDF), has accelerated.

Wikidata is a linked data platform that carries the potential metadata professionals long for: structure, open, and interoperability. Creating new Wikidata items, associating items with property, adding new and editing triple statements in place of MARC data are new activities to many of metadata professionals. Colleagues from traditional cultural heritage institutions have now found a new calling, learning ontologies in describing information resources applying RDF statements to generate data graphs. Though this is a new and perhaps welcome challenge, many remain apprehensive about Wikidata, the learning curve, and are looking for opportunities to learn. Wiki Education fills this void to provide a platform for learning as an individual and in a group.

The Join the Open Data Movement: Wikidata for beginners call from Wiki Education in Winter 2019 came just at the right time when I desired to obtain some better understanding of Wikidata and prepare curriculum for internal staff professional developments. Questions raised from the call at data.wikiedu.org, subsequent emails exchanges, and most of all affordable financial support allowed me to participate and gain the necessary insights for descriptive data in the world of linked and open data.

The color scheme and layout for this course were visually pleasant to me, though the Dashboard took a little time to get used to. The course design (seminar type), e.g., required reading, exercises, timeline, statistics of editing activities, quizzes, and the on- and off-line interactions between lectures and Q&A were extremely helpful. The facilitator and helper were gracious of their time and expertise. A weekly recap via email was an excellent means to track and review the week’s progress. The course facilitators provided us the practical experience to work with the creation, editing, and referencing of Wikidata items that I decided to add/edit.

While editing statements and references, though at times, I was lost as what to do next, or where to locate help, I was always provided upon inquiring. Wikidata in itself remains a bit hard to navigate to find solutions for troubleshooting. Even the mechanism to resolve an issue provided by the system was not adequately obvious to a newcomer. This is a Mediawiki infrastructure design issue. But the Wiki Education team did its best to alleviate the lostness of its participants during and after the class.

Professionals in GLAM institutions who wish to embark and break through traditional information descriptive work, the Wiki Education courses can lead the way of that change for those who so desire.

Registration for our upcoming Wikidata courses is open! New to linked data? Join the open data movement in our beginner’s course. Have more experience with linked data or Wikidata? Sign up for our intermediate course that focuses on applications. Or visit data.wikiedu.org for more information.


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