Featured Dataset: British National Bibliography

Posted on 09/01/2011 by

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BL LogoToday, I’ll be featuring a dataset encompassing a complete catalog of publishing activity in the UK: the British National Bibliography.

The national bibliography records the publishing activity of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and as such is a measure of their intellectual output. This has traditionally included printed publications and more recently has been extended to electronic publications following the extension of legal deposit to this class of material in 2003.

This set is a work in progress from the British Library, and Talis has worked alongside them to model the bibliography as Linked Data. The latest published BNB takes a different modelling perspective from previous versions. Instead of building it just on existing conventions for publishing library metadata, they set out to build upon important resources from the collection—”things of interest” such as people places and events. The Consulting team at Talis has blogged about the process, and explains:

“… they set out to model ‘things of interest’, such as people, places and events, related to a book you might hold in your hand. Although they were constantly aware of the value of the BNB data, they did not want to be constrained by the format and practices that went into it’s creation over many years.”

So I had a quick look into the set to find data around interesting things I’ve read. My first impression with the set is that the resources are richly described, and I can see where they get their “things of interest” from. Using the Search API, I asked Kasabi for resources matching: “places in between,” and quickly found the book I was after, which is Rory Stewart’s book identified by http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/resource/010342677. A description of that resource gives us a full picture of what’s included with a book in this set:

@prefix bibo: <http://purl.org/ontology/bibo/> .
@prefix dcterm: <http://purl.org/dc/terms/> .
@prefix ns1: <http://data.bl.uk/schema/bibliographic#> .
@prefix ns2: <http://iflastandards.info/ns/isbd/elements/> .
@prefix owl: <http://www.w3.org/2002/07/owl#> .
@prefix rdfs: <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#> .

<http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/resource/010342677> a <http://purl.org/dc/terms/BibliographicResource>,
        <http://purl.org/ontology/bibo/Book>;
    ns1:bnb "GBA4Y0994";
    ns1:publication <http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/resource/010342677/publicationevent/LondonPicador2004>;
    ns2:P1053 "x, 324 p."@en;
    dcterm:creator <http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/person/StewartRory>;
    dcterm:language <http://lexvo.org/id/iso639-3/eng>;
    dcterm:spatial <http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/place/Afghanistan>;
    dcterm:subject <http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/concept/ddc/e22/915.810446>,
        <http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/concept/lcsh/AfghanistanDescriptionandtravel>,
        <http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/concept/lcsh/StewartRoryTravelAfghanistan>,
        <http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/concept/place/lcsh/Afghanistan>;
    dcterm:title "The places in between";
    bibo:isbn10 "0330486330",
        "0330486349";
    rdfs:seeAlso <http://www4.wiwiss.fu-berlin.de/bookmashup/books/0330486330>,
        <http://www4.wiwiss.fu-berlin.de/bookmashup/books/0330486349>;
    owl:sameAs <http://bnb.data.bl.uk/id/resource/GBA4Y0994> .

So, this resource is described as a book, which was created by Rory Stewart, written in English, and given the title “The Places in Between”. Interestingly, we can also see that there are subjects the book covers, and a place that’s discussed within: Afghanistan. All these facets of the resources description open up a plethora of possible applications. Finding books based on a location is pretty cool!

We can see all the vocabularies and classes used to describe the vast dataset under its explore tab. For examples from the set, you can also look for resources described by a drop-down list of classes from the sample viewer.

The Consulting blog post helpfully summarised the project:

Following Linked Data practices adopted across the web by governments, business and academia, they modelled these ‘interesting things’, reusing as many existing descriptive schema as possible. They were keen to reuse the likes of foaf, dc-terms and skos. However there were some areas for which there was no suitable existing property with the right meaning. To fill this gap, a set of British Library Terms (BLT) was developed and will be published alongside the data.

With a set rich in resources, and with the resources so detailed in their descriptions, I’m hoping it doesn’t take much effort to think of things that can be done with this set, and I see it being valuable in giving links and names to application elements covering just about any UK-based publication.

Alongside the important data is also the story of the British Library working with Talis’ Consultants to build the model and publish the set. I have had several people asking me about help with modelling datasets, and I’m sure the team are happy to talk about some of their projects. They’er also happy to work with interesting data, so it might be a good idea to drop them a line if you need a hand with your set.

Posted in: Datasets