Highlights from the Jane-athon

On January 30, 2015 at ALA Midwinter in Chicago, over 60 participants gathered for a hackathon featuring the RIMMF (RDA in Many Metadata Formats) tool for creating RDA data and relationships for an incredible variety of Jane Austen-related resources. Although the official title of the preconference was “Fun with Dick and Jane (and RDA): Creating Linked Data for Jane Austen and Blade Runner,” it quickly became known as the Jane-athon. The Jane-athon was the brainchild of Deborah Fritz, who created RIMMF along with programmer Richard Fritz.

Goals of the day included experimenting with RIMMF, creating as much data as possible, focusing on relationships rather than creating perfect descriptive metadata, and most importantly, having fun.

Gordon Dunsire, chair of the Joint Steering Committee for RDA, kicked off the day with a demonstration and discussion of the “r-ball” of data he created for Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner. (An r-ball “contains linked data and Semantic Web representations of cultural heritage resources described using RDA: Resource Description and Access”--rballs.info). Gordon noted that the JSC had embraced RIMMF as a tool not only for helping practicing catalogers visualize RDA outside of MARC, but as an opportunity to identify gaps and problems in RDA.

The highlight of the day was the 2.5 hours spent in small groups divided among different types of Jane resources (e.g., print versions of Jane’s works, film adaptations, audiobooks and e-books, sequels/prequels/spinoffs, biography and criticism, and realia). The organizers had assembled a “Janebase” featuring data about Jane, works by and about Jane, and selected expressions and manifestations of Jane resources. Participants cataloged a wide variety of Jane-related resources, adding data within the RIMMF interface, importing data from other sources, and building relationships between entities and levels of description. We dove into questions about translations, relationship designators, and representing relationships at the appropriate work or expression level of data. Most importantly, working in RIMMF helped us visualize RDA data and relationships outside of MARC. Catalogers might generally be perceived as a quiet and orderly bunch, but we embraced the chaotic, energetic environment of experimentation. Loud groans of protest arose when the 10-minute warning for lunch was announced.

During lunch, all the data created by participants was combined into one r-ball. Deborah Fritz displayed some of the results and participants shared reactions and questions arising from the exercise. The Janebase grew from 75 entities to 756 during the morning’s flurry of RIMMFing. Participants discussed the concept of “super-work,” or a possible way of bringing together entities that are currently separate, but related, works according to FRBR, such as the text of Pride and Prejudice and a film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Aggregations of multiple works also emerged as a problem needing further attention in RDA.

The morning’s practical, hands-on exploration of RIMMF was balanced by presentations from Diane Hillmann and Jon Phipps, of Metadata Management Associates, exploring possible library applications of linked data concepts and infrastructure. From thinking in data statements rather than records to considering the importance of tracking versions of our data, they pushed participants to consider library data in new ways. They predicted a shift away from de-duplicating and creating the “perfect” record to managing aggregated data and accepting data from sources not in our usual library data streams. Some participants expressed concern about the cost and training necessary to embrace new data workflows, but it was refreshing to hear a conceptual talk balanced with group exploration of a specific tool for creating and managing data in a new way.

Everyone is encouraged to download the Jane-athon r-ball and add to it yourself, create your own r-ball, or organize your own Jane-athon to continue the conversation. The organizers have mentioned that they hope to host a sequel at the upcoming ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco, so stay tuned to the RDA listserv RDA-L or http://rballs.info for information.

To download r-balls, see photos, or read more about the Jane-athon, follow these links:

Reported by Susan Wynne and Gina Solares