I recently had a chance to return to the Virtual International Authority File, or VIAF. Actually I was looking for another name instead of Eddie Santiago. As it turned out, I didn’t find the name I was hoping to find. I did however see some changes to VIAF in terms of linked data. I searched again for Santiago, Eddie out of curiosity to see if the results where any different from last week. Unfortunately, Eddie Santiago still had 3 distinct VIAF records. However, I noticed that the first search result had grouped in one record different headings from different national agencies.
When I clicked on this first link, the result was very much what one might expect of a linked data experiment.
But, I was again led to the same question. How is this helpful for libraries and in particular catalogers?
I came across this post to AUTOCAT by Allen Mullen.
Commentary on this by Jennifer Eustis: https://celeripedean.wordpress.com/2009/10/01/viaf-and-linked-data/ Except: "How will this help libraries? Essentially, instead of an authority record being tied to one language,headings can be accessed according to a unique identifier. In that way, the information associated with that identifier can be displayed according to language. More importantly, this allows those searching for records to have a larger pool within to search. Especially for digital libraries, the VIAF, given the recent addition of the Getty List of Artists Names, could be extremely useful since it is almost like a federated search." "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Charles Darwin
Is VIAF the strongest of such authority file species? Is it the most intelligent? Is it the most responsive to change? When I first wrote my post on VIAF and linked data, I did not think of VIAF in terms of strength or intelligence. I think Allen brings up an important point by quoting Darwin. In my post, I mentioned that VIAF is a pilot project from OCLC, which is one of the only players in terms of bibliographic data. The spread of their influence seems to be increasing and this project, VIAF, is an example. However, does this make VIAF strong? Furthermore, I mentioned that the service provided by VIAF could be helpful to libraries and librarians. But, does this make VIAF an intelligent service?
Perhaps a better way to phrase these questions are: What are the strengths and/or weaknesses of VIAF? Is the way in which VIAF links information between national agencies done in an intelligible manner? What’s more, is the way in which VIAF links information between national agencies an intelligent thing to even undertake?
As to the last point from this quote from Charles Darwin, I have to say that the VIAF is already making changes as to how various forms of authorized headings are linked in terms of which national agencies use which authorized form of that heading.
But again, are these changes adding to the strength and/or overall intelligence of this project?