[XML4LIB] Re: The impact of XML/RDF on digital libraries

Frumkin, Jeremy frumkinj at u.library.arizona.edu
Wed Feb 20 16:11:16 EST 2002

So, this looks like its turning into a fun discussion ;-) Here are my
thoughts on the matter, hopefully touching on the emails sent by Roy, Eric,
and Jerome:

Metadata is of course hugely important in digital libraries. The ability to
provide seamless, interoperable access between digital library collections
appears to be a primary wish or want of the library community. RDF attempts
to provide a single, consistent encoding (framework) - by doing so,
implementers of digital library metadata systems will have an easier time
interoperating with other digital library systems. Standing alone, XML
promotes interoperability through a single, consistent syntax. Some might
argue that Dublin Core standard[sic] promotes interoperability on the
semantic, or ontological level. Sandwiched in-between syntax and semantics
is the structural layer - this is where RDF fits, as a means of defining a
consistent structure (based on the RDF model) for XML on which a set of
semantics can be placed accordingly. XML by itself does not provide this.

All that being said then, it seems (at least to me) that the role RDF plays
is in the long run vital to the evolution of digital libraries. So why isn't
it being rapidly adopted? Well, there are probably a number of reasons for
this; the learning curve for RDF is significant; there are not a large
number of mature RDF tools out there; libraries are just getting around XML
itself; etc., etc. One thing to note: No one doubts now that XML is
important for the future of digital libraries, but how many were (or are
even yet) providing base services that took advantage of XML 2 years ago?
Saying "RDF is DOA" is by far doing a disservice to RDF and the need for a
consistent structural framework.

That being said, RDF is not yet fundamental in digital libraries, and as it
currently is implemented in XML, may never be. However, its impact on
digital libraries (which are narrower in scope than the semantic web,
methinks) will, at the very least, be probably much like that of SGML to
XML; RDF is the first such attempt to provide a single consistent encoding
instantiated in XML. RDF will either evolve and mature to the point where it
does get adopted more widely, or something else will take its place, whether
that be an 'RDF-lite' or another structural model entirely.

-- JF

Jeremy Frumkin
Metadata Systems Librarian
University of Arizona Library
frumkinj at u.library.arizona.edu
+1 520 621-2916
+1 520 621-9733 (fax)
"What we have here, is a failure to communicate" - Cool Hand Luke

More information about the xml4lib mailing list