We have been experimenting for some time with web services in a research mode to deliver 'loosely coupled' bibliographic services. The idea is to be able to embed relevant services in a variety of different environments.

Thom discusses our work with the LC name authority file. The aim here was to make a service available which could be 'plugged' into different editing environments. The service would take a name and return candidate names from the authority file.

We developed this originally for the JISC funded ePrints UK project. I don't think we ever really got hooked up during this project, but we took the same service and prototyped access from within DSpaces' metadata creation form, which didn't take much code at all. The records come back ranked based on closeness of match to the authority records, and we've done some work on improving the ranking, but that's not exposed yet in the public service. [Outgoing: XML and Authority Control]
We are also excited that our work with terminology services will be supporting the OCLC Terminologies Pilot. Here the intention is to provide participants with access to a variety of terminologies which can be integrated straightforwardly into their editing environments with no development effort. They will access our web services through the Microsoft Research Pane. (For a presentation about the Microsoft Research Pane and terminology services from earlier this year see this Members' Council presentation [ppt] by colleagues).

What are terminology services?

Web services are modular, web-based, machine-to-machine applications that can be combined in various ways. Web services can be accessed at various points in the metadata lifecycle, for example, when a work is authored or created, at the time an object is indexed or cataloged, or during search and retrieval. Terminology services are web services involving various types of knowledge organization resources, including authority files, subject heading systems, thesauri, web taxonomies, and classification schemes. A web service that provides mappings from a term in one vocabulary to one or more terms in another vocabulary is an example of a terminology service. [Terminology Services [OCLC - Projects]]

An approach to another common task is evident in our Metadata Crosswalks repository. Here, the aim is to provide an experimental service which automates metadata transformations based on available crosswalks. Again, a variety of web services is used to create the service. Further details in the links from the demonstrator site and the project site.

In general we see web services as a valuable technique for taking functionality which was previously available in a standalone way or as part of a larger monolithic application and making it available in a way that is 'pluggable' at the point of need into various workflows and systems. Some rationale for this type of approach is discussed at more length in our recent article from last year:

Dempsey, Lorcan, Eric Childress, Carol Jean Godby, Thomas B. Hickey, Andrew Houghton, Diane Vizine-Goetz, and Jeff Young. c2004-05. "Metadata Switch: Thinking About Some Metadata Management and Knowledge Organization Issues in the Changing Research and Learning Landscape." Forthcoming in LITA Guide to E-Scholarship [working title], ed. Debra Shapiro. February 2005 preprint available at http://www.oclc.org/research/publications/archive/2004/dempsey-mslitaguide.pdf (PDF:824K/25pp.). [2000-2005 [OCLC - Publications]]

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