Thursday, April 02, 2015

#VIAF - Move over #Wikipedia for #Wikidata

VIAF or the Virtual International Authority File is maintained by the OCLC or the Online Computer Library Centre. It is effectively where libraries worldwide maintain information on everything. Its importance is hard to grasp; it links to the sum of all knowledge worldwide in all the libraries in the world.

To share in the sum of all knowledge, VIAF links to Wikipedia and so far it was only the English Wikipedia it linked to. VIAF took a huge step in sharing to all of Wikipedia recently. It decided to no longer link to English Wikipedia but to link to Wikidata.

What this does not mean is that the OCLC does not appreciate the English Wikipedia. What it does mean is that by linking to Wikidata it implicitly links to every Wikipedia. It can now link to authors only known in the Russian, the Chinese, the Hindi or any other Wikipedia. This is enabled by Wikidata because it links to any article in any Wikipedia.

It takes me three paragraphs to explain what it is that is happening. The implications are huge. Every month the OCLC will update its information from Wikidata. Given that the OCLC had a Wikipedian in Residence who was instrumental in this development, it is well possible that the information flow will be going more and more in both directions. The German community has collaborated for years with the German Library who maintains its authority file. The GND is included in the VIAF.

At Wikidata we have always been open to collaborating with external resources. This open attitude now results in relevance. A relevance that will expose every Wikipedia in every library of the world that is linked to the OCLC through VIAF. How wonderful is that?

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