Zepheira, a company that has played a prominent role in the promotion and implementation of linked data to libraries and related institutions, has been acquired by EBSCO Information Services.
Details of the Acquisition
Following its merger into EBSCO, Zepheira operates as an independent division and will continue to be led by company co-founder and CEO Eric Miller. A total of eight individuals from Zepheira will become employees of EBSCO, including the core teams involved with product, architecture, and engineering. Within the EBSCO corporate structure, the Zepheira group will report to Gar Sydnor, Senior Vice President, Analytics and Hosting Services. Sydnor leads EBSCO's involvement with FOLIO, User Experience, and its portfolio of SaaS technologies, including EBSCO Discovery Service, and Stacks. Zepheira will work closely with EBSCO's NoveList team, led by Danielle Borasky.
With this acquisition, the Library.Link subscription service from Zepheira joins the EBSCO suite of SaaS products. It will be promoted through the EBSCO sales teams and through ongoing business partners such as SirsiDynix. The Zepheira team within EBSCO will continue to develop and support the service.
With the expertise and vision of Zepheira, we can anticipate that linked data technologies will also be incorporated into EBSCO's product suite, though any specific developments have not been announced. Although Zepheira is a small company, its influence has been substantial. Its acquisition into EBSCO represents an important event in the library industry.
Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
Common Value in Open Source Technologies
Zepheira developed a suite of open source tools through its linked projects. These include a suite of utilities that together make a toolkit for transforming MARC records into linked data and for creating and editing BIBFRAME entities (https:// github.com/zepheira). These tools have been developed and released as open source software. Though Zepheira does not own exclusive rights, it is able to provide value-added services based on its expertise with the tools and the linked data domain. These tools likewise become part of the growing slate of open source projects allied with EBSCO, including the FOLIO library services platform.
Miller stated, “Zepheira found EBSCO to be a good match with its core values, in that both embrace open source software and have complementary approaches to technology and business culture. EBSCO brings the resources to advance many of the concepts and products to the global sphere. An important objective going forward will be making library lending on the web, outside the library's own catalog or website, the new norm. As part of EBSCO, the means to accomplish this vision are within reach.” (source: telephone interview March 11, 2020.) Libhub Initiative
As part of its work to help libraries adopt linked data, Zepheira launched the Libhub initiative in September 2014. Libraries were invited to join this initiative to gain access to educational resources and technologies to explore the benefits of linked data for their organizations.
Library.Link as Core Linked Data Infrastructure
Library.Link is Zepheira's core product and the infrastructure on which it has developed, refined, and populated as it works with libraries to make their collections more available through the web. Its core concept is to channel users to the library's resources even when they search on the web and not the library's own catalog interface. The service amplifies the exposure of a library's collections by exporting its database of bibliographic records and holdings in MARC format, transforming the records into BIBFRAME and other linked data entities, and merging the results into the Library.Link network. The service also creates geolocation data associated with each library location. As Google and other web search engines harvest the Library.Link network, library content becomes better positioned in search results, directing users to the item in the library's own catalog. The geolocation data enables Google and other services to present library borrowing options for libraries in close proximity. Library.Link is offered as a subscription service to libraries, both directly from Zepheira and through its business partners. Libraries pay an annual fee, which covers the initial transfer of data from the local ILS to Library.Link, configuration of local infrastructure, and incremental monthly transfers.
Innovative Interfaces began its involvement with the Libhub Initiative in March 2015. By June 2015 Innovative began offering a service for an initial output of a library's bibliographic records to Library.Link with monthly updates thereafter. Innovative no longer offers this product directly, though existing customers continue to receive support and renewals through Zepheira.
SirsiDynix entered into a partnership agreement with Zepheira in June 2015. By January 2016 SirsiDynix launched its BLUEcloud Visibility product based on Library.Link. This product provides an administrative interface within BLUEcloud Central for initializing the harvesting of bibliographic records and selecting configuration options. Libraries can integrate additional information, such as library hours and geolocation data for branch locations. The partnership between SirsiDynix and Zepheira for BLUEcloud Visibility remains in effect.
EBSCO Information Services has been a longstanding partner with Zepheira and its linked data services. In the five years preceding this acquisition, EBSCO has collaborated with Zepheira, supporting the Libhub Initiative and providing a linked data integration service through NoveList.
EBSCO joined the Libhub Initiative as a sponsor in October 2015 and began working with Zepheira to create integrations between NoveList and Library.Link. In September 2016 EBSCO released NoveList Select for Linked Data service. It builds on the basic Linked Library Service by layering additional content to enhance the linked data associated with a library's collection. In the same way that a library can subscribe to NoveList Select to enrich the presentation of records in its online catalog, NoveList Select for Linked Data adds additional entities that aim to increase the opportunities for library collection items to be discovered through web search.
The NoveList Select for Linked Data service also enables libraries to present library content, such as book carousels, on web resources outside of the library's own website. Libraries can create targeted collections that can be placed on community pages for book clubs or any other organizations or events. The code snippets for implementing the functions are provided through a subscribing library's administrative console. The Library.Link service has seen its largest adoption among public libraries. These libraries seek to engage users beyond the confines of their physical facilities, websites, and catalogs. Amplifying their visibility on the general web aligns well with their mission. A number of major academic and special libraries have also worked with Zepheira to integrate their collections via the Library.Link network.
Library Lending on Google Knowledge Panels
The vagaries in the appearance of library collection items in Google search results recently made a giant leap forward. Beginning in about Fall 2019, Google enhanced its Knowledge Panel for books to include library lending in addition to purchase options (see figure 1). This feature relies on its Knowledge Graph database that supplements the standard Google indexes. Library content in the Knowledge Graph comes from a variety of sources, including links and structured data within the library's website and linked data repositories such as Library .Link. The lending options are based on nearby libraries that offer a copy of the title. Selecting a library from the available options links to its online catalog where it can be requested.
Benefits Beyond Web Search
According to Miller, the vision of Library.Link and its other services goes beyond exposure of library catalogs in web search results. According to Miller, the key intent has always been on creating actionable data using web standards that can be applied to many different types of use.
An example of such use can be seen in Zepheira's collaboration with the Internet Archive to facilitate its service for Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) (https://controlleddigitallending .org). This service is based on the premise that a digitized book can be lent under the same conditions as a print book. As the Internet Archive digitizes physical books, it can allow public borrowing of that ebook by one borrower at a time, as long as the original book is withdrawn from circulation. If a library subscribing to Library.Link wants to contribute to the Internet Archive's CDL program, it can have their holdings automatically transmitted and processed to determine copies that could be transferred from local to digital lending. This process would match to titles already digitized, so no additional scanning would be necessary. Each copy of a title that library transfers increments the count of simultaneous borrowers allowed.
An Acquisition of Talent
The acquisition of Zepheira brings a team of leading experts and proponents of linked data into EBSCO, Miller in particular brings important expertise about the domain of linked data to the company. This infusion of linked data expertise will help shape EBSCO's ongoing development of metadata and indexing products and its expanding set of technology products and services.
Eric Miller has a distinguished career in metadata and linked data initiatives. From October 1988 through 2000, Miller served as a Senior Research Scientist for OCLC and was one of the co-founders of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative launched in 1994. Dublin Core has been adopted broadly as the metadata format for the description of digital collection materials, as well as a wide range of other internet-based resources. Following his departure from OCLC, Miller worked as a Research Scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and led the MIT SMILE project to develop open source tools for semantic web technologies. (source: LinkedIn). During this period Miller also served as the Activity Lead for the Semantic Web Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (https://www .w3.org/People/EM). Miller co-founded Zepheira in February 2007, along with Kathy MacDougall and Uche Ogbuji, as a business to deliver products and services to libraries and related organizations based on linked data concepts and technologies. Since its founding, Miller has served as Zepheira's Chief Executive Officer.
- February 2007. Zepheira founded by Eric Miller, Kathy MacDougall (left Zepheira in July 2018), and Uche Ogbuji
- July 2007. Zepheira engaged by OCLC for assistance in the redesign of its Persistent URL service. (PURL). The software created for this service was created as open source. This service, created by OCLC in 1995, was transferred to the Internet Archive in September 2016.
- May 2012. The Library of Congress initiates contract with Zepheira for assistance in mapping MARC bibliographic formats into linked data through their Linked Data Initiative. As part of its work with the Library of Congress, Zepheira developed a set of open source tools for BIBFRAME transformation and related tasks.
- May 2014. The National Library Board of Singapore engages Zepheira for services related to the transformation of their collection metadata into linked data.
- September 2014. National Library of Medicine engages Zepheira to develop its linked data architecture.
- September 2014. Zepheira launches Libhub Initiative to help libraries learn about and implement linked data.
- Zepheira initiates a series of partnerships with ILS vendors. Subscription service for libraries enables export of catalog records for transformation into linked data and exposure through Library.Link network.
- February 2020. Zepheira acquired by EBSCO Information Services