This is a guest post from Camille Salas, an intern with the Library of Congress.
Violeta Ilik is the Metadata Cataloging Librarian at Texas A&M University Libraries. Violeta recently gave a presentation at the ALA Midwinter conference entitled “Linked Data for Holdings and Cataloging: The first step is the hardest!.” In the presentation, she described how she created a view based on metadata about the Math Department at Texas A&M University. Violeta’s use of Viewshare differs from some of the others described in previous blog posts so I was eager to hear what led her to experiment with Viewshare for her data. (Editor’s note: the Viewshare program was retired in 2018.)
CS: How did you first hear about Viewshare?
VI: When the call came from the ALCTS Continuing Resources Section’s Continuing Resources Cataloging and Holdings Committees for a joint forum at the ALA Midwinter Meeting on the topic of linked data, asking for volunteers to experiment with Viewshare, I jumped at the opportunity since it sounded like something that would be interesting and exciting. Viewshare seemed like a great tool for the useful presentation of data, which is not only hyperlinked, but also provides visual clues and information that people understand and respond to naturally.
CS: What prompted you to select this set of data for your view and how did you go about gathering your metadata? I see various sources in your presentation including the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF), WorldCat Identities, and the Library of Congress Authority File.
VI: For a year, I had a project in mind that would map and create linked data clouds for the researchers from Texas A&M University. I wanted to create RDF triples but never actually had time to do it. When I heard about Viewshare I asked myself, “Why not try to do the project with this tool?” I already had the data collected in a spreadsheet. Among the collected data, I had the Virtual International Authority File for each researcher that had a name authority created. All the data is publicly available on the Internet and I realized that I can just upload my spreadsheet and start creating various views. It was really exciting to see how the data became alive, dynamic and interactive.
CS: After selecting your metadata, what were your next steps for creating your view?
VI: I started by adding various widgets such as search boxes, lists, and tag clouds. I based a tag cloud on the research area of the faculty members from the Math Department. Viewshare immediately provides a nice picture of research areas and their relative prevalence at the Math Department. After having fun with the widgets, I started exploring the various views one can create. The most interesting for me was the map showing the places where the faculty members got their PhD degrees. It turned out that almost half of the faculty members had PhDs from European universities, while the other half had PhDs from universities in North America. The pie chart view is also extremely useful since one can see how the research areas are divided or the PhD-granting institutions of faculty members.
CS: Did your view lead to any discoveries about the Texas A&M Math Department?
VI: Yes, I saw that Partial Differential Equations is the research area that has the most faculty members associated with it. Since I shared this view with some members of the Math Department, they were surprised as they thought Operator Theory was the research area that is most prevalent.
CS: How do visualizations like this and tools like Viewshare aid your work?
VI: After creating this view for the Math Department, I decided to create views of each department at Texas A&M University. The Head of Cataloging and the Associate Dean for Collection & Technical Services have approved this project. This means that we will also create name authority records for each faculty member that does not have one. As one member of the Cataloging Department puts it, using Viewshare for this project is like having a VIAF on steroids.
CS: What were some of the questions and responses by conference participants at the Midwinter session?
VI: The most common questions were: How easy is it to use Viewshare? How did I collect the data? In what format was it uploaded? What did I need to do to have clean data?
CS: Do you have any suggestions for how Viewshare could be enhanced to meet the diverse needs of librarians?
VI: I would like to see the option to change an entry, or delete an entry upon upload so I do not have to go back to the original file to correct the error and upload it again. Also, I think it would be nice to have an option to hover over the tags in the tag clouds to have the number of items associated with that tag pop-up.
Another interesting feature would be to have an option to create a pie chart view by combining two or more columns of data of the same type. For instance, if faculty members have two research areas and they were placed in two columns in the data, a pie chart that would combine these two columns would give a more precise picture of research areas present at the department.
CS: Thank you for your great suggestions, Violeta, and sharing your experience with Viewshare.