85575 - Semantic Digital Libraries (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Libraries have always been an inspiration for the standards and technologies developed by semantic web activities. At the end of the course the students will learn how to manage the process related to a DL creation: from the metadata choice to the ontologies selection; from the network issues to the architecture implementation; from the preservation of data to the curation of the life cycle of digital cultural objects.

Course contents

The course combines lectures with practical activities/laboratories. The students are encouraged to bring a laptop to class.

The course is tentatively articulated into the following parts (per week). Please note that the program is still subject to change.


Week 1: Introduction

  • Introduction to the course, including:

    1. A brief delineation of semantic digital libraries, their historical development and components.
    2. Course logistics, assessment and projects.
  • An overview of the main LOD standards for (semantic) digital libraries.

  • Examples of (semantic) digital library platforms: Islandora, Omeka.


Laboratory (graded activity): take a user perspective and assess the offering of a digital library; it can be any national library, institutional or private systems. What does the digital library offer to the users in terms of functionalities? Which of these functionalities are “semantic”? Why? Present your results to the class.

Project ideas brainstorming session.


Week 2: Semantic Web and interoperability standards

  • Ontologies for Semantic Publishing and Referencing (SPAR).

  • Contents (full texts): OCR-D.

  • Annotations: Open Annotation and the Web Annotation Data Model.

  • Interoperability: International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), Distributed Text Services (DTS).


Laboratory (graded activity): Explore and compare the use of Semantic Web standards, technologies, and tools in different national library systems. Also look for a Semantic Web strategy/vision document, and compare it with reality/roadmap. Present your results to the class.


Week 3: Artificial Intelligence

  • Information extraction: layout parsing.

  • Information extraction: H/OCR with Transkribus.

  • How to run an annotation campaign.

  • Automatic knowledge graph extraction for digital libraries.


Laboratory (graded activity): Explore and compare the use of AI technologies and tools in different national library systems. Present your results to the class.


Weeks 4 and 5: Case studies and advanced topics


Case studies (by invited speakers whenever possible)

  • Semantic library services (for example, at ICCU)

  • Semantic scientific citation indices (for example, OpenCitations)

  • Semantic services in archives or museums.


Advanced topics

  • Modern scholarly information retrieval systems.

  • “Semantic” Wikipedia: WikiData and related projects.

  • Advanced AI techniques for semantic digital libraries.

  • More/other topics will be considered at the students’ request.


Laboratory: group work on projects and office hours.


Week 6: Project presentations

  • Group project presentations (graded activity).

  • End of the course Q&A.


A list of texts will be provided by the lecturer before the beginning of each week.


General references

  • Kruk and McDaniel (eds.). 2009. Semantic Digital Libraries. Springer.

  • Banarjee and Rese. 2018 (2nd ed.). Building Digital Libraries. ALA Neal-Schuman.

  • van Hooland and Verborg. 2019. Linked Data for Archives, Libraries and Museums. Facet Publishing.



For who needs a refresher or exposure to the background for this course:

Teaching methods

The course uses a mix of lectures, seminars, and practical exercises.


As concerns the teaching methods of this course unit, all students must attend modules 1 and 2 on Health and Safety online.

Assessment methods

Short laboratories done in class during the first part of the course will yield a minor (0-3 points) contribution towards the final grade.

The final examination consists of the presentation of an original project. The project is proposed by the students. For example, it can focus on an in-depth, technical analysis of an existing (semantic) digital library platform; the design and specification of the user and technical requirements for a new one; the exploration of a currently open research area related to semantic digital libraries; or a case study using a tool/technology discussed in class (e.g., Transkribus). The project may be theoretical, applied, or a combination.

The project guidelines will be shared and discussed at the beginning of the course. Students are asked to organize themselves in small groups (2-3) for the project. Individual projects are allowed for motivated reasons. The students are highly encouraged to do their projects during the duration of the course, and present their results at the final week project presentation session.

The personal contribution of each member of a group will be assessed during an individual oral colloquium at a regular exam session. In the oral colloquium, both the project and the course contents will be assessed. The project and the oral examination contribute 50% of the final grade each.

The program for non-attending students is the same, except that the project might be done individually. Furthermore, non-attending students will have to include extra readings to complement the class contents. These readings will also be provided before the start of each week throughout the course.


Teaching tools

Classes are held in a classroom equipped with personal computers connected to the Intranet and Internet.

Office hours

See the website of Giovanni Colavizza


Industry, innovation and infrastructure

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.