Vol. 13 No. 1 (2022): The Bibliographic Control in the Digital Ecosystem

Wikidata: a new perspective towards universal bibliographic control

Carlo Bianchini
University of Pavia, Department of Musicology and Cultural Heritage (Cremona)
Lucia Sardo
University of Bologna, Ravenna Campus

Published 2022-01-13


  • UBC,
  • Universal Bibliographic Control,
  • Wikidata,
  • Metadata,
  • Description,
  • Identification
  • ...More

How to Cite

Bianchini, Carlo, and Lucia Sardo. 2022. “Wikidata: A New Perspective towards Universal Bibliographic Control”. JLIS.It 13 (1):291-311. https://doi.org/10.4403/jlis.it-12725.


Traditional UBC provides for the standardization of bibliographic records, the creation of guidelines dedicated to national bibliographic agencies, the creation of the UNIMARC format, and the curation of authority data. Bibliographic Control has deeply evolved since IFLA theorization during the Seventies of the XX Century, due to the availability of a very large range of new bibliographic tools. At the beginning of the XXI century, UBC is quite different and involves new actors. Among these, Wikidata has a background greatly different from that of libraries as institutions: it is not devoted to bibliographic data, nor it is limited to personal authority control, but its value in AC tools like VIAF and National Libraries authority files is undiscussed. After a presentation on how Wikidata items describe and identify bibliographic entities, the authors underline how the existence, use and reuse of Wikidata affect the way the professional community thinks about UBC. Wikidata is a clear example of the need for a new approach to identification and description, that are deeply intertwined. Secondly, from a Wikidata perspective, the relevance of globally preferred and variant access points is lessened. Moreover, descriptions in Wikidata – although conceptually very similar to the traditional one – present differences and potentialities that a traditional description does not have and cannot have. Also from a theoretical perspective, Wikidata offers a pragmatic way to think globally and act locally. In fact, it shows that there is no need for one standardization of practices for establishing the headings and structure of authority records in one international form; instead, users’ convenience can be achieved by a technological infrastructure capable to present to each user the information about an entity in its own language and script. Additionally, Wikidata is the most evident example of the distributed and diffused approach of the semantic web to the issue of the universal identification of the entities. Also, Wikidata identification and description show that authority and bibliographic control must be tackled as just a part of the more general topic of the creation of a knowledge graph of all human knowledge by means of linked open data. Lastly, this objective cannot be achieved only by contribution, cooperation, and networking of large national agencies (as in VIAF), as a larger number of stakeholders must be involved to achieve a UBC also including the full indexing of any kind of scientific communication


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