openbiblio, bibliographica, bibsoup, bibserver – what’s what?

We have (or had) various projects going on in relation to the OKF open bibliographic working group recently, and it seems like it might be a good idea to clarify what names mean what things mean where…

So here is a walkthrough of the various projects and how they relate:

This site! The purpose of this site is to be the hub of the OKF Open bibliographic working group; Many of the posts here are related to the working group meetings, which are held on the first Tuesday of every month, as organised by the great Adrian Pohl. We also have blog posts up here from other members of the working group (such as myself), from additional contributors, and from some projects – particularly the recently finished JISC Open Bibliography project.

JISC Open Bibliography

The JISC Open Bibliography project ran from July 2010 to July 2011, with the aim of advocating for open bibliography, getting open bibliographic datasets, and making tools and services to show the value of open bibliographic datasets. Out of this came a number of good developments, all of which are detailed in the final project post, and of those the key ones are as below.

The Open Biblio Principles

Our open bibliographic principles are listed on this site, and have received quite a number of endorsements:

Further development of the Open Biblio software

The Open Biblio software was originally created as part of a project at the University of Edinburgh, by Rufus Pollock and Will Waites. It provides an RDF catalogue and web apps for bibliographic records. It was used to run bibliographica.


Bibliographica is an instance of the Open Biblio software that has been loaded up with the British Library British National Bibliography. This serves as an example. However we found during work with this that it was difficult to build front end services that used it – there was something of a disparity between the RDF world and the key-value front end world. Not necessarily a technical issue, but perhaps a cultural one. We also found later that the resource required to run a triple store at the scale we were looking at when we received the Medline dataset (20 million records) was a bit beyond what we had available. This roughly coincided with the end of the JISC Open Bibliography project, at which point we began working with Jim Pitman and his BibServer software.


BibServer is software originally written by Jim Pitman at University of California Berkeley, to manage small scale bibliographic collections for individuals or departments. We are working to make this software more widely available for this purpose, and in the process we are developing a couple of useful things.


BibJSON is just JSON with some agreement on what we expect particular keys to mean. We would like to write parsers from various other formats into BibJSON, to make it easier for people to share bibliographic records and collections.


Given lots of records in BibJSON, and some tools such as BibServer to make use of them, we could build a huge collection of bibliographic records in a simple format that people can easily share. This would be the BibSoup. We have an instance of the BibServer software up as an Alpha service at, and are now focussing development of BibServer as the platform.

Details of the BibServer / BibJSON / BibSoup work are going up at This will serve as the source for information about the code and the standard. We are hoping to build up further engagement around this work via the Bibliographic Knowledge Network.

Bibliographic Knowledge Network

The BibKN originally developed out of some work Jim was involved in:; and we believe the OKF can take this forward as a community into which people / groups committed to advocating for and providing open bibliography can join. The OKF open biblio working group would be such a group, along with others beyond the OKF scope. Further efforts at community engagement are under way too, via some other projects.

Public Domain Works

The Public Domain Works presents a way to engage with people more generally than just via the perhaps dull approach of bibliographic records – by concentrating on the works themselves. The content of these works is the art – it is what people are really interested in; but, knowing a work is in the public domain may be a very useful thing, and such information could be a facet of an open bibliographic record. This would enable artists, for example, to find material upon which they could build to produce new works. So, ideally, we will be able to store bibliographic records in a bibserver, have tools in place to identify works that are in the public domain, record that fact in the bibliographic record, and then present a collection of public domain works to the community.

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