Recommendations on Releasing Library Data as Open Data

Last week, the German KIM-DINI working group (KIM = Competence Centre Interoperable Metadata) officially published recommentations for the release of open data by libraries and related institutions. The recommendations are intended to serve information facilities as guide and reference text for the release of open data.

Besides descriptive metadata which is already covered in other documents also non-sensitive data produced by libraries and related institutions is subject of the recommendations, e.g. statistical data or circulation data. Furthermore, the recommendations don’t only cover open licensing but also open access, open standards and the documentation, sustainability as well as other apsects of open data.

The recommendations include nine principles for open library data. To be called ‘open’ at all the three core demands of open access, open standards and open licenses have to be met.

Furthermore open data should be updated regularly and also be published as raw data. It should be described in a structured form and be accessible without registration. Precautions for a sustainable provision of open data should be taken.

The recommendations follow existing principles and guidelines for open data in memory institutions or the public sector in general. The German original can be found here (shortlink:

The text itself is published under a CC0 license. Its dissemination, re-publication and reuse is expressly desired.

I had a first try at an English translation of the recommendations which is posted below. Anybody please correct mistakes and bad English on the etherpad at Everybody is free to

Recommendations on Opening up Library Data

v.1.0 published on October, 31th 2011

1. Preamble

Libraries and other information facilities work on a daily basis and in various ways with data for different purposes and destinations. They act as producers, providers, users and aggregators of data. To reap the full benefits from data produced by public institutions, it is necessary to publish them openly on the internet.

2. Subject

In information facilities various forms of data are produced which could be subject of an open data release. It is important to emphasize that an open data release can only be carried out under the condition that

  1. the respective data isn’t personal data or otherwise sensitive data,
  2. the respective institution is holder of the database rights or, if possible, the copyright over the data.

Library data includes both bibliographic data in accordance with the “Principles on Open Bibliographic Data” and other data that is created by libraries and related institutions.

For the administration of libraries’ services also further data accrues that – insofar it isn’t personal or otherwise sensitive data – can also be released as open data. These data includes item data, acquisition data, anonymized circulation data, statistical data.

3. Principles

The DINI-KIM working group recommends the release of library data as open data to library institutions in the German-speaking world and beyond. In doing so, the following principles have to be strictly adhered:

  • Open Access, that is the data as a whole must be available on the web openly and without cost.
  • Open Standards, that is the data must be available in an openly documented and non-proprietary format.
  • Open licenses, that is the data (as individual date and as collection) must be published under an open license according to the open definition. to guarantee the data’s best possible legal interoperability, the DINI-KIM working group recommends the use of a public domain waiver like the CC0 Public Domain Dedication or the Public Domain Dedication and License (PDDL).

Furthermore, we recommend considering the following principles:

  • Documentation: A structured description of the data should be published. At best, the data should be registered at a central registry (like the Data hub).
  • Raw data: As possible, the data should be made available in the form as it accrues in libraries’ information cycle. All further filtering or processing is shifted to those who make use of the data.
  • Timeliness: The data should be published in a reasonable time after its creation. What is reasonable may vary regarding the kind of data.
  • Structured: The data should be published in a structured format which allows easy processing.
  • Non-discriminating: Accessing the data should be possible to all, the only acceptable hurdle being acces to the internet. That is, no registration should be required.
  • Sustainability: Provision of open data should be connected with the development of a sustainability concept which ensures long-term archiving and access to older versions of the data.

Rarely compliance to all principles will be guaranteed from the beginning. However, the first three principles are necessary conditions to speak about “open library data” in the first place. It is strongly recommended to start with publishing raw data that may not be available in an openly documented format and/or that may not be structured or regularly updated. In the medium term, it should be worked on complying to all principles.

4. Related Material

Created within the group “Lizenzen” of the DINI-KIM working group.

Contributors: Patrick Danowski, Kai Eckert, Christian Hauschke, Adrian Pohl and others

The text of these recommendations is published under the Creative Commons Lizenz CC0 (this also holds for the English translation). Thus, it is in the public domain, that is it belongs to all and may be used for any purpose without constraints. When reuising the text, it is asked for naming the source.

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