Why Open Up Bibliographic Data

Over the past few years, open licensing has facilitated the explosive growth of a ‘knowledge commons’. To give a few prominent examples: Open Access journals, Open Educational Resources and Open Data in scientific research have all been enabled by licenses which permit material to be freely re-used and re-distributed.

Bibliographic records are a key part of our shared cultural heritage. They too should therefore be open, that is made available to the public for access and re-use under an open license which permits use and reuse without restriction [2].

Stimulating cooperation within and beyond the library world

Opening up bibliographic data is a logical extension of the ideals of cooperation and sharing that have been a constant between libraries and library networks for more than a century.

Library institutions are among the first to benefit from a liberalization of bibliographic data (see below). But publishing open bibliographic data not only enhances cooperation within the traditional library community, it also enables usage by non-library institutions such as Wikipedia or the Internet Archive, thus opening up new vistas for cooperation.

Moreover, the enhancements that result from collaboration with a wider community can be fed back into library catalogues and other traditional library resourcees enhancing their value while reducing costs.

Advantages for libraries

But what advantages does Open Data have for libraries? We firmly believe that the release of publicly funded bibliographic data is a priority task for libraries and library networks, which can achieve four main goals:

  1. Ensuring the fullest possible use is made of the wealth of bibliographic data
  2. Maintaining and increasing the relevance of library institutions by increasing their visibility in the World Wide Web and the Semantic Web
  3. Broadening participation in bibliographic data creation, enhancement, and correction
  4. Enabling creation of new services/applications utilizing bibliographic data generating benefits both for researchers and library users and the wider community

Catalogue enrichment with Open Data

The spread of Open Data practice has direct benefits for the library world: for example, it facilitates the enrichment of individual catalogues with information provided by other libraries, e.g. keywords and classification numbers. This improves the search functionality of the catalogue, thus benefitting both librarians and users. At the same time, it also facilitates the enrichment of catalogues from non-library sources (publishers, booksellers, book fan sites) as well as from the scholarly community.

Increasing the visibility of libraries in the Web

The visibility of data can be vastly increased by free publication, as it is no longer accessible solely via the catalogue. The data will be transferred from the library silo, a part of the “deep web”, into the visible web and can be directly detected by Google and others. As a result non-library sites can also link to library resources, thus increasing the visibility of the libraries and their services.

Advantages for library users

Besides optimizing the research tools for bibliographic resources opening library data will allow users to more easily integrate library metadata into their own work.

  • Easier creation of bibliographies
  • Better integration with teaching functions
  • Increased integration between libraries and research
  • Development of new tools and services whose features and benefits we now anticipate!

[1] Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (2003) http://oa.mpg.de/openaccess-berlin/berlindeclaration.html

[2] http://www.opendefinition.org/

One Response to Why Open Up Bibliographic Data

  1. dr0ide says:

    Most people I’ve met are excited about your given arguments, but not satisfied – they always end up with the question “Can you show me something?”. So what I think is missing and would be most convincing: a list of links of already working projects (not just ideas of projects).

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