The March 16, 2010 New York Times reported that C-Span, the television network that has covered 23 years of US government meetings and events, is making its entire video ar
chive available, free and open, on the Internet. This is news of monumental importance, not only for history buffs but in support of a democratic society. Openness is happening, and that’s a Good Thing.
Openness in our world of metadata is also happening, although we’re less likely to read about it in the newspaper. Over the last few weeks and months numerous libraries have freed their data from its dark web data store and made it available for open access. What has been a trickle from library catalogs may be turning into a wave.
In January of this year, the library at CERN in Switzerland published its catalog as Open Data on the Web. The announcement stated:
Librarians are in general very favourable to the principles of Open Access, but surprisingly few libraries have so far set free the data they produce themselves. As one of the first scientific libraries in the world, the CERN Library offers now the bibliographic book records, held in its library catalog, to be freely downloaded by any third party. The records are provided under the Public Domain Data License, a license that permits colleagues around the world to reuse and upgrade the data for any purpose.
The announcement also calls for other libraries to follow suit, in particular libraries and institutions that are signatories to the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.
On the 12th of March, the University and City Library of Cologne announced the open release of approximately 3 million bibliographic records from its catalog. The Library has released the data using Creative Commons license CC0, which places the data in the public domain. Over 600 downloads, from around the world, were recorded at the site in the first day after the announcement, proof that there is an active need for shared bibliographic metadata. Those wishing to follow the project can gather at the Linked Open Data site, which also has pointers to the file downloads. The project hopes to offer the data in a Linked Data format in the near future.
Other libraries have made their data available with less fanfare, but their quiet contributions were often pioneering. The Open Library’s data source page lists over two dozen sources of bibliographic data from libraries, and yet others from publishers. This data is loaded into the Open Library, whose catalog is available for download either in bulk or through APIs.
In support of this growing movement to make bibliographic data available for use and re-use, the Open Knowledge Foundation has announced a new working group on open bibliographic data. The comprehensive knowledge archive network, a registry of open data and content, has a page for registering open bibliographic data sets. And of course, in the interest of LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) and of contributing to the Open Library project, anyone with bibliographic data is encourage to upload their data to the Internet Archive following these simple instructions. (Note that there are copies of the Cologne data and CERN data on the Archive.)
And if all of this doesn’t serve to convince you that open bibliographic data is HERE NOW, the rumor mill tells us that the World Wide Web consortium is forming a working group on library bibliographic data and the semantic web, with at least one of its goals to help libraries participate in the Linked Open Data movement and become better integrated with other data on the web. I have no doubt that there are exciting and rewarding times ahead for libraries.