April 24, 2012 – The Harvard Library announced it is making more than 12 million catalog records from Harvard's 73 libraries publicly available.
The records contain bibliographic information about books, videos, audio recordings, images, manuscripts, maps, and more. The Harvard Library is making these records available in accordance with its Open Metadata Policy and under a Creative Commons 0 (CC0) public domain license. In addition, the Harvard Library announced its open distribution of metadata from its Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard (DASH) scholarly article repository under a similar CC0 license.
"The Harvard Library is committed to collaboration and open access. We hope this contribution is one of many steps toward sharing the vital cultural knowledge held by libraries with all," said Mary Lee Kennedy, Senior Associate Provost for the Harvard Library.
The catalog records are available for bulk download from Harvard, and are available for programmatic access by software applications via API's at the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The records are in the standard MARC21 format.
"By instituting a policy of open metadata, the Harvard Library has expressed its appreciation for the great potential that library metadata has for innovative uses. The two metadata releases today are prime examples," said Stuart Shieber, Library Board Member, Director of the Office for Scholarly Communication and Professor of Computer Science at Harvard.
John Palfrey, Chair of the DPLA, said, "With this major contribution, developers will be able to start experimenting with building innovative applications that put to use the vital national resource that consists of our local public and research libraries, museums, archives and cultural collections." He added that he hoped that this would encourage other institutions to make their own collection metadata publicly available.
The records consist of information describing works—including creator, title, publisher, date, language, and subject headings—as well as other descriptors usually invisible to end users, such as the equalization system used in a recording. Harvard's Kennedy noted, "The accessibility of the entire set of data for each item will, we hope, spur imaginative uses that will find new value in what libraries know."