The case for Open Data has come strongly to the fore in recent times – not least thanks to explicit government engagement, leading by example in the US, Australia and, not least, in the United Kingdom.
In earlier times, observers may have considered the ‘open data movement’ as the preserve of a certain type of fanaticism also associated with Open Source Software (OSS) and Open Content, emotionally and ideologically linked to the spirit of 1969.
However, OSS and Open Content have now morphed in to propositions with clear business cases of interest to corporations, institutions and governments. National strategies and Chief Information Officers espouse Open Source Software for financial and business benefit, whilst academic leaders are supporting Open Access Journals and Open Educational Resources (OER).
But what about open data? The same process of gradual accommodation seems to be taking place, with both the public sector and the scientific community taking strong and assertive positions.
Then there is metadata … but is that just another form of data? Our problems with bibliographic metadata are quite specific:
- Non-profit and commercial players have built businesses around datasets of MARC records, indexing / TOC services and journal Knowledge Bases – but what is original about those accumulations?
- Bibliographic records in the circulation amongst libraries are of uncertain and complex provenance, with the exceptions of those explicitly tagged by a ‘vendor’ or exclusive to a special collection
We are seeing a number of prominent libraries (such as Cologne and CERN) and online services treating bibliographic data as part of the public realm, as accumulations of common facts about books and other published stuff.
However, the decision to treat your library catalogue as Open Data is more likely to be motivated by a positive business case than by the realization that it is legally defensible to go ‘open’ and publish library catalogue records as a random declaration of belief.
This guide is about those business cases – so read on. We hope that you will be able to re-use the information here to develop the rationale within your institution and that you will also provide feedback within the guide to improve the advice and argumentation herein.