The UK national library has around 14 million catalogue records comprising a wealth of bibliographic data. The initiative announced today will help expose this vast dataset to users worldwide, allowing researchers and other libraries to access and retrieve bibliographic records for publications dating back centuries and relating to every conceivable subject area.
The new free service will operate in parallel to the British Library's priced bulk MARC data supply activity which is used extensively by large commercial customers.
“By making the British Library’s bibliographic data available in new ways for wider, non-commercial use we want to encourage users beyond the traditional library world to explore and use this important international resource,” said Neil Wilson, the British Library’s Head of Metadata Services. “For libraries, free access to these records will help reduce the effort involved in cataloguing their holdings. For the wider research community, they are a valuable source of data to help advance knowledge.”
In some instances researchers may use the Library’s records for purposes very different from those for which they were originally created. The Library recently provided the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) with some eight million bibliographic records – allowing the IPO to conduct research into publishing trends dating as far back as 1650, and to plot these patterns against the course of changes in IP legislation.
“We believe this vast dataset of bibliographic records – created and compiled by the British Library over many decades – has a range of applications far beyond its original purpose, its going to be exciting to find out the new uses that organisations and individuals can make of this data” added Neil Wilson. “As developments such as the semantic web create new and more effective opportunities for researchers to find, manipulate and link information, the availability of good quality data from a trusted source such as the British Library will become increasingly important.”
The British Library
is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs,
newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.