Harvard Releases Big Data for Books

Harvard’s library is making public the information on more than 12 million books, videos, audio recordings, images, manuscripts, maps, and more things inside Harvard’s 73 libraries.

Harvard can’t put the actual content of much of this material online, owing to intellectual property laws, but this so-called metadata of things like titles, publication or recording dates, book sizes, or descriptions of what is in the video is also considered highly valuable material. Frequently descriptors of things like audio recordings are more valuable for search engines than the material itself. Search engines frequently rely on metadata over content, particularly when it can’t easily be scanned and understood.

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Well done, Harvard-- releasing metadata to the broadest possible community of users and developers is a strong step forward, in terms of increasing library metadata's relevance and usefulness to the web.

If you give it to them, they will build.

Hopefully this is just the beginning. It would be wonderful if the Library of Congress also took a leadership role in this.

And who knows-- perhaps an open approach to metadata will help us to resolve some of the more thorny issues of AACR2/RDA succession?

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