#jiscopenbib The British Library’s National Bibliography is Open! Join in the party.

I’d like to congratulate the British Library on releasing its National Bibliography as Open data. This is in conjunction with our JISC-funded Open Bibliography #jiscopenbib. I am sure there are many at the BL who have contributed from the Director downwards but we particularly thank Ben White and Neil Wilson. See Ben O’Steen’s account:


Isn’t bibliography REALLY BORING? A list of the books in the library?


It’s a living semantic resource. That because we can interpret it, enhance it and use it as the underpinning of our scholarship. It’s a map. It’s as exciting as an Open map of the UK. Maps are a complex record of times, places, people, events, etc. A bibliography is a living record of our history and biography (sic).

What was the most famous book in the 1960’s? It has to be Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H.Lawrence. It wasn’t a book – it was an event that changed British Society. The book itself challenged our ideas of sex, love, the class structure of Britain. The publication by Penguin and the subsequent obscenity trial changed our ideas of democracy.

So what does a boring bibliographic entry give us? It gives us a point on the bibliographic map of Britain and the world. This point is located in space, time, people, society and much more. It’s typified by the Wikipedia page. That immediately links to other books, people, etc. And as Wikipedia is Open I can use all of theose for personal enlightenment or scholarship.

So what’s the first thing we can do LCL? We can see if Lawrence is dead:

David Herbert Richards Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930)

Good! He’s been dead 80 years! He’s out of copyright! (Except Mexico – how do I know that? Well the OKF has a copyright calculator and it will tell you when it’s out of copyright). So I can reproduce LCL for any purpose. I can use it for a movie. I can use it as the seed for my random number generator or my one-time cryptography (not a smart idea). I can see what protein sequence the words translate into (this, of course, is barmy – as barmy as proving that Lawrence wrote Shakespeare). But I can do it!

More seriously I can use textual analysis to create a map of the Lawrence’s writings. (I’d really love to do this for Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, KBE (15 October 1881 – 14 February 1975, and complete an RDF map of his characters – I suspect it’s already been done).

There’s so much more. Lawrence is well researched. But lots of other authors aren’t. If your hobby is Aircraft, then the best selling Penguin of WWII was “Aircraft Recognition – A penguin special”. I loved that book. It’s a great point in time, space and literature. Yes, literature – because it helped Penguin prosper and laid the framework for LCL. And it’s great in its own right. Meticulous monochrome diagrams (top, side, front) of hundreds of WWII aircraft. Beautiful. I’d llike to know its ISBN in an Open manner. I’d like to know when its author died so I can reproduce the diagrams.

Not everything is in the BL National Bibliography. And it’s not free from errors. No bibliography is. But by making it Open we can help remove the errors.

There is SO MUCH we can do. Places, events…

So this should be a milestone in bibliographic history. Where the BL leads others can follow. (And some who I hope to report on later have already opened their bibliography). We can do mashups between bibliographies.

We can create a complete bibliography of the world.

And YOU can be part of it. You don’t have to be a librarian. It helps if you love books.

Open Streetmap has 250,000 volunteers. There are already lots of volunteers creating openly accessible bibliographic entries [1].

How many books do YOU have on your shelves? Are they in the catalogue? Let us know if this excites you.

[1] We believe it’s important that the records are fully Open (OKD-compliant). Therefore scraping records off web pages (e.g. Amazon) isn’t good enough. I know this seems picky but OSM insists on this and there’s no shortage of volunteers.



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4 Responses to #jiscopenbib The British Library’s National Bibliography is Open! Join in the party.

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics, Cambridge - #jiscopenbib The British Library’s National Bibliography is Open! Join in the party. « petermr’s blog [cam.ac.uk] on Topsy.com

  2. Thank you so much for posting this, especially for those of us across the pond.

  3. Pingback: Links 19/11/2010: GNOME Outreach Program for Women, Rainbow 0.2 | Techrights

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