The reasons for making bibliographic metadata openly available have been well put by JISC in the Open Bibliographic Data Guide and the Open Knowledge Foundation but whilst many librarians are keen to support making their institutional library metadata available there are issues to be resolved. There can be copyright issues and contractual issues over records in library OPACS which inhibit the release of records. The records in many OPACs will have been obtained from one or more third party organisations (e.g. OCLC, British Library, Ex Libris, Serials Solutions) and even though often the records received from these third parties will have been modified, perhaps quite extensively, there are understandable concerns expressed about the possible repercussions of making them available under an open licence.
SUNCAT is an aggregation of serials’ metadata from (currently) 86 libraries (referred to as Contributing Libraries (CLs)). Whilst much of the metadata will have been created by local library staff and will, therefore be ‘owned’ by the library, some of it will have been purchased from a third party supplier. The metadata is essentially supplied to EDINA on the basis of goodwill and a common understanding about how the data is used and made available. EDINA reached agreement with third party record suppliers that records in MARC21 format could be made available for downloading, but only to staff in CLs.
In the initial project SUNCAT: exploring open metadata (funded under the JISC Capital funded RDTF participation) the decision was taken to adopt an ‘opt in’ approach and, accordingly, an invitation was sent to all the CLs inviting them to participate in making their SUNCAT contributed data openly available under an Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and Licence with reference to the ODC Attribution Share Alike Community Norms. Considerable interest was expressed by CLs in becoming involved but concerns, particularly to do with making third party records available, were raised. A number of librarians said that it would be a good idea if JISC/EDINA could come to an agreement with organisations such as OCLC and RLUK rather than individual libraries needing to approach them; this is an idea certainly worth pursuing.
Licences have now been signed by three organisations. They are the British Library (BL), the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and the Society of Antiquaries; discussions are well advanced with a number of additional organisations. After discussion with BL staff, it was agreed that it would be preferable to add an Appendix to an existing contract between EDINA and the BL, and this has been done. All the data supplied to EDINA by the BL can be made openly available, provided records are not made available in either MARC21 or MARCXML formats. In the case of the National Library of Scotland permission has been given to make all the fields available of all records which have been created by NLS (identified by the presence of ‘StEdNL’ in the 040$a field) or to make title, ISSN and holdings information available for the whole of the contribution to SUNCAT. The Society of Antiquaries has placed no restrictions on the use of their contributed records.
Glasgow University has asked for records from a third party supplier to be excluded from the records made available for open usage and this will be done.
Work is now being carried out to make the records from the initial three organisations freely available on the basis described in the licences and as other licences are signed by additional organisations more data will be published for open usage.