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DigiCULT
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represented in some OAI trials. Resources
may be the products of original authors
(for example, a research paper), or of
intermediary organisations (for example,
the results of a digitisation project in a
museum). Examples of types of data provi-
ders include repositories of e-prints, learning
objects, cultural heritage resources, and even
union catalogues. Examples of services that
could be provided include learning resource
services, cultural heritage services, and e-print
services. Service providers may harvest
metadata from different types of data provi-
ders; for example, a provider of a learning
resource service may harvest metadata rela-
ting to learning objects, cultural heritage
items, and e-prints, and some of it may
come from library union catalogues. Users
may be end-users of the service providers'
services, or may be organisations providing,
for example, subject-based gateways or
institutional portals.
F
or the e-print community, OAI has
been seen as an important element
in the technical underpinning for the
improvement of communication among
researchers, and even for implementing a
dramatic change in the academic publish-
ing paradigm. For other communities, the
importance of OAI lies in the relative ease
with which it can be implemented in
support of collaborative service provision.
Improved and novel access across reposito-
ries and organisations is not feasible
without interoperability. Claims for OAI
as a `low barrier' solution rest on the tech-
nical simplicity of OAI-PMH. Setting up
and maintaining an OAI-compliant server
or harvesting process is easy compared
T
he growing wealth of digital artefacts
in the repositories of the world's cul-
tural institutions can, in theory, be made
available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Through digital finding aids and digital
curation, resources can be discovered and
digital exhibitions can be mounted, regard-
less of where the original material is housed.
In practice, enabling interworking between
diverse collections of material, diverse
systems for the description of material, and
diverse resource discovery systems remains
a fundamental issue for those working in
the digital library and cultural heritage
fields.The Open Archives Initiative (OAI)
promises a low-cost technical solution to
interoperability.The open archives approach
enables access to resources through inter-
operable digital repositories for metadata
sharing, publishing and archiving. It arose
out of the e-print community, where a
growing need for a low-barrier solution
to access across heterogeneous repositories
led to the establishment of the Open
Archives Initiative (OAI).
(http://www.oai.org)
O
AI develops and promotes a low-
barrier interoperability framework
and associated standards, originally to
enhance access to e-print archives, but
now taking into account access to other
digital materials.These efforts were initially
aimed at enabling authors to make resources
available direct to their potential users, in
order to improve the scholarly communi-
cation process, both in terms of speed in
making research widely available, and in
terms of reducing journal purchase costs
to readers and libraries.The key inter-
operability solution provided by the OAI
is a harvesting protocol, now known as
the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for
Metadata Harvesting, or OAI-PMH.
T
he OAI-PMH specifies harvesting of
metadata, not the content that the meta-
data describes, although data and service
providers may optionally decide to enable
the resources themselves to be 'harvested'
using standard Web technologies.The need
for a metadata format that would support
both metadata creation by authors and
interoperability across heterogeneous
repositories led to the choice of unquali-
fied Dublin Core (http://dublincore.org)
as the mandated metadata standard for OAI
compliance. Metadata in qualified Dublin
Core or in other formats, as developed or
selected by particular communities, may be
made available in addition to unqualified
Dublin Core.
I
t is important to note that within the
OAI the term `open archives' has a par-
ticular meaning: `archives' refers to data
repositories; `open' refers to the availability
for harvesting of collections of metadata
relating to data repositories. In OAI
terms, `data providers' make metadata
available for harvesting via OAI-PMH,
and `service providers' harvest metadata
from a number of appropriate data provi-
ders and provide services based upon this
harvested metadata. Data providers may
also be service providers. Metadata made
available for harvesting by one data provi-
der may itself have been aggregated by
harvesting from other data providers.
O
pen archive metadata ordinarily
describes resources held in a digital
repository, such as e-prints, images, lear-
ning objects, multimedia, and Web sites.
However, library catalogues describing
physical as well as digital resources are
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, UKOLN
1 l.carpenter@ukoln.ac.at
2 r.herry@ukoln.ac.at