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Europe's national librarians support open data licensing

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The Conference of European National Librarians (CENL), which represents Europe's 46 national libraries, has voted overwhelmingly to support the open licensing of its libraries' data.

This means that the datasets describing all the millions of books and texts ever published in Europe – the title, author, date, imprint, place of publication and so on, which exists in the vast library catalogues of Europe – will become increasingly accessible for anybody to re-use for whatever purpose they want.

Resources such as Wikipedia can use the metadata and apps developers can embed it in new mobile tools for tourism or teaching. For information scientists, it will mean that vast quantities of data are available for Linked Open Data developments, creating relationships between elements of information that’s never been possible before.

The first outcome of the open licence agreement is that the metadata provided by national libraries to Europeana.eu, Europe’s digital library, museum and archive, via the CENL service The European Library, will have a Creative Commons Universal Public Domain Dedication, or CC0 licence. This metadata relates to millions of digitised texts and images coming into Europeana from initiatives that include Google’s mass digitisations of books in the national libraries of the Netherlands and Austria.

Elisabeth Niggemann, former chair of CENL and director of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, said, ‘Providing data under an open licence is key to putting cultural institutions like our national libraries at the heart of innovations in digital applications. Only that way can society derive full social and economic benefit from the data that we’ve created to record Europe’s published output over the past 500 years. The best analogy is between bottled water and a water main. Rather than bottling it and branding it, we’re putting data on tap, so that everyone has free and open access, and can use it for whatever purpose they need.’