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BPE 2007 – Why Care about OAI?

At Best Practices Exchange 2007, I listened to Todd Welch talk about the Colorado Plateau Digital Archives at http://www.nau.edu/library/speccoll in the context of his work with OAI (Open Archives Initiative) compliant data.

I’ve heard about OAI, read articles about OAI and even had fellow FGI volunteers explain OAI to me but for some reason it didn’t take. It kept being some technical standard that I probably know something about but made my eyes glaze over when it was mentioned.

But Todd’s talk changed that. I still don’t know OAI well enough to try to explain here and my notes from his session are somewhat thin. But I now have a good grasp of WHY it’s important.

Designing databases and other applications to by OAI compliant allows other people to harvest data about about your project and reuse it in other applications. For example, OAIster gathers descriptive data (metadata) about collections around the world and makes them searchable in one place.

There are benefits to narrower applications than OAIster. For example, Todd said that if other states in his area ran OAI compliant databases that could both generate and import data in OAI format, all of the states could build stronger collections about the Colorado Plateau because all the bordering states would have each others records to search.

So now I get that part and hope I’ve communicated a little of the magic to you. It’s enough that I’m now at least somewhat interested in finding a way to issue my state’s depository shipping lists in an OAI compliant format, but I’m not sure where to begin. My list is generated by our SIRSI Unicorn system and then reformatted in Word for the print version and finally marked up in HTML for web access and LOCKSS harvesting. I’d need a solution that added very little work to what I’m already doing. Any ideas out there?

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