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Open Archives > OAI protocols

1. Definition of the protocol OAI
2. Aims of the protocol OAI
1. Definition of the protocol OAI

The OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative's Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) is an intiative to develop and promote interoperability standards that aim to facilitate the efficient dissemination of content between :

- the data provider (libraries, museum...) who set OAI repositories to expose their metadata

- the service provider (could be libraries, documentation centers, portals) who issues OAI harvesters to collect the metadata of the sites of interest.

The OAI-Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) defines a mechanism for harvesting records containing metadata from repositories. The OAI-PMH gives a simple technical option for data providers to make their metadata available to services in full text, based on the open standards HTTP (Hypertext Transport Protocol) and XML (Extensible Markup Language) without duplication neither modification of their original location.

Through the OAI protocol, a Library acting as a data provider can offer a visibility to its documents, mainly to its electronic publications or to its specialised collections.

Vice versa, acting as a service provider , a Library can create a database or a portal in its domain of speciality by collecting the metadata of the documents and resources accessible on the internet and the OAI repositories.

Finally, the OAI protocol allows the communication between diverse and heterogenous databases and the development of partnership between various establishments very close by their collection or by their public.

The OAI-PMH has been elaborated by the Open Archive Initiative Open Archive Initiative (after the Santa Fe convention in 1999) to facilitate the description and the dissemination of metadata (= descriptive data) of scientific articles available through open access on the internet , specially in the pre-publications directories. Very quickly, it appeared to be so well adapted to the sharing of the metadata of scientific and cultural documents, existing in homogeneous and various resources. The version 2 of the OAI protocol became steady by June 2002 after an experimental phase. The last version is considered as the defined specification.
2. Aims of the OAI protocol
  The OAI protocol allows :
  • to lower the "invisible web "barriers by pointing out the resources non accessible by the search engines;

  • to facilitate the interoperability of documentary resources, without duplicating, neither uploading of primary digital records ;

  • to update simply and automatically the collected metadata and links, by recuperating the last modifications of the reservoirs sources, without copying the integrality of the data ;

  • to encourage the use of a descriptive format fairly generic for interdisciplinary needs ;

  • to integrate heterogeneous resources, while maintaining the descriptive traditions, and keeping the parralled maintenance of these traditions of other use.


Updated : February, 2nd, 2010


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