Thursday, January 25, 2007

OAIster reaches 10 million records

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - OAIster Reaches 10 Million Records.

We live in an information driven world, one in which access to good information defines success. OAIster's growth to 10 million records takes us one step closer to that goal.

Developed at the University of Michigan's Library, OAIster is a collection of digital scholarly resources. OAIster is also a service that continually gathers these digital resources to remain complete and fresh. As global digital repositories grow, so do OAIster's holdings.

Popular search engines don't have the holdings OAIster does. They crawl web pages and index the words on those pages. It's an outstanding technique for fast, broad information from public websites. But scholarly information, the kind researchers use to enrich their work, is generally hidden from these search engines.

OAIster retrieves these otherwise elusive resources by tapping directly into the collections of a variety of institutions using harvesting technology based on the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. These can be images, academic papers, movies and audio files, technical reports, books, as well as preprints (unpublished works that have not yet been peer reviewed). By aggregating these resources, OAIster makes it possible to search across all of them and return the results of a thorough investigation of complete, up-to-date resources.

Ann Devenish, Publication Services Project Manager at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, notes that Harvesting by OAIster is a primary selling point when we talk to scientists and researchers about the visibility, accessibility, and impact of their contributions in an institutional repository. From their own experiences they know that a search using one of the popular search engines can bring back thousands (if not, millions) of results which will require careful and time-consuming screening, with no guarantee that they will ever get to the content they seek. A search of OAIster, across hundreds of open and scholarly archives and millions of records, brings back results with the key metadata elements that allow for quick identification of, and easy navigation to, the content they seek.

OAIster is good news for the digital archives that contribute material to open-access repositories. [OAIster has demonstrated that] OAI interoperability can scale. This is good news for the technology, since the proliferation is bound to continue and even accelerate, says Peter Suber, author of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. As open-access repositories proliferate, they will be supported by a single, well-managed, comprehensive, and useful tool.

Scholars will find that searching in OAIster can provide better results than searching in web search engines. Roy Tennant, User Services Architect at the California Digital Library, offers an example: In OAIster I searched roma and 'world war,' then sorted by weighted relevance. The first hit nailed my topic, the persecution of the Roma in World War II. Trying 'roma world war' in Google fails miserably because Google apparently searches 'Rome' as well as 'Roma.' The ranking then makes anything about the Roma people drop significantly, and there is nothing in the first few screens of results that includes the word in the title, unlike the OAIster hit.

OAIster currently harvests 730 repositories from 49 countries on 6 continents. In three years, it has more than quadrupled in size and increased from 6.2 million to 10 million in the past year. OAIster is a project of the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service.

For more information about University of Michigan's OAIster Project, visit, or contact Kat Hagedorn at

Congratulations & thanks to the University of Michigan's OAIster/ Metadata Harvesting Librarian Kat Hagedorn and OAIster.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

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