Library of Congress

The US Library of Congress Just Put 25 Million Records Online, Free of Charge

Set the knowledge free.

DAVID NIELD
27 MAY 2017
 

Knowledge is power, the old saying goes, but it isn't much use if it's hidden away – so we're excited to learn that the US Library of Congress is making 25 million of its records available for free, for anyone to access online.

 

The bibliographic data sets, like digital library cards, cover music, books, maps, manuscripts, and more, and their publication online marks the biggest release of digital records in the Library's history.

"The Library of Congress is our nation's monument to knowledge and we need to make sure the doors are open wide for everyone, not just physically but digitally too," says Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

"Unlocking the rich data in the Library's online catalogue is a great step forward. I'm excited to see how people will put this information to use."

Researchers and analysts will get most use out of the new records, but there's plenty of potential for them to be used in apps and databases as well. The Library hosted a Hack-to-Learn workshop looking at how the data could be used.

The new mine of information covers records from 1968, and the earliest days of electronic cataloguing, right up to 2014.

"The Library of Congress catalogue is literally the gold standard for bibliographic data and we believe this treasure trove of information can be used for much more than its original purpose," says the Library's Beacher Wiggins.

 

Thanks to the spread of a little invention known as the internet, we're seeing more and more libraries, organisations, and agencies put their valuable data online for all to use.

Last year NASA decided to make all of the scientific research it funds available on the web for free, hoping to spark further studies and "magnify the impact" of its papers.

NASA also allows developers to download and build upon its software applications, without paying any royalty or copyright fees, so whether you're wanting to build a rocket or analyse satellite data, you can find a tool to help.

Want to know more about Darwin's iconic On the origin of Species work? Point your browser at the American Museum of National History website and you can digitally leaf through 16,000 high-resolution images free of charge.

Meanwhile, the Unpaywall plug-in is designed to get past scientific journal paywalls legally and easily, so inquiring minds can learn more about our world without having to stump up for a subscription.

There's lots out there. If you're eager to get your hands on as much free educational material as possible, here are 8 awesome resources you can totally get behind.

That the US Library of Congress is adding to the trend is definitely welcome news – the library is the largest in the world, having been established at the start of the 19th century as a resource for Congress.

The Library's collections include more than 38 million books and more than 70 million manuscripts, and now some of that vast pile of reference data and other resources can be accessed by anyone for free.

"We hope this data will be put to work by social scientists, data analysts, developers, statisticians and everyone else doing innovative work with large data sets to enhance learning and the formation of new knowledge," says Wiggins.

 

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