Protocol for Metadata Harvesting

The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is a protocol developed for harvesting (or collecting) metadata descriptions of records in an archive so that services can be built using metadata from many archives. An implementation of OAI-PMH must support representing metadata in Dublin Core, but may also support additional representations.[1]

The protocol is usually just referred to as the OAI Protocol.

OAI-PMH uses XML over HTTP. Version 2.0 of the protocol was released in 2002, the document was last updated in 2015. It has a Creative Commons license BY-SA.


In the late 1990s, Herbert Van de Sompel (Ghent University) was working with researchers and librarians at Los Alamos National Laboratory (US) and called a meeting to address difficulties related to interoperability issues of e-print servers and digital repositories. The meeting was held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in October 1999. A key development from the meeting was the definition of an interface that permitted e-print servers to expose metadata for the papers it held in a structured fashion so other repositories could identify and copy papers of interest with each other. This interface/protocol was named the "Santa Fe Convention".[1]

Several workshops were held in 2000 at the ACM Digital Libraries conference[2] and elsewhere to share the ideas from the Santa Fe Convention. It was discovered at the workshops that the problems faced by the e-print community were also shared by libraries, museums, journal publishers, and others who needed to share distributed resources. To address these needs, the Coalition for Networked Information[3] and the Digital Library Federation[4] provided funding to establish an Open Archives Initiative (OAI) secretariat managed by Herbert Van de Sompel and Carl Lagoze. The OAI held a meeting at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York) in September 2000 to improve the interface developed at the Santa Fe Convention. The specifications were refined over e-mail.

OAI-PMH version 1.0 was introduced to the public in January 2001 at a workshop in Washington D.C., and another in February in Berlin, Germany. Subsequent modifications to the XML standard by the W3C required making minor modifications to OAI-PMH resulting in version 1.1. The current version, 2.0, was released in June 2002. It contained several technical changes and enhancements and is not backward compatible.


The OAI Protocol was adopted by many digital libraries, institutional repositories, and digital archives. Although registration is not mandatory, it is encouraged.

There are several large registries of OAI-compliant repositories:

  1. The Open Archives list of registered OAI repositories
  2. The OAI registry at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  3. The Celestial OAI registry
  4. Eprint’s Institutional Archives Registry
  5. The European Guide to OAI-PMH compliant repositories in the world
  6. A worldwide service and registry


Some commercial search engines use OAI-PMH to acquire more resources. Google initially included support for OAI-PMH when launching sitemaps, however decided to support only the standard XML Sitemaps format in May 2008.[5] In 2004, Yahoo! acquired content from OAIster (University of Michigan) that was obtained through metadata harvesting with OAI-PMH. Wikimedia uses an OAI-PMH repository to provide feeds of Wikipedia and related site updates for search engines and other bulk analysis/republishing endeavors.[6] Especially when dealing with thousands of files being harvested every day, OAI-PMH can help in reducing the network traffic and other resource usage by doing incremental harvesting.[7] NASA's Mercury: Metadata Search System uses OAI-PMH to index thousands of metadata records from Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) every day.[8]

The mod_oai project is using OAI-PMH to expose content to web crawlers that is accessible from Apache Web servers.


OAI-PMH is based on a client–server architecture, in which "harvesters" request information on updated records from "repositories". Requests for data can be based on a datestamp range, and can be restricted to named sets defined by the provider. Data providers are required to provide XML metadata in Dublin Core format, and may also provide it in other XML formats.

A number of software systems support the OAI-PMH, including Fedora, GNU EPrints from the University of Southampton, Open Journal Systems from the Public Knowledge Project, Desire2Learn, DSpace from MIT, HyperJournal from the University of Pisa, Digibib from Digibis, MyCoRe, Primo, DigiTool, Rosetta and MetaLib from Ex Libris, ArchivalWare from PTFS, DOOR [9] from the eLab[10] in Lugano, Switzerland, panFMP from the PANGAEA (data library),[11] SimpleDL from Roaring Development, and jOAI.[12]


A number of large archives support the protocol including arXiv and the CERN Document Server.


A dedicated workshop has been held at CERN in Geneva on a regular basis since 2001. It is now co-organised by University of Geneva and CERN every two years in June. OAI8 was held in June 2013 and OAI9 is going to be held in 2015.

See also


  1. 1 2 Marshall Breeding (September 2002). "Understanding the Protocol for Metadata Harvesting of the Open Archives Initiative". Computers in Libraries. 8 (24): 24–29. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
  2. ACM Digital Libraries conference
  3. Coalition for Networked Information
  4. Digital Library Federation
  5. Google Webmaster blog
  6. "Wikimedia update feed service". Wikimedia Meta-Wiki. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  7. incremental harvesting
  8. R. Devarakonda, G. Palanisamy, J. Green and B. Wilson (2010). "Data sharing and retrieval uses OAI-PMH". Earth Science Informatics. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg. 4 (1): 1–5. doi:10.1007/s12145-010-0073-0.
  9. DOOR
  10. eLab
  11. panFMP
  12. jOAI


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