What is OAI-PMH? Why is it important for institutional repositories?
OAI-PMH stands for The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. It is an interoperability protocol that allows the easy dissemination of automatically harvested metadata from participating data providers. Usually the harvesting will be performed by the service providers, who then develop value-added services to enhance the access to the metadata and thus to the materials it describes. While initially related to e-print, OAI-PMH can be widely used to improve interoperability on a much larger scale.
One of the main benefits for institutional repositories comes from this protocol's application independence. Any repository can implement it without having to rethink their application choices. Secondly, because it standardizes the minimum threshold to allow metadata harvesting, OAI-PMH is easy for a repository to implement as a data provider. Combined with the use of metadata standards, the protocol ensures interoperability and has the potential of enabling access to a huge number of digital collections.
The wide access to institutional repositories that can be reached through the use of this protocol is a significant prerequisite for the achievement of repositories' goals. Since institutional repositories aim at facilitating scholarly communication, access to the scholarly materials they host is crucial. Interoperability is an efficient way for a repository to allow for such an access without necessarily investing in value-added access services. As a data provider a repository needs only to be compliant with OAI-PMH, leaving the development of value-added services to service providers or opting to be a service provider as well.
Open Archives Initiative. (2003). Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting 2.0. Retrieved July 14, 2004 from http://www.openarchives.org/OAI/openarchivesprotocol.html