We are OPEN! Share and reuse our public domain collections (and read about how we got there)

Here’s a piece of exciting news: KU Leuven Libraries has adopted an open data policy for its digitised collections! This means that nearly 42.000 digital representations of originals from the library’s public domain holdings may be freely shared and (re-)used by all. And of course this number continues to grow.

How it works?

It’s easy. Online visitors can check the copyright status of the images when viewing digitised collection items online. A direct link guides them to our terms of use page, where they will read that everyone is free to use and reuse images offered as open data at will, mentioning KU Leuven as the owner of the collection item where possible.

The IE viewer displays copyright status information and links to the general terms and conditions.

The information pane of the IIIF-based Mirador viewer displays the same copyright status information and link to the general terms and conditions as the IE viewer

While we strive to keep our collections as open as possible, some items are available under a license, e.g. when the public domain originals are not part of KU Leuven Libraries’ holdings or when permission was given for copyrighted materials to be digitized and made available to the public under specific conditions. Visitors can consult the licensing conditions via the viewer.

When images are made available under a licence, the viewers (here: Mirador) link to specific conditions for use for the digital object in view.

Having checked the status of a digital object and the conditions for use, online visitors can use the direct download possibilities included in the Teneo viewer. These offer single-file or full-object download.

Images may be downloaded as single files or as full object in the IE viewer.

The downloaded images are jpg or jp2 and allow perfect readability of even the smallest written text. Visitors are now ready to become active users of the digitised collection!

How we got there

Easy as it may seem, implementing an open data policy required significant effort on various levels to ensure that online visitors would be clearly informed about the judicial status of both physical originals and the digital representation and what this means for its use. KU Leuven Libraries currently presents its digitised collections either in the Rosetta IE viewer (with an ‘Intellectual Entity’ generally equalling an individual collection item) or – for bespoke collections – in a IIIF-based Mirador viewer. Systems and processes had to be adjusted to show this information on an single-item level in these view environments.

First, data can only be freely used and shared if it can be both accessed and acquired. To this end, easy-to-use download functions were first created within the IE viewer. This viewer now offers both single-file or full-object download (see the images above). Mirador too will include download options before long.

Second, covering the bases, our team collected the rights information from legacy project descriptions and agreements, both internal to KU Leuven Libraries and (for digital objects based on original held by other institutions) with external partners. Unclear phrasing was clarified and the images resulting from digitisation projects were assigned one of three possible legal statuses: public domain/open data, available under a license, or copyrighted.

Third, for each of these three statuses, terms & conditions for use of the digital objects were designed in close collaboration with KU Leuven’s Legal Department. Furthermore, an overview page was created detailing, for each of the digitisation projects, the licensing conditions for those digitized items that are available under a license.

Fourth, a copyright status was assigned to each of the individual digitised objects, more specifically to both the physical (public domain or in copyright) and digital (content as open data, under a license or in copyright) objects. For the originals, the descriptive metadata model was modified to include the copyright status; for the digital objects, status information would become part of the metadata in the information package presented for ingest into the preservation environment.

Terms and conditions for the use of images as open data.

And finally: fifth, we turned to metadata visualisation in the viewer environments. The metadata shown in both the IE and the Mirador viewer is not that of the public search environment Limo nor from the metadata repository Alma, but rather from the digital asset preservation system, Rosetta; hence the choice to include the copyright status of the digital representations in the ingest information packages. By nature, the metadata (just like any data) in the preservation system is unchangeable. Including the extra information for those digital objects already in Rosetta was not something to be done lightly, but implementing an open data policy justified the decision.

Rather than adding copyright statuses to the existing metadata, we decided to create a standard mapping between Alma and Rosetta and replace the existing descriptive metadata in Rosetta. That way, two other issues could be addressed: the inconsistent and the static nature of the descriptive information shown in the digital representation viewers. The inconsistency was a legacy of the early digitisation projects at KU Leuven Libraries (with some projects generating extensive descriptions and others hardly any) while the static nature of the metadata is inherent to its extraction from the preservation environment.

This chart shows the four main elements of our architecture and the flow of data between them. While the viewer (both IE and Mirador) is accessed via a link in Limo, the actual images and metadata shown is retrieved from Rosetta.

The new standard mapping between Alma and Rosetta provides a direct answer to the first issue. The viewers display a uniform metadata set consisting of title, material type, genre, location of the original item and copyright status information. A link to the full descriptive record in Limo gives users access to the most up-to-date information about the digital item on view. And of course both viewers’ metadata panes display all the object-level information required to implement an open data policy. Together with the download functions, this enables KU Leuven Libraries to offer its digitised collections as open data.

The road to ‘open’

KU Leuven Libraries is fully committed to opening up its digitised collections in depth and to as high a standard as possible. Presenting the images of ca. 42.000 – out of nearly 95.000 – digitised library collection items as open data is an important first step in this direction. While we promise to keep improving the user experience in the viewers, with enhanced download functionalities and easier access to terms of use and licensing conditions, you will hear about our first endeavours into opening up metadata as freely available data sets in a next blogpost.

Meanwhile, we invite everyone to visit the collections at Digital Heritage Online (read all about DHO in a previous blog post) and to actively use, reuse and share our digitised collections!

2 thoughts on “We are OPEN! Share and reuse our public domain collections (and read about how we got there)

  1. Reblogged this on Europe's printed and hand-written books in the spotlight and commented:
    Read about how KU Leuven Libraries have made their collections accessible and reusable. For all items there is a clear copyright status, information that is held in the digital asset preservation system. There is also a link to the full descriptive records which provides users with the most current information on the item on view. This way, visitors are encouraged to become active users of digital content.


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