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Last edited by DriniBot
April 25, 2022 | History

How You Can Help

May 11, 2010 - Please note that this page is entirely out of date.

The Open Library project is an enormous undertaking. We can't do it without your help.

If you can help with anything do not hesitate to contact us!

Here are some things we can use your help on, categorized by skill:

Making phone calls

A site like this requires massive amounts of data; we'll take whatever we can get our hands on. Most of the data in the book world is locked up behind contracts or access restrictions. By contrast, we put everything we can on the Internet for free. But there's more data than we can collect by ourselves. That's where you come in: you can help us by making the phone calls with various data providers to try and get us their data.


Lots of libraries have large catalog collections stored as MARC data. If you can get your favorite friendly library to send us a dump of their data, we'll be forever indebted. There are a few requirements for data submitted to the Open Library. Status:


Records from these libraries have been imported.

  1. Library of Congress: imported (8M records)
  2. University of North Carolina: imported (4162599 good records, 12 bad)
  3. Oregon State University: imported
  4. Washington State University: imported
  5. Lewis and Clark: imported
  6. Oregon Health Science University: imported
  7. National College of Natural Medicine: imported
  8. Western States Chiropractic Community Library: imported
  9. Portland Community College: imported
  10. University of Toronto: imported (6M records)
  11. Miami University of Ohio: imported (2028337 records, parses okay)
  12. Western Washington University: imported
  13. Boston College: imported (2.1M records)
  14. Laurentian: imported
  15. Boston Public Library: imported 2165372 records
  16. Talis: imported
  17. Buffalo State College: imported
  18. Collingswood Public Library: imported
  19. Harvard's HOLLIS catalog: imported
  20. Ithaca College Library: imported
  21. San Francisco Public Library: imported
  22. Binghamton University: imported

Not yet imported

To pursue

Having trouble convincing your local library? See if the Open Library Information Sheet will answer their questions.
Worried about OCLC licensing? Read more about their agreement.


Most publishers provide "ONIX feeds" -- XML export of all their information about the books they publish. Unfortunately, you generally need to call them and make a deal to get these feeds. If you can pick a favorite publisher and try to work out a deal for us, you'll be doing a service for the cause of freedom. Lots of presses are owned by larger companies, so you might want to follow the ownership ladder to make sure you end up with as many records as possible. Status:

Book data sources

We have a list of all the ISBNs we know about (text, html) -- if you can collect information about these ISBNs from other data sources, we'd love it.

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Book scans

Obviously, we'd also like scans of books:

Copyright status

It's important to know whether a book has fallen into the public domain or not. First this requires data about the book's copyright registration and renewal:

It also requires the development of algorithms for analyzing this information and calculating a current copyright status.

Swap sites

Popularity data

In a sea of books, it's nice to have some ways of seeing which ones are more "important" than others. You want your search engine to bring up The Da Vinci Code before The Da Vinci Method, if only because the numbers say that's more likely what people want. And when you're importing a book that says its by David Eggers, you want to guess it's the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and not Physical Chemistry: A Textbook. Similarly, good popularity data can keep you from recommending people things like Harry Potter.

Respect data

Strict popularity isn't the only thing that matters. We also want to know whether the book is respected, even if it's not a bestseller.

For example, if you happen to have a copy of the Book Review Digest CD-ROM, we'd be massively indebted. The following libraries supposedly have a copy:

Other collections of reviews include:

Is there an online review aggregation site for books? Metacritic only does a handful.

Inter-book relations

Copyright information


If you know other people with library data, we'd love that too.

Library science

See our page on librarianship for things you can help with.


We want our site to look as good as possible, which means we're always interested in new designs. Luckily, Infogami has a powerful templating system that allows you to create your own look and feel for the site. For more information, read the guide to our wiki language. Let us know if you have questions or have developed a nifty new template.


Lots of our work here requires programming. If you have a lot of time, you can hop right in and become a serious developer on Infogami or Open Library. (Check out our bug list.) But if you have less time, perhaps you can pick up a smaller project:

Price check

We want Open Library to be a hub for all the book information on the Internet. As part of that, we're developing plugins to grab data from other sites. For example, we'd like code that checks prices at various stores and lists them, code that sees which libraries a book is available at near a zip code, code which checks to see if a book is available in a Borders near a bookstore, etc. We'd also like code that sees whether a book is available at particular libraries or on particular book trading sites (like bookmooch).


We'd love to have our data exported in RDF/XML, database dumps, OAI, microformats, Z39.50, a cover repository API.


April 25, 2022 Edited by DriniBot Fix permission open pages
April 12, 2022 Edited by Daniel Beatty Edited without comment.
November 18, 2021 Edited by 1
August 15, 2021 Edited by 1
March 4, 2009 Created by webchick creating .en /about/help page