In 2004 there was almost no open data available about cultural works, books and manuscripts, such as bibliographic information. Early Open Knowledge International (formerly Open Knowledge Foundation) cultural projects were limited to working with donations of data from private collections, and data that had been collected and manually requested from institutions. Change was slow. In 2007, 150 organisations petitioned the Library of Congress to mention open data in a major report on the future of bibliographic information, but there was no traction. Institutions were not responsive.

Now, after nearly a decade of advocacy and activity in this area from Open Knowledge International, we have a wealth of open cultural data and open bibliographic information — from leading institutions like the UK’s British Library and the Netherlands’ Rijksmuseum, as well as from major aggregator initiatives like Europeana (Europe’s Digital Library), the Digital Public Library of America, and OCLC, which all now require or support open data.

This is hugely enabling for projects aiming to catalogue books and other cultural works, helping people identify and find such works (without needing to visit a card catalogue!) and making the sum of human knowledge more accessible to all.