|Implementation Guidelines for the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting|
Guidelines for Harvester Implementers
Protocol Version 2.0 of 2002-06-14
Document Version 2005/01/19T19:27:00Z
Cornell University - Computer Science)
Herbert Van de Sompel (OAI Executive; Los Alamos National Laboratory - Research Library)
Michael Nelson (Old Dominion University - Computer Science)
Simeon Warner (Cornell University - Computer Science)
This document is one part of the Implementation Guidelines that accompany the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH).
2. Running Harvesting Software
2.1 Agent and Contact information
3. Datestamps and Granularity
5. Flow Control, Load Balancing and Redirection
6. Incomplete Lists and
resumptionToken Arguments in URLs
6.2 Error Recovery for List Requests
7. Response Compression
8. Harvesting all the Metadata from a Repository
This document provides guidelines for harvester implementers and maintainers. The OAI-PMH is designed to provide a low barrier to implementation for repositories and this means that in places burden has placed on harvesters in order to simplify repository implementation. For example, harvesters must support both day and second datestamp granularities because repositories may use either.
OAI-PMH harvesters are robotic agents and care should be taken to avoid creating an accidental denial-of-service attack against repositories. Implementers and operators unfamiliar with running web robots should consult The Web Robots Pages for background. The testing of new harvesting software or a new installation should include checks to ensure that unexpected replies or error conditions do not lead to rapid-fire retry attempts. Harvesting software should be written to terminate (pending manual intervention) if it receives HTTP status code 403 or other unexpected replies.
Since OAI-PMH interfaces to repositories are created specifically to be
accessed by automatic harvesting software, it is not customary to use
/robots.txt standard to permit or forbid harvesting.
It is not expected that harvesters will consult this file.
OAI-PMH harvesters should follow the standard practices for HTTP
robotic agents. In particular, they should supply HTTP
User-Agent header field should contain
information about the user agent originating the request,
it is described in section 14.43 of the
From header field should contain an Internet
e-mail address for the human user who controls the harvested, it
is is described in section 14.22 of the
The email address in the
From header will provide
a point of contact if there is some problem created by the
Each record in a repository has a
datestamp which is
included in the
header blocks of
Datestamps are specific to records, they may not be the same for all
records (metadata formats) disseminated from a particular item.
Repositories may express datestamps in either day or seconds
granularity and they must declare the finest granularity supported
<granularity> element of the
Harvesters wishing to harvest only with day or coarser granularity may
do so without considering the
as all repositories must support
parameters of the form
YYYY. Note that day boundaries occur at midnight
(00:00h) UTC and that, regardless of the granularity of the
until parameters, the
datestamp values returned will be in the native
(finest) granularity that the repository supports.
Harvesters wishing to harvest with finer than day granularity must
<granularity> element in the
Identify response. Repositories will issue
badGranularity error if
until parameters are issued with finer granularity than
Items in a repository may change or be added during a harvest, or after
a harvest within the same
datestamp (i.e. the same day
YYYY-MM-DD). This means
that to incrementally harvest from a repository, a harvester should
overlap successive incremental harvests by one
increment (i.e. one day if the granularity is
Furthermore, since it is repository implementation dependent whether
changes that occur during the harvest will be reflected in the
from argument of the next incremental harvest
should be based on the the
responseDate returned in the
first partial-list response of a sequence. When harvesting from
repositories which use a
datestamp granularity of one
second, it is advisable to overlap by a small additional amount
to account for any discrepancy between the reported
responseDate and the time at the repository when any
search necessary to answer the request was performed.
Harvesters may choose to ignore any sets that a repository exposes by not
set parameter for any list requests, and by ignoring
<setSpec> elements in any records returned.
To determine whether a repository implements sets or which sets it does
implement, a harvester should issue a
The error reply
noSetHierarchy will indicate that sets are
not supported. Otherwise the list of sets implemented will be returned.
Note that colons (
:) in the
indicate hierarchy. Harvesting from a set which has sub-sets will cause
the repository to return metadata from all items in the set specified
and also recursively return metadata from all items in sub-sets of the
set specified. For example, if a repository returns the
then harvesting the set
aaa will return metadata from
item1 in the response
(see OAI-PMH: 2.7 Set).
It is essential that harvesting software respect flow control responses from repositories. Not doing so may turn a harvest attempt into a denial-of-service attack on the repository.
Repositories which issue
503 Service Unavailable
HTTP replies as
a means of flow control should include a
Retry-After HTTP header
to indicate how long a harvester should wait before issuing the request again.
Harvesters that encounter a
503 reply without a
Retry-After header should not automatically retry without
considerable delay (minutes) or, preferably, manual intervention. Harvesters
must not be written to retry indefinitely.
Either as part of a load balancing strategy or for other reasons, a
repository may issue
302 Found HTTP replies to redirect
the harvester to another URL indicated in a
HTTP header. Harvesters that encounter a
Location header should not automatically retry
Harvesters must be prepared to receive incomplete list responses to
ListSets requests. An incomplete list response is
indicated by the presence of a
in the response.
The next incomplete list request is made using
the content of the
resumptionToken element as the
value of the exclusive
The last incomplete list response is indicated by a
resumptionToken element with no content. An example
sequence of requests and responses is shown below.
Original list request:
http://an.oai.org/script? verb=ListIdentifiers&from=2001-01-01&until=2001-01-03First incomplete list response:
<L ...> <header>...</header> <header>...</header> ... <resumptionToken completeListSize="20" cursor="0">2001-01-02:2001-01-03:0</resumptionToken> </ListIdentifiers>Request for second incomplete list:
http://an.oai.org/script? verb=ListIdentifiers&resumptionToken=2001-01-02%3A2001-01-03%3A0Second incomplete list response:
<ListIdentfiers...> <header>...</header> <header>...</header> ... <resumptionToken completeListSize="20" cursor="9">2001-01-03:2001-01-03:0</resumptionToken> </ListIdentifiers>Request for third incomplete list:
http://an.oai.org/script? verb=ListIdentifiers&resumptionToken=2001-01-03%3A2001-01-03%3A0Third incomplete list response, the empty
<ListIdentfiers...> <header>...</header> <header>...</header> ... <resumptionToken completeListSize="20" cursor="18"></resumptionToken> </ListIdentifiers>The complete list may now be created by concatenating the contents of all the incomplete lists.
resumptionTokenArguments in URLs
When harvesters make a follow-on request using a
resumptionToken value from the previous request, the value
must be correctly encoded for both HTTP GET and POST requests.
Reserved characters and the correct escape sequences are listed in
OAI-PMH: 126.96.36.199 Encoding of special characters in keyword arguments of OAI-PMH requests.
If there is a network error or other condition that results in the
loss of an incomplete list response, a harvester may re-issue the
resumptionToken to continue the list request
sequence. The requirement for idempotency of the most recent incomplete list
request means that the set of responses to the list request sequence
will still constitute the correct complete list response.
If a harvester receives a
badResumptionToken error during
a sequence of incomplete list requests then it must assume that the
resumptionToken has either expired or is invalid in
some other way. There is no way to resume the list request sequence
in this case; the harvester must start the list request again.
If a harvester receives some other error then there is an unrecoverable problem with the list request sequence; the harvester must start the list request again.
If a repository supports compression it should announce this by including
compression elements in the
Harvesters that wish to use compression may look for the compression
element in order to determine what compression to request. The following
is an example excerpt from an
<Identify ...> ... <compression>gzip</compression> <compression>compress</compression> ... </Identify>
which says that this repository supports
encodings in addition to the mandatory
If a harvester receiving this response supports
gzip compression then
it might issue subsequent requests with one of the following HTTP headers:
Accept-Encoding: gzip, identity Accept-Encoding: gzip;q=1.0, identity;q=0.5
identity must be included in the list. The first form simply
says that both types of response are acceptable, the second form says that
encoding is preferred (higher
q value). The second form is recommended.
HTTP: RFC 2616 section "14.3 Accept-Encoding", and
OAI-PMH: 3.1.3 Response Compression.)
Proxies, aggregators and other such agents may wish to harvest a complete copy of a repository including set structure and all metadata formats. One strategy for doing this would be:
Identifyrequest to find the finest datestamp granularity supported.
ListMetadataFormatsrequest to obtain a list of all
ListRecordsrequests for each
metadataPrefixsupported. Knowledge of the datestamp granularity allows for less overlap if granularities finer than a day are supported.
setSpecelements in the
headerblocks of each record returned (consistency checks are possible).
<about>blocks may be re-assembled at the item level if it is the same for all metadata formats harvested. However, this information may be supplied differently for different metadata formats and may thus need to be store separately for each metadata format.
Support for the development of the OAI-PMH and for other Open Archives Initiative activities comes from the Digital Library Federation, the Coalition for Networked Information, and from the National Science Foundation through Grant No. IIS-9817416. Individuals who have played a significant role in the development of OAI-PMH version 2.0 are acknowledged in the protocol document.
2005-01-19: HTML fixes and added Table of Contents.
2002-05-13: Changed to reflect day/second granularities in protocol.
2002-03-31: Release of initial version of OAI-PMH v2.0 guidelines documents.