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Web-Scraping for Non-Programmers: Introducing OXPath for Digital Library Metadata Harvesting

, , and . Code4Lib Journal (October 2017)

Abstract

Building up new collections for digital libraries is a demanding task. Available data sets have to be extracted which is usually done with the help of software developers as it involves custom data handlers or conversion scripts. In cases where the desired data is only available on the data provider’s website custom web scrapers are needed. This may be the case for small to medium-size publishers, research institutes or funding agencies. As data curation is a typical task that is done by people with a library and information science background, these people are usually proficient with XML technologies but are not full-stack programmers. Therefore we would like to present a web scraping tool that does not demand the digital library curators to program custom web scrapers from scratch. We present the open-source tool OXPath, an extension of XPath, that allows the user to define data to be extracted from websites in a declarative way. By taking one of our own use cases as an example, we guide you in more detail through the process of creating an OXPath wrapper for metadata harvesting. We also point out some practical things to consider when creating a web scraper (with OXPath). On top of that, we also present a syntax highlighting plugin for the popular text editor Atom that we developed to further support OXPath users and to simplify the authoring process.

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