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<img src=“” alt=“Gem Version” />

The openlibrary gem provides Ruby clients for the Open Library REST API and Books API.

For more information about Open Library development, visit the Open Library Developer Center and Developer Notes. If you want to receive the latest updates and learn how to contribute, join us on the ol-tech mailing list!


The gem is tested against Rubies 2.2.2, and current latest 2.2.x, 2.3.x, and 2.4.x (specifically 2.2.7, 2.3.4, 2.4.1) and runs smoothly with Rails 5.

gem install openlibrary

or in your Gemfile:

gem 'openlibrary'


You can use the Books client to retrieve a book’s Open Library listing information, and the REST client to perform more advanced queries and save changes to Open Library.

# just require
require 'openlibrary'

REST Client

You can use the REST client to look up books, authors, the revision history of any Open Library object, and recent changes to Open Library.

You can also use the REST client to log in and save changes to Open Library, after you register your profile (or your bot’s profile) with the API Usergroup. Send a message to the ol-tech mailing list to learn how!

Getting Started

Before anything else, create a new client:

client =


Since Open Library has varying amounts of information about the books in its database, and returns data in a schemaless format, not every book will have the same properties. Common properties include ‘title`, `works`, and `contributors`, but most books will have more.

Find a book by its OLID:

book ='olid')

book.contributors     # array of book contributors
book.covers           # array of book cover ids            # array of works associated with the book
book.subjects         # array of subjects of the book

book.title            # book title
book.by_statement     # name of primary author(s) of the book
book.number_of_pages  # number of pages in the book
book.copyright_date   # book's copyright date
book.physical_format  # book's physical format
book.isbn_10[0]       # book's ISBN-10 identifier
book.isbn_13[0]       # book's ISBN-13 identifier
book.goodreads[0]     # book's goodreads id

Get data on book contributors:

book.contributors.each do |c|
  name =   # contributor's name
  role = c.role   # contributor's role (e.g., cover art)

Get the book’s subjects:

book.subjects.each do |s|
  subject = s

Get a book’s Open Library object keys by its ISBN, LCCN, or OCLC identifier:

keys = client.book_by_isbn('isbn')   # isbn must be 10 or 13 characters long
keys = client.book_by_lccn('lccn')
keys = client.book_by_oclc('oclc')

Iterate through the array of keys:

keys.each do |k|
  key = k['key']  # keys are in the format '/books/{OLID}'

Although keys are returned in an array, most arrays will only have one element.


Find an author by their OLID:

author ='olid')                 # author name
author.birth_date           # author's birth date
author.death_date           # author's death date
author.last_modified.value  # date and time of last change to page
author.revision             # number of current revision
author.key!                 # author key, in the format '/authors/{OLID}

Find books through the Open Library free text search:

results ="A Tale of Two Cities")

Search by book attributes:

results ={author: "Doctorow", title: "Little Brother"})

Results are arrays of books

results[0].title            # the title of the first result

Revision History

Get the revision history of any Open Library object:

history = client.rev_history('key')

The key should be in the format ‘/type/OLID’. E.g., ‘/books/OL9220552M’, ‘/authors/OL27349A’, or ‘/works/OL468516W’.

Recent Changes

Get an array of recent changes to Open Library:

changes = client.recent

Saving Changes

Use the login method to get a session cookie:

cookie = client.login('username', 'password')

Set the other parameters for the object you want to change:

key     = '/type/OLID'              # e.g., '/books/OL9220552M'
update  = full_object_with_changes  # must be JSON format
comment = 'changed X, Y, and Z'

Save your changes and receive the updated object as a response:

object =, cookie, update, comment)

NOTICE: Before you can actually save changes to Open Library, you need to register your profile (or bot) with the API Usergroup. Send a message to the ol-tech mailing list to learn how!

Books Client

There are three classes in the openlibrary gem you can use to access the Books API. Use Openlibrary::View to look up Open Library listing information, Openlibrary::Data to get a book’s full metadata details, and Openlibrary::Details to get book details in addition to what the Openlibrary::View class provides.


Instantiate the class:

view = Openlibrary::View

Look up a book by its ISBN-10 or ISBN-13:

book = view.find_by_isbn("0451526538")

book.info_url      # book's URL on Open Library
book.preview       # book's preview state, either 'noview' or 'full'
book.thumbnail_url # url of thumbnail cover of the book, if available

# Links to an page with a readable version of the book,
# if one is available. If not, links to the book's Open Library
# page. `book.preview` should be used first to test if a readable
# preview of the book exists.

Other built-in finder methods:

view.find_by_lccn   # Library of Congress catalog number
view.find_by_oclc   # Worldcat Control Number
view.find_by_olid   # Open Library ID


Instantiate the class:

data = Openlibrary::Data

Look up a book by its ISBN-10 or ISBN-13:

book_data = data.find_by_isbn("0451526538")

book_data.title    # book's title
book_data.authors  # array of authors

Other built-in finder methods:

data.find_by_lccn   # Library of Congress catalog number
data.find_by_oclc   # Worldcat Control Number
data.find_by_olid   # Open Library ID


Instantiate the class:

details = Openlibrary::Details

Look up a book by its ISBN-10 or ISBN-13:

book_details = details.find_by_isbn("0451526538")

book_details.info_url    # book's URL on Open Library
book_details.details     # additional details, such as description

Other built-in finder methods:

details.find_by_lccn   # Library of Congress catalog number
details.find_by_oclc   # Worldcat Control Number
details.find_by_olid   # Open Library ID



This code is released under the CC0 License, and may be used for any purpose without restrictions.


Ruby Interface for the OpenLibrary API






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