In addition to human users, online national bibliographies can also be accessed directly by computer software applications. Such applications include federated or distributed searching and harvesting tools (e.g. "search bots"). Such usage poses additional technical and security demands that need to be taken into account when planning a fully functional online national bibliography.

A growing number of application programming interfaces (APIs) to bibliographic databases exist. The Bath profile provides explicit guidelines for how to support the ANSI Z39.50 standard-search and retrieval protocol including defined query terms and term combinations. This may be considered the minimum level interface that should be supported to allow connection from most library management systems.

Many national libraries and national bibliographic agencies also offer users access to their datasets via information retrieval portals. In addition to such national resources there are also international initiatives including The European Library, the common portal of European national and research libraries.

Information systems requirements from the national bibliography

For search current approaches include:

  • Distributed searching using traditional Z39.50 or newer ZING SRU/SRW
  • A central index, created and maintained by harvesting with OAI-PMH
  • An RDF triple store for use via the Linked Data API or a SPARQL endpoint