Greenstone is a suite of software for building and distributing digital library collections. It is not a digital library but a tool for building digital libraries. It provides a new way of organizing information and publishing it on the Internet in the form of a fully-searchable, metadata-driven digital library. It has been developed and distributed in cooperation with UNESCO and the Human Info NGO in Belgium. It is open-source, multilingual software, issued under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Its developers received the 2004 IFIP Namur award for "contributions to the awareness of social implications of information technology, and the need for an holistic approach in the use of information technology that takes account of social implications."



Greenstone runs on all versions of Windows, and Unix/Linux, and Mac OS-X. It is very easy to install. For the default Windows installation absolutely no configuration is necessary, and end users routinely install Greenstone on their personal laptops or workstations. Institutional users run it on their main web server, where it interoperates with standard web server software (e.g. Apache).


Greenstone is highly interoperable using contemporary standards, It incorporates a server that can serve any collection over the Open Archives Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH), and Greenstone can harvest documents over OAI-PMH and include them in a collection. Any collection can be exported to METS (in the Greenstone METS Profile, approved by the METS Editorial Board and published at http://www.loc.gov/standards/mets/mets-profiles.html), and Greenstone can ingest documents in METS form. Any collection can be exported to DSpace ready for DSpace's batch import program, and any DSpace collection can be imported into Greenstone.


Greenstone has two separate interactive interfaces, the Reader interface and the Librarian interface. End users access the digital library through the Reader interface, which operates within a web browser. The Librarian interface is a Java-based graphical user interface (also available as an applet) that makes it easy to gather material for a collection (downloading it from the web where necessary), enrich it by adding metadata, design the searching and browsing facilities that the collection will offer the user, and build and serve the collection.

Metadata formats

Users define metadata interactively within the Librarian interface. These metadata sets are predefined:

  • Dublin Core (qualified and unqualified)
  • RFC 1807
  • NZGLS (New Zealand Government Locator Service)
  • AGLS (Australian Government Locator Service)

New metadata sets can be defined using Greenstone's Metadata Set Editor. "Plug-ins" are used to ingest externally-prepared metadata in different forms, and plug-ins exist for: XML, MARC, CDS/ISIS, ProCite, BibTex, Refer, OAI, DSpace, METS

Document formats

Plug-ins are also used to ingest documents. For textual documents, there are plug-ins for: PDF, PostScript, Word, RTF, HTML, Plain text, Latex, ZIP archives, Excel, PPT, Email (various formats), source code. For multimedia documents, there are plug-ins for: Images (any format, including GIF, JIF, JPEG, TIFF), MP3 audio, Ogg Vorbis audio, and a generic plug-in that can be configured for audio formats, MPEG, MIDI, etc.

User base


As with all open source projects, the user base for Greenstone is unknown. It is distributed on SourceForge, a leading distribution centre for open source software.

Distributed via SourceForge since: 11/2000
Average downloads per month since then: 4500
Currently running at: 4500
Proportion of downloads that are documentation: 33%
Proportion of downloads that are software: 67%
Proportion Windows / Linux / Mac / Source 82% / 10% / 3% / 5%
Number of people on Greenstone email lists: 750
Number of countries represented: 82
Number of messages per month (excluding spam): 165


Examples of public Greenstone collections are found on the examples page.

UN agencies

with an interest in Greenstone include

  • UNESCO, Paris
    Sponsors distribution of the Greenstone software as part of its Information for All programme
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rome
    The Information Management Resource Kit uses Greenstone as the (only) example of digital library software in the Digitization and Digital Libraries self-instructional module (http://www.imarkgroup.org)
  • Institute for Information Technology in Education (IITE), Moscow
    Have commissioned an extensive course on Digital libraries in education that uses Greenstone for all the practical work
  • United Nations University (UNU), Japan
    Two CD-ROM collections of UNU material have been produced

Humanitarian collections

Greenstone is used by Human Info NGO in Belgium to produced collections of humanitarian information and distribute them on CD-ROM widely throughout the developing world. (For more information, contact Michel Loots mloots@humaninfo.org)

Number of humanitarian collections: ~40
Annual distribution of each one: ~5,000


One of Greenstone's unique strengths is its multilingual nature. The reader's interface is available in the following languages: Arabic, Armenian, Bengali, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Chinese (both simplified and traditional), Dutch, English, Farsi, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Latvian, Maori, Mongolian, Portuguese (BR and PT versions), Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
The Librarian interface and the full Greenstone documentation (which is extensive) is in: English, French, Spanish, and Russian.


Training is a bottleneck for widespread adoption of any digital library software. Many international training courses have been run.