Planet Cataloging

June 22, 2017


OCLC at 50 years: a “moonshot” for the world’s libraries


As we’ve prepared for our 50th anniversary celebrations, I’ve been thinking about the time of our founding in the late 1960s and what it meant for our cultural ideals of technology and progress. OCLC was born in 1967, between the time of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 speech in which he set the goal of landing a man on the moon, and the fulfillment of that dream in 1969.

I think there are exciting parallels between that dream, its completion and the incredible journey that OCLC libraries have undertaken together over the past five decades.

One small step for 54 Ohio libraries

OCLC was a similar dream. Fred Kilgour and his colleagues believed that libraries could be connected in new ways, using new technology, because that would lead to improved access to all that they had to offer.

A small group of representatives from Ohio academic libraries understood that the big, clunky mainframe computers of the day were the key to making this dream a reality. They took a small step on 6 July 1967 and OCLC was created. And by 1971, 54 Ohio academic libraries had begun to do something never before attempted: cooperative, computerized, networked cataloging of library resources.

That must have felt like a “small step” back then. We know, now, that it led to so much more. Those initial Ohio librarians could never have imagined that 50 years later, OCLC would include more than 16,000 members in 120 countries, serving libraries of every type, processing over 40 million search requests every day.

What is cataloged must be shared

That one idea has saved libraries an enormous amount of time. Each record curated and hosted by OCLC is discoverable globally. And librarians save about 10 minutes every time they copy catalog a record rather than create a new one. By May 2017, WorldCat exceeded 395 million records and 2.5 billion holdings. Conservatively, that works out to more than 350 million hours saved over the past 50 years. But saving time by using big, centralized computers was only the beginning.

Cooperative cataloging is, in many ways, the foundation of everything that came next for OCLC and for libraries working together around the globe. When holdings information was added to records, it enabled sharing of materials as well as metadata. You can trace the development of OCLC systems and services as they moved in parallel to innovations in technology:

  • 1967–1977: cooperative cataloging
  • 1977–1987: ILL and resource sharing services
  • 1987–1997: public discovery access to library data and materials
  • 1997–2007: library resources accessible on the World Wide Web
  • 2007–2017: big data, library systems and cloud platforms

At every stage, we can see OCLC and libraries acting together to help make technology work harder for their communities.

Applauding libraries’ role in an era of constant change

I think it’s also important to acknowledge and celebrate how challenging and rewarding this time has been for those who work in libraries. For many people, the library is the first place they go to use new technology and get access to information. To meet this need, librarians have had to be out ahead of each new innovation. That’s another way in which cooperation has benefited our members—the chance to share these challenges, do cutting-edge research and create solutions together.

Libraries never stop thinking about taking the next moon shot to improve lives.
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For five decades, OCLC has created technology and systems to facilitate worldwide discovery and sharing. Because of your hard work, the people you serve have experienced breakthroughs in every area of their lives. Together, we’ve had a 50-year track record of success. And while we will continue to adapt and evolve, we have proven we’ve got what it takes to tackle anything the future brings.

Or to quote one of my favorite astronauts, “To infinity—and beyond!”

Whether you’ve been involved with OCLC for more than 30 years or fewer than 30 days, you can rightfully claim a contribution to OCLC’s ongoing success.

Thank you, and happy 50th anniversary!

The post OCLC at 50 years: a “moonshot” for the world’s libraries appeared first on OCLC Next.

by Skip Prichard at June 22, 2017 05:12 PM

June 21, 2017

TSLL TechScans

Lean Library Browser Extension

A colleague recently called my attention to a new library discovery product, the Lean Library browser extension. While a library who wishes to make this browser extension available to users must pay to get in configured to work with their electronic resources, library users who install the extension will get seamless access to the electronic resources licensed by their libraries, without requiring them to go to a library’s web site first. According to the Lean Library web site:

“It makes library services available right in the users workflow – where and when they are needed. One of those services is off campus access: the Lean Library browser extension simplifies the process of getting access to the e-resources that the library subscribes to. The browser extension works autonomously. Installing it requires a 'once only' installation process of two mouse clicks. The extension functions without the user having to subscribe, or register for an account. When used to simplify the process of getting access to licensed e-resources, it does not somehow provide 'free' access: users need to be affiliated with an academic or research institution that subscribes to those e-resources." 

The browser extension works with librarians to provide access to e-resources without making library users jump through all the usual hoops. They do not have to be in the library itself to access the resources through IP address authentication, and they do not have to remember their login information to access resources through a proxy server when they are away from the library.

In addition to its main purpose of simplifying access to licensed e-resources, there are some other features of Lean Library. It can be used to provide analytics about e-resource use. Also, if a user is trying to access an article that is not licensed through their library, Lean Library can re-direct them to an open access version, if it exists.

 More information about Lean Library can be found in this blog post on Musings About Librarianship.

by (Emily Dust Nimsakont) at June 21, 2017 01:45 PM

June 20, 2017

Coyle's InFormation

Pray for Peace

This is a piece I wrote on March 22, 2003, two days after the beginning of the second Gulf war. I just found it in an old folder, and sadly have to say that things have gotten worse than I feared. I also note an unfortunate use of terms like "peasant" and "primitive" but I leave those as a recognition of my state of mind/information. Pray for peace.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Gulf War II

The propaganda machine is in high gear, at war against the truth. The bombardments are constant and calculated. This has been planned carefully over time.

The propaganda box sits in every home showing footage that it claims is of a distant war. We citizens, of course, have no way to independently verify that, but then most citizens are quite happy to accept it at face value.

We see peaceful streets by day in a lovely, prosperous and modern city. The night shots show explosions happening at a safe distance. What is the magical spot from which all of this is being observed?

Later we see pictures of damaged buildings, but they are all empty, as are the streets. There are no people involved, and no blood. It is the USA vs. architecture, as if the city of Bagdad itself is our enemy.

The numbers of casualties, all of them ours, all of them military, are so small that each one has an individual name. We see photos of them in dress uniform. The families state that they are proud. For each one of these there is the story from home: the heavily made-up wife who just gave birth to twins and is trying to smile for the camera, the child who has graduated from school, the community that has rallied to help re-paint a home or repair a fence.

More people are dying on the highways across the USA each day than in this war, according to our news. Of course, even more are dying around the world of AIDS or lung cancer, and we aren't seeing their pictures or helping their families. At least not according to the television news.

The programming is designed like a curriculum with problems and solutions. As we begin bombing the networks show a segment in which experts explain the difference between the previous Gulf War's bombs and those used today. Although we were assured during the previous war that our bombs were all accurately hitting their targets,  word got out afterward that in fact the accuracy had been dismally low. Today's experts explain that the bombs being used today are far superior to those used previously, and that when we are told this time that they are hitting their targets it is true, because today's bombs really are accurate.

As we enter and capture the first impoverished, primitive village, a famous reporter is shown interviewing Iraqi women living in the USA who enthusiastically assure us that the Iraqi people will welcome the American liberators with open arms. The newspapers report Iraqis running into the streets shouting "Peace to all." No one suggests that the phrase might be a plea for mercy by an unarmed peasant facing a soldier wearing enough weaponry to raze the entire village in an eye blink.

Reporters riding with US troops are able to phone home over satellite connections and show us grainy pictures of heavily laden convoys in the Iraqi desert. Like the proverbial beasts of burden, the trucks are barely visible under their packages of goods, food and shelter. What they are bringing to the trade table is different from the silks and spices that once traveled these roads, but they are carrying luxury goods beyond the ken of many of Iraq's people: high tech sensor devices, protective clothing against all kinds of dangers, vital medical supplies and, perhaps even more important, enough food and water to feed an army. In a country that feeds itself only because of international aid -- aid that has been withdrawn as the US troops arrive -- the trucks are like self-contained units of American wealth motoring past.

I feel sullied watching any of this, or reading newspapers. It's an insult to be treated like a mindless human unit being prepared for the post-war political fall-out. I can't even think about the fact that many people in this country are believing every word of it. I can't let myself think that the propaganda war machine will win.

Pray for peace.

by Karen Coyle ( at June 20, 2017 11:56 AM

June 14, 2017

TSLL TechScans

LexisNexis acquires case analytics firm Ravel Law

Data is the name of the game! And now Ravel, a legal research and litigation firm, has proved data is very profitable. LexisNexis has acquired the firm and plans to use its technology to enhance Lexis services. Ravel uses machine-learning techniques to analyze litigation records and predict the behavior of judges, firms, and courts. Ravel is also working to complete a project with Harvard University to digitize all case law in the school's library. Ravel Law chief executive Daniel Lewis says Lexis will support the effort in providing public access and expanding materials with APIs. 

This acquisition shows the further utility and adoption of artificial intelligence in analytics tools created for legal research. Find the entire article at

by (Rachel Purcell) at June 14, 2017 08:28 PM


The problem with data

2017-05-25 Trouble-With-Data

We’re being inundated with data. That’s what we’re told, right? We hear all the time how many exabytes of new data are being created every day. There’s just one problem: maybe none of it is the data we actually need.

I recently had the opportunity, along with several of my OCLC colleagues, to attend the Electronic Resources and Libraries (ER&L) Conference. I’ve been going to this great conference for the last two years, and each year it offers a really valuable look into how libraries manage e-resources. This year, several topics across multiple presentations led me to the conclusion that actionable data is actually pretty hard to find and even harder to wrangle successfully.

You will never “have it all”

An important element of any successful data analysis strategy is to first realize that you’ll never have all of the data you need. At some point, you have to take what you’ve got, come to some conclusions and move on. But we should also be looking for ways to start by collecting data that is more actionable from the get-go.

As I thought through the ER&L presentations and listened to librarians talk about their “wish lists” for data, I found that three themes seemed to resonate around this idea of “good data” as opposed to “more data.”

  1. Don’t collect data that’s not actionable
  2. Go right to your users
  3. Standardize and share

1. What are you willing to change?

If you’re not planning on making changes based on the data you’re collecting and analyzing, just stop. I heard from folks who’d been collecting all kinds of statistics that, at the end of the day, they weren’t useful in terms of supporting actual strategy or tactics.

What changes are you willing to make based on how you analyze data?
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The exact opposite of that is the demand-driven acquisition (DDA) and evidence-based acquisition (EBA) models, which we heard quite a lot about at ER&L. In these programs, libraries partner with publishers to make e-resources available for purchase or access after crossing some usage threshold. It’s a great example of using just-in-time data to make specific collection development decisions.

2. Be an anthropologist, not a number cruncher

In the absence of readily available (or useful) data, it seems that more libraries are investing in user surveys and usability tests, especially involving students. Librarians from CUNY spoke about watching their student testers locate an electronic article on a specific topic. The staff watched where the students navigated online, what they typed into search boxes and how they sorted results.

Some libraries, like Montana State University, are working to optimize their e-resources for search engines and social media. Their Open SESMO project incorporates linked data terms and social media-friendly images into e-resource records to help online information seekers find their resources. The “data” in this case is based on observations of students in order for the library to “be in the right place at the right time.”

Smart, simple glimpses into the “life of the user” can inform your strategy as much as pages of gate stats.

3. All together now

Most librarians I talked to are trying to manage whatever data they can collect in Excel, which has limitations. Library staff who want to engage in data-driven collection development are still sometimes forced to make guesses about what their users want or compare “apples and oranges” when data comes in different formats from different sources.

This is where a conference like ER&L really helps. When we can get together and agree on formats and standards that work well, we can develop better, shared tools for analysis and implementation. For example, when vendors and publishers use COUNTER-compliant statistics, libraries can compare data from across multiple sources much more easily. Some folks I spoke with were a bit frustrated that they weren’t able to get COUNTER reports for streaming video services.

Using data standards also allows us to do wider-ranging, even global analysis and research. It’s handy for any one library to have access to standardized reports. But when thousands of libraries get together?

Data is a means, not the end

Collectively—when we are thoughtful about how and why we collect and share data—libraries can make an impact not just on their own institutions, but across the entire information landscape. The trick is to always think of data in terms of what it can do for us, not just what we need to do to get more.

The post The problem with data appeared first on OCLC Next.

by Don Hamparian at June 14, 2017 04:02 PM