OCLC’s change in policy for the use and transfer of WorldCat records

The Library blogosphere and e-mail lists were ablaze with reports of OCLC changing its policy on the use and transfer of WorldCat records. Apparently NYLINK spilled the beans with a message to their members saying that OCLC was changing the policy and if you uploaded records on November 2, you have agreed to it. Eventually as the speculation ran while Karen Calhoun confirmed that the policy is indeed changing. She did say that “the updated policy will be generally welcomed by the OCLC membership, as it opens WorldCat records to new, noncommercial uses by members and non-member libraries alike.” However, while giving a glimpse into what is changing, OCLC still has not released the policy. Calhoon basically confirmed NYLINKs message that the change was originally going to take place on November 2nd and that “access and use of OCLC online systems by any institution after November 2nd will be taken as acceptance of the new policy.” However, she went on to explain that this “sentence to which the NYLINK message refers is no longer in the policy. ” Obviously it appears that OCLC is a little upset, or to use their words, “regrets”, that NYLINK made this available to it’s members. However, I think it was the appropriate thing to do by NYLINK and while OCLC is saying that they have changed the November 2 date for agreement “Because of concerns expressed by the Members Council delegates and network directors since last Monday, October 20,” I have to imagine that the uproar created about this in library-land may have also played a role. A change that effects what libraries can do with records they help create and maintain needs to be looked over by librarians and possibly by legal counsel. OCLC’s original move to try to do this in such a way that the appropriate decisio0n makers at individual libraries wouldn’t even be aware of it until after they de facto agreed to it because a staff member uploaded or changed a records was simply wrong-headed. Any change to an agreement that has been in place for over 20 years needs to be announced in advanced so libraries can make sure they can abide by the agreement. We are not talking about a new service with a new agreement, we are talking about something that a huge number of libraries in the United States and elsewhere around the world rely on for their day-to-day operations. Even assuming that Calhoun is correct that libraries and librarians will welcome this change, planning to drop this on people at the last minute shows a huge lack of judgment on OCLC’s part. Hopefully she is right about the changes being welcome, but since I haven’t seen them I do not know. When I do see them, I’ll be sure to comment on them but honestly, I liked the current rules fine enough* as far as what my library was allowed to do with these records, so I am a bit skeptical that this will be a panacea, for me the librarian. At least it appears that they have related on the November 2 ultimatum. Let us hope that A) the changes are indeed welcome, and B) that they give libraries a sufficient amount of time to evaluate the changes and how it effects them. And sufficient isn’t a day, it isn’t a week, and probably isn’t even only a month if the changes are significant as far as adding new restrictions go.

* UPDATE: Someone questioned me in IRC about whether or not I really like the current rules. My response was I am “minimally satisfied.” I should have made it clear that I wasn’t endorsing the current rules per say, just that I was able to live with them .There are obviously some issues with clarifying certain things and that is one of the things that OCLC says it wants to do with the new rules. Any clarity would be welcome. I’d also like to be able to use the records in many other, currently non-permittable, ways, but I also understand OCLC has a business model here.


  1. blog.ecorrado.us » OCLC’s new Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records said,

    November 3, 2008 at 17:11:03

    […] themselves. Really, I, and I am sure others, were originally most concerned about was the way OCLC originally planed to implement these changes. Not to say that we weren’t concerned about what the new policy would mean, but […]

  2. blog.ecorrado.us » Karen Calhoun on OCLC’s Updated Record Use Policy said,

    November 5, 2008 at 18:11:59

    […] to look at what she had to say. I never disagreed with the need for the new policy, just how it was being implemented and some of the terms and restrictions put on […]