Worldcat record use policy causes National Library of Sweden to end negotiatons with OCLC

The National Library of Sweden has decided to end negotiations with OCLC about uploading their union catalog, Libris, into WorldCat as well as using WorldCat as a source of records in Libris. According to the announcement, Libris is and needs to remain an open database and OCLC’s WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative does not make that possible. The National Library also believes that the record use terms would make it impossible to contribute biographical data to Europeana and the European Library. As Karen Coyle mentions in her blog post about this decision, open data (or the lack of it) is not just an idealogical stance: it “has real practical applications.” Whatever good the WorldCat record use policy has had, this is a real-world example of how it can (and in this case, has) also harm libraries – including OCLC member libraries who will not be able to access Libris records via WorldCat.

Library Journal contacted OCLC about the announcement, but they did not immediately respond to LJ’s request for comment.

A History of OCLC’s Ohio Tax Exemption Status

The Disruptive Library Technology Jester has an interesting look at A History of the OCLC Tax-Exemption Status. As the author points out, it is but one version of the history. However, it is the best one I have seen and worth a look if you are interested in these sorts of things.

New Article: SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces File Antitrust Suit Against OCLC

I just had an article, SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces File Antitrust Suit Against OCLC, published as an Information Today NewsBreak. The introduction states:

SkyRiver Technology Solutions filed a complaint for Federal and State antitrust violations and unfair competition against OCLC in United States District Court, Northern Division of California on July 28. The suit [1] alleges that OCLC is “unlawfully monopolizing the bibliographic data, cataloging service and interlibrary lending markets and is attempting to monopolize the market for integrated library systems by anticompetitive and exclusionary agreements, policies and practices.” Innovative Interfaces, Inc. is listed as a co-plaintiff. OCLC released a statement on July 29 saying that it hadn’t reviewed the complaint yet and after it reviews the complaint and “have had an opportunity to review the allegations with its legal counsel, a statement in response will be forthcoming.” This suit could have major implications in the library software and technology services industry. If the suit is successful, OCLC may have to provide for-profit firms access to the WorldCat database and there could be implications for OCLC’s status as a non-profit cooperative.

Please go to the Information Today Web site to read the whole article.

SkyRiver files antitrust lawsuit against OCLC

When the SkyRiver bibliographic utility was first announced, I thought this would eventually lead to some sort of legal action. What I didn’t know is who would be the first to bring legal action and against whom. Well, now we know. SkyRiver, joined by Innovative Interfaces, has filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco.

The likelihood of a lawsuit seemed more certain after the fees OCLC wanted to charge some of the first customers of SkyRiver like Michigan State University and California State University, Long Beach, to upload holdings. According to SkyRivers’ press release about the lawsuit (pdf) OCLC quoted them a price increase of over 1100%. I’m not a legal scholar and don’t know any details of the actually filling, so I don’t know what will happen, but it certainly will be interesting and will be a game changer. I also don’t expect it to have a quick outcome.

I didn’t see a press release from Innovative Interfaces yet, but I am sure that one of the reasons the company joined the lawsuit was the new OCLC Web-scale Management Services which directly competes with the traditional ILS.* Honestly, I was really surprised that the new OCLC system didn’t create a bigger buzz because in my mind it is a game changer. OCLC with control of so many bibliographic members created by members via there WorldCat platform is in a position to leverage WorldCat and a tremendous amount of data in ways other vendors simply can’t, especially if SkyRiver’s anti-trust claims are accurate. I also think the whole WorldCat record use policy fiasco over the last year or so has also added to the factors leading to this lawsuit.

As far as I know, OCLC also hasn’t made a public response as of yet.

I plan on following this story closely because I believe however it turns out, as I mentioned earlier it will be a game changer. If OCLC prevails, startups like SkyRiver won’t have a fair chance. If SkyRiver prevails, we can see a major restructuring of services that OCLC provides and possibly even a breakup of OCLC.

For information about the lawsuit from SkyRiver, check out the Web site they created about it, called Choice for Libraries.

* Yes, I know that SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces are owned by the same people, but they are different companies.

OCLC formally withdraws proposed WorldCat policy

It was not unexpected, and happened last week, but since I mentioned the controversy enough on this blog, I figured I’d let everyone know that “OCLC has formally withdrawn the proposed policy [and a] new group will soon be assembled to begin work to draft a new policy with more input and participation from the OCLC membership.” This is good news but those interested in fair, open exchange of data, need to be vigilant about what the new policy will contain, especially with the announcement of WorldCat Local about a month or so ago. Talking about WorldCat Local, I highly recommend listening to the Library 2.0 Gang Podcast on “Library System Suppliers view of OCLC Web-scale.”

OCLC Review Board of Shared Data Creation & Stewardship recommends to “Formally withdraw the proposed [WorldCat] policy”

The OCLC Review Board of Shared Data Creation & Stewardship has posted the presentation slides and a recording from their update to Members Council on May 18. I haven’t been able to connect to their streaming server, but the PDF shows, that among other things, they have recommended to “Formally withdraw the proposed policy” on WorldCat record use.

This is great news for those who were very concerned about the proposed policy and the process that was originally used to try to put it in place. They do say that a policy is needed but stress that it should not be this policy, They have also said that the Nov. 16, 1987 “Guidelines for the Use and Transfer of OCLC-Derived Records” should be kept in place until a new policy is created. They have further recommendations about the direction of this that I believe are well reason and well thought out. Key among them is the recommended direction of:

Devise a process for drafting and maintaining a new policy that:
• Includes formal participation by members of the Global Council, the OCLC Board, and the OCLC Strategic Leadership Team
• Incorporates input from the broader community
• Recognizes the complexity of the information ecosystem in which OCLC and its members operate
• Is transparent

and that the new policy should:

• Be based on clearly articulated principles
• Impart confidence to members and partners building strategies predicated on WorldCat
• Support innovation

I am extremely happy that the Review Board has come to these conclusions and I hope that OCLC decides to follow them and creates a fair policy using a transparent process that does indeed support innovation. Three cheers to Jennifer Younger and the rest of the review board members!

ELUNA, UUGI, and CODI endorse ICOLC Statement on the Proposed OCLC Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records

I am happy to report that three major independent library automation user groups have agreed to co-endorse the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) Statement on the Proposed OCLC Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records, dated May 11, 2009. The user groups represented are Ex Libris Users of North America (ELUNA), Unicorn Users Group International (UUGI) and Customers of Dynix, Inc. (CODI), Combined they represent over 2500 libraries. This is the first time I am aware of different library automation user groups coming together to co-endorse any statement or position. As a member of the ELUNA Steering Committee I am also happy to say that it came together very quickly. It is apparent that many librarians and organizations representing librarians are very concerned about the proposed policy. The statement reads:

The leadership of three library vendor user communities in North America have agreed to co-endorse the the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) Statement on the Proposed OCLC Policy for Use and
Transfer of WorldCat Records, dated May 11, 2009 (

The Ex Libris Users of North America has 313 institutional members, including consortia, in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Carribean and represents approximately 1950 libraries in these countries that license Ex Libris’ library applications and systems.

The Unicorn Users Group International (UUGI) represents 250 institutional members, including consortia, in the United States and Canada representing libraries that use the SIRSI Unicorn ILS.

The Customers of Dynix, Inc. (CODI) represents 532 institutional member libraries, including consortia, in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom representing libraries that use the Dynix ILS.

Pascal V. Calarco
ELUNA Steering Committee Chair, 2009-2010
University of Notre Dame/Michiana Academic Library Consortium
Notre Dame, IN

Carla Clark,
Chair, UUGI
Noel Memorial Library
Louisiana State University in Shreveport
Shreveport, LA

Colleen Medling
CODI President
Salt Lake County Library Services
Salt Lake City, UT

ICOLC “Statement on the Proposed OCLC Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records.”

The International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) has released it’s “Statement on the Proposed OCLC Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records.” I think it is good to see them issue a statement on this. I wish it was worded a little stronger, but it still calls for OCLC to start-a-new which would be a great thing. I hope, and expect, that we see more library organizations weigh in on this.

OCLC Quick Start. Is it game over?

Towards the end of last week, OCLC announced a “quick start” version of the OCLC WorldCat Local service. I was at ELAG last week a and traveling so I didn’t have a lot of time to look at it until today when I watched the Webinar they offered. There are really two separate, but related things going on here. One is that they are providing a limited version of Local WorldCat at no additional cost to First search Libraries. They are calling it WorldCat Local “quick start”. I think that is a silly name so I’m calling it Mini-Local World Cat. The other part of the news is that they are expanding Local WorldCat to include more traditional Integrated Library Systems (ILS) functionality. While both a significant announcements, I think the latter part is more game changing.

First, lets look at the examine Mini-Local World Cat. This new service “provides a single search result that delivers your library’s resources and those of the world’s libraries.” It is basically another discovery layer that can be used on top, more likely at this point, in addition to your ILS. It doesn’t have all of the features of WorldCat Local, but it has most of the features a single library would want. According to the FAQ, some features that the “full” version of WorldCat Local has that the mini version does not include:

  • Interoperability with multiple ILSs
  • Visibility of group/consortium-level collections in search results
  • Interoperability with consortial borrowing systems to surface smart delivery options to searchers.
  • Ability to display branch-level holdings when Local Holdings Records are present.
  • Full suite of statistical reports.
  • Expanded search functionality coming in July 2009:
    • Search electronic content in OCLC and non-OCLC services
    • Integrate results from WorldCat and your library’s licensed content services in a single result list
    • Initially, 100 of the most widely used, licensed resources from multiple providers will be active on the service, with more databases and other materials being added each month
  • .

What does this mean for libraries? I’m not sure really, but I do think it does take aim at some of the discovery products that interact with the ILS. Proprietary products such as Encore and Primo as well as Open Source projects like BlackLight, VUFind and xC are now on notice that another competitor is in the marketplace with a great price point and because of OCLC’s monopoly on library metadata, it is going to be hard, if not impossible, for other products to offer some of the functionality that the mini Local Worldcat can (and this is even more the case for the full version). If my library can get a modern discovery tool at no additional cost with the power of the WorldCat data behind it, why should I pay extra for something like Encore or go to the trouble of installing, hosting, and maintaining VUFind?

The other portion of this announcement is the part about expanding Local Worldcat to include more traditional ILS features like circulation and acquisitions and moving them into the cloud. As Karen Combs points out, this isn’t really a surprise. They have been doing a number of things building in this direction. In many respects, this also isn’t a new idea. Ex Libris announced they wanted to do this two years ago with their new URM product. The difference is OCLC has the data to make this work and with the proposed changes to the OCLC WorldCat record use and transfer policy, they may not be able to get it. As Andrew Pace says, this is “a first step to WorldCat Local and to a truly next-generation cooperative library management service.”

In many ways having something like OCLC do this could be a good thing for libraries. Very few libraries are in finical position to do things that OCLC can. This type of innovation may be what libraries need to survive and thrive into the future. But at the same time, danger abounds. With OCLC controlling the data and the software, choices will become limited and OCLC may not always be on the fore-front of innovation. If this move servilely inhibits innovation by the vendor and Open Source community, we may find ourselves in trouble. As Tim Spalding points out, this “move casts new light on [OCLC’s] Policy defenses. OCLC isn’t ‘curating’ library records; it’s leveraging them to enter a new market. WorldCat isn’t a ‘switching mechanism’ to local catalogs. It will replace them.”

Two things really are loaming over this announcement that I think will have to be addressed at some point. One is the record use policy creating an illegal monopoly? In many ways I think what they are doing, while in a smaller venue, is more monopolistic like then say what Microsoft did with Windows and Internet Explorer. The second issue is OCLC’s status as a nonprofit membership cooperative. As Josh Hadro writes, citing Carl Grant, in his Tough Questions Emerge on OCLC’s Competitive Advantage and Data Policies piece, “OCLC seems remarkably and increasingly similar to the for-profit vendors in the marketplace.” The non-profit status allows OCLC a huge finical benefit compared to companies such as Ex Libris or III. Between the non-profit and record control, I have to imagine someone will call the bluff and bring some sort of legal challenge. I don’t know what a result of such a challenge will be, but it will be interesting. I think libraries ought to look at what giving all this power to OCLC will mean for libraries in the long run. Not just from a monopolization standpoint, but also from an outsourcing situation. Do we want to outsource many of our core back-office systems to OCLC and the cloud? What are the ramifications of such a decision. Individual libraries should look at this closely before jumping aboard the OCLC cloud bandwagon. In some cases maybe it is worth the risk, but in many cases it may not be and only by evaluating alll the issues surrounding this will libraries be able to make an informed choice.

As they say, may you live in interesting times. This is certainly an interesting time in library technology.

Library Journal report on the OCLC WorldCat policy discussion

There really wasn’t much new reported by Library Journal about the WorlCat Record Use policy discussion at ALA MW but it is still worth a read. I wish I could have stayed around Denver to attend the session. One thing that I found interesting is that Karen Calhoun is reported to have “clarified that the FAQ was indeed part of the policy.” This is an interesting development because the way I and many others read what is up there it does not appear to be, I have asked via a comment on Karen Calhoun’s blog post about the session to confirm that this is so. Karen also posted the slides from her portion of the session, Creating and Sustaining Communities Around Shared Data: The Case of OCLC, on SlideShare. I looked through them briefly and I think they are worth taking a look at if you are interested in this issue (and if you are a librarian, IMHO you should be).

Calhoun is quoted in LJ as saying OCLC regrets that the “value of participatory decision-making nearly seriously enough.” I am happy to see OCLC openly discussing this new policy (which is now set to be put into place 3Q 2009). I think that they now have a review process in place is a big positive. Obviously, I (and I’m guessing in retrospect OCLC) wish this was done from the beginning. However hindsight is 20/20 and it is better late then never. OCLC pushing back the policy implementation in order to take time to take and consider input is a huge positive. I’m sure many of us won’t agree with the whole policy in the end, but I will feel much better about the situation with a more open discussion then was originally taking place.

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