OCLC’s most recent acquisition involves the purchase of TechAtlas, a Web-based software application that assists in technology planning. This software was selected for use on WebJunction as part of its initial infrastructure in 2002. TechAtlas was developed by NPower, a national network of non-profit organizations focused on providing technology planning and assistance.
On WebJunction, TechAtlas serves as an online tool to help libraries develop technology plans consistent with the requirements to receive federal E-Rate funding, though it can be used as a general purpose tool for technology planning, even when E-Rate is not a consideration.
Funded through $1.9 million provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, OCLC acquires ownership of TechAtlas from NPower National, including responsibility for its future development and providing support to other organizations that use the product. Hosting of the environment will transfer to OCLC; future development of TechAtlas will focus especially on the needs of libraries.
One of the key developments for TechAtlas includes extending it for use by consortia, allowing technology plans developed by member libraries to be reviewed and approved by the consortium before final submission.
Over 26,000 non-profit organizations have established accounts on TechAtlas; libraries represent 10,759 of these accounts. The acquisition of the software by OCLC guarantees free access to this resource by public libraries.
This acquisition reflects the ongoing partnership between OCLC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. WebJunction was initially founded in 2002 by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a portal to provide information and technology support to public libraries, an extension of the ongoing philanthropic investment by this foundation in public libraries. The Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) also has provided funding for WebJunction activities, including the eLearning Clearinghouse, which provides a search interface for “online education programs and courses for library staff and information professionals offered by ALA-accredited graduate schools, undergraduate schools, community colleges, regional library networks, and WebJunction.
NPower itself was formed in March 1999 with funding from Seattle-area interests including Microsoft, the Medina Foundation, The Seattle Foundation, and Boeing. In September 2000, Microsoft contributed an additional $25 million to fund the expansion of NPower nationally by establishing additional regional affiliates.