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Breaking Down the Components of OCLC’s New Library System

Library Journal Online [4/28/2009]

  • Serving as a local catalog
  • How consortial borrowing would work
  • Supporting circulation, acquisitions
  • OCLC's planned WorldCat Local-based "Web-scale" library system was announced with fanfare and also has generated significant questions, notably from potential competitors.

    But how would the service work? The idea of WorldCat as a cooperative cataloging utility has been well established and forms the basis for new layers of service on top of the old, as explained below. (Also see OCLC's FAQ.)

    WorldCat Local as a local catalog

    Based on the now massive bibliographic database, WorldCat Local has emerged as a major end-user discovery environment. Since around April 2007, OCLC has been engaged in pilot projects with libraries to evaluate WorldCat Local as a replacement, or supplement, to local online catalogs. Some of the pilot sites include the University of Washington and the Melvyl catalog for the California Digital Library that serves as a comprehensive catalog for the ten library systems of the University of California.

    For a library to use WorldCat Local, its collection must be accurately represented by the WorldCat database. An important part of the implementation of WorldCat Local involves a process called reclamation, which reconciles WorldCat with the library collection as represented in its local ILS.

    Reclamation ensures that WorldCat includes the library's holdings symbol on each bibliographic record associated with an item owned by the library. The process is one of the most time-consuming aspects of implementing WorldCat Local.

    Speeding up the process

    Now, with its just introduced WorldCat Local quick start, libraries can begin to use WorldCat Local without reclamation and with a simpler configuration process.

    While this approach does not provide the full experience of WorldCat Local as a discovery tool, it allows the library to gain some experience with it before embarking on full implementation. WorldCat Local connects with the library's ILS for display of item availability and other real-time information.

    Only those libraries that use one of the ILS products for which OCLC has already created the connection components will be eligible for WorldCat Local quick start. They are Innovative Interfaces Millennium, Innovative Interfaces INNOPAC, Ex Libris Aleph (Z39.50), Ex Libris Voyager, SirsiDynix Horizon, SirsiDynix Unicorn, and SirsiDynix Symphony.

    WorldCat Local quick start will be included without additional cost to all existing FirstSearch subscribers, effectively providing thousands of libraries the ability to offer it to their users. This flavor of WorldCat Local will be fully functional and branded for the library. As with the full version of WorldCat Local, users search against the massive database, with their local library's holdings presented first in result lists.

    Enhanced with articles

    To be an effective discovery interface, a product must span both print and electronic resources, including the broad array of article content to which libraries subscribe. OCLC has enriched WorldCat Local with article-level content from its inception, including the material from its ArticleFirst service; now it has added a vast body of articles from EBSCO. This is a major advance in the power of WorldCat Local as a discovery interface.

    This content, available to WorldCat Local subscribers that also subscribe to EBSCOhost, will be further extended as OCLC forms similar partnerships with other database suppliers and publishers.

    WorldCat Local has also been enhanced with an integrated metasearch feature to allow it to include results from a library's licensed content that is not represented in the main WorldCat index. OCLC uses technology from Index Data to power this feature of WorldCat Local.

    Consortial borrowing via WorldCat Navigator

    Another extension of the WorldCat platform provides the infrastructure to enable direct consortial borrowing among the members of a consortium. This product, called WorldCat Navigator, involves a variety of components from the OCLC arsenal, including a version of WorldCat Local scoped for the consortium, the VDX technology that OCLC acquired from Fretwell-Downing, WorldCat Resource Sharing, and a new gateway component developed to interact with the circulation system of each library's ILS.

    Navigator was developed in partnership with the ORBIS Cascade Alliance, a consortium of 36 libraries in Oregon and Washington to power their Summit direct consortial borrowing environment.

    WorldCat Local for circulation

    For libraries that catalog their collections with WorldCat and use WorldCat Local as their public interface, the local ILS serves primarily for circulation and acquisitions. The next logical step in OCLC's strategy moves these remaining tasks into WorldCat Local, making it possible for a library to phase out its local integrated library system.

    The idea of moving transaction-based automation functions such as circulation into WorldCat Local brings up serious concerns with scalability. Can OCLC's technical infrastructure support the number of simultaneous transactions that would be involved if hundreds or thousands of libraries relied on WorldCat Local to perform all their circulation activities?

    To answer this question, OCLC calculated that the total circulation activity from all the world's libraries would involve around 5,000 transactions per second. In today's IT arena, which allows massive clusters of commodity computers, it's not unprecedented to meet this transaction load. So OCLC has built a new infrastructure for WorldCat Local designed for this level of activity.

    Adding barcodes

    WorldCat Local for circulation involves using the bibliographic and holdings data in WorldCat rather than a locally installed ILS as the basis for checking out materials.

    A circulation system relies on the barcode number attached to each piece. Until now, WorldCat has not included the barcode numbers. OCLC has enhanced the way that it carries out reclamation to include attaching the barcode number of each item with its corresponding holdings structure in WorldCat.

    The WorldCat Local circulation service will be delivered entirely through a web-based client. The server component will reside within the new platform, reengineered to serve tens of thousands of libraries.

    Acquisitions and license management

    One remaining segment of library operations normally handled by the local ILS involves acquisitions: purchasing print materials and licensing electronic materials. Acquisitions through WorldCat Local span both formats, including functionality of the ILS acquisitions module and an electronic resource management system.

    An electronic resource management system requires a knowledgebase of titles and holdings associated with electronic content to which a library might subscribe. In its January 2006 acquisition of Openly Informatics, OCLC gained a comprehensive knowledgebase of e-journal content.

    Now OCLC is integrating the Openly e-journal knowledgebase into WorldCat, so it can drive the acquisitions and license management components of WorldCat Local as it expands into a full-fledged network library management system.

View Citation
Publication Year:2009
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Journal Online
Publisher:Library Journal
Place of Publication:New York, NY
Online access:
Record Number:14578
Last Update:2023-12-05 13:45:23
Date Created:2010-03-01 14:29:48