Libraries have a long tradition of implementing technologies to help improve their services to their clientele through resource sharing. These services enable libraries to provide access to an expanded universe of materials available through peer institutions in addition to those they directly own. The number of organizations offering these services has consolidated, with OCLC and Auto-Graphics left as the primary providers. The open source FulFILLment software is also available but has seen limited adoption.
OCLC has been involved in resource sharing since 1979 when it introduced its interlibrary loan (ILL) service. The organization was created in 1967 to provide cooperative cataloging services. During the early phases of its history, OCLC provided its services via a private telecommunications network that it created to connect each of the libraries using its services to its data center in Dublin, OH. The organization gradually shifted from its private network to the internet in the late 1990s to early 2000s. OCLC's ILL system has evolved through multiple generations of technologies and interfaces, culminating in the current WorldShare ILL offering.
In addition to WorldShare ILL, OCLC has more recently developed a new product called Tipasa, which officially launched in January 2017. It manages the workflows of an ILL office to process borrowing and lending requests and communicates with WorldShare ILL and other services. Tipasa was developed on top of the WorldShare platform, not only taking advantage of its technical infrastructure but also providing a familiar interface for those libraries using WorldShare ILL. Tipasa was designed as a forward migration for the Windowsbased ILLiad product, developed by Atlas Systems and exclusively distributed by OCLC.
In January 2017, OCLC acquired Relais International, which offered a peer-to-peer resource sharing platform. Relais D2D allows libraries within a consortium to enable mediated or unmediated requests of materials. The Relais ILL module provides the capability to send requests to external resource sharing systems, including OCLC WorldShare ILL.
Auto-Graphics has been in business since 1950. Originally a typesetting company, Auto-Graphics shifted to library services by about 1970. The company has offered an internet-based ILL management system since 1994, the precursor of its current SHAREit product. This product provides a union catalog, either through a physical aggregated database derived from catalog data from the participating libraries or through a virtual union catalog created dynamically via Z39.50. Its interlibrary request and fulfillment support standard industry protocols including NCIP and ISO ILL. It can connect with any major external service that also supports those protocols. SHAREit has been implemented by many large-scale projects to provide ILL systems. In October 2017, Auto-Graphics hosted a conference for the users of its SHAREit service.
The resource sharing sector has essentially consolidated into a competitive environment consisting of two major players— OCLC and Auto-Graphics. OCLC provides services globally while Auto-Graphics operates primarily in the United States and Canada.
In its announcements, OCLC characterizes Tipasa as the “first cloud-based interlibrary loan management system,”1 but that assertion is based on narrow definitions of cloud technology. It should be noted that Tipasa is a relatively new product and that long standing services from Auto-Graphics offer ILL transaction management and resource sharing based on internet connectivity and web-based interfaces.
1. OCLC, “OCLC Introduces Tipasa Interlibrary Loan Management System” press release, January 17, 2017, https://www .oclc.org/en/news/releases/2017/201701dublin.html.