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OCLC to Launch a New Product for US Public Libraries

Smart Libraries Newsletter [April 2018]


OCLC has announced a new product specifically designed for public libraries that will be launched in the US in summer 2018. Branded OCLC Wise, this new platform centers on the library user and enables the library to deliver personalized services. This product builds on technology OCLC acquired from the Dutch company HKA in 2013, which has been enhanced and tailored to meet the expectations of public libraries in the US, increasingly seeking technologies that strengthen engagement with their communities.

Focus on Public Libraries

OCLC reports that it conducted extensive research into the needs of public libraries in the last year as it shaped the design of this new product. Its research revealed strong interest in a new type of platform that breaks away from the traditional ILSs that seem stagnant to a platform that is well suited to support libraries in their interest in delivering more engaging services. (The capabilities described for OCLC Wise bear many similarities to those described in the feature “Customer Relationship Management,” in Smart Libraries Newsletter 38, no. 2 [February 2018]: 1-3).

The launch of OCLC Wise reflects a separation of the organization's product strategy between public and other types of libraries. WorldShare Management Services, with its strong bibliographic orientation, best serves academic, national, and special libraries. OCLC Wise has been designed specifically for public libraries. The increasingly divergent needs of these types of libraries cannot easily be fulfilled by a single product.

A Patron-Centered Design

This new offering addresses a much broader scope of services for public libraries than the traditional ILS. OCLC positions this product as a community engagement platform, layering a broad set of marketing, personalization, and analytics components on top of a core set of resource management and discovery features. Although it includes core services for print collections such as cataloging, circulation, and acquisitions, its design centers on customer relationship management and marketing services.

The conceptual design of OCLC Wise centers on the user profile rather than the bibliographic record. This approach enables the product to operate much like a customer relationship management system to accumulate data able to drive personalized services. OCLC Wise will provide built-in analytics and data-driven outreach capabilities, such as the ability to deliver personalized messaging and to support marketing campaigns.

Comprehensive Library Portal

The library portal component of the product provides the functionality to stand in as the library's complete web presence. The library controls the presentation, content, and services presented through the portal. One of the components enables the library to highlight featured materials in a carousel of cover images.

The patron interface of the platform provides features and services to replace the library's entire website, with an integrated discovery component. This approach resembles the combination of BiblioCommons BiblioWeb and BiblioCore, though with Wise these components are deployed as part of a holistic platform rather than as integrations of third-party products.

Data-Driven Personalized Services

A fundamental quality of OCLC Wise builds on the increasing expectation for personalized services. The ability for the product to deliver on this expectation depends on enabling enriched data to be recorded on each patron profile. This data includes demographic information as well as any data generated through any interactions with the system such as items checked out or events attended. The accumulation of personally identifiable data is governed through a detailed set of privacy options that can be selected by the library according to their policies. By default, the platform will capture usage data with the ability for patrons to opt out.

Marketing and Engagement

The product includes a Marketing Workbench module that a library can use to design and execute personalized messages or marketing campaigns. Features include the ability to select groups of patrons based on demographic data or use patterns, to create and send messages, and to view reports related to patron use and marketing activities. Individualized messages can be triggered by events such as birthdays or borrowing card expiration. More complex marketing campaigns can be based on a variety of other drivers.

Leverages User-Supplied Content

OCLC Wise provides a variety of dynamic user interactions for the items displayed through its discovery component. Each item display includes user-generated content, such as tags, ratings, reviews, lists, and services to share items on social media. Item displays for physical materials can include a mapping visualization indicating its shelf location. OCLC is developing interoperability with e-book lending platforms to fully integrate the discovery and viewing of digital materials.

Data-Driven Collection Management

The data-driven design of the product carries over to its collection management features. OCLC Wise has built-in tools to help the library develop and manage its collection in response to use patterns. The product relies on its internal, real-time data rather than having to rely on exports to a third-party service. This data enables libraries to selectively implement floating collections, to transfer items, or balance items among branches. Acquisition recommendations can be generated for any given branch or shelfing location based on subject coverage. These automated processes are based on policies and thresholds set by the library, which can be updated as needed. These processes result in a customer-driven collection development strategy.

Bibliographic WorkFlows

OCLC Wise, unlike WorldShare Management Services, does not integrate directly with WorldCat. Each organization implementing the product will have its own bibliographic database. Cataloging workflows can be implemented according to the bibliographic services used by the library. If a library catalogs its materials through OCLC Cataloging, records can be automatically ingested into their local database. Libraries can also receive bibliographic records through shelf-ready services, such as from Baker & Taylor. When records are loaded into OCLC Wise from external sources, libraries can opt to have their holdings automatically set on WorldCat.

Deployed through a New Platform

OCLC Wise is delivered through a multi-tenant, cloud-based platform. Libraries implementing OCLC Wise share a single codebase, with some flexibility. OCLC also offers a hybrid solution that enables libraries with more complex customizations to deploy an instance of the software in which they control the deployment of updates.

Unlike other new products developed by OCLC, this new product has not been developed on the WorldShare platform. Instead, OCLC Wise builds on the technology it acquired in 2013 from the Dutch company HKA, a dominant provider of automation systems in The Netherlands. HKA has steadily evolved its ILS for public libraries since its initial introduction in 1983. At the time of its acquisition by OCLC, its bicatWise ILS was used in around two-thirds of the public libraries in The Netherlands, which has since grown to about 75 percent. (See “OCLC Acquires the Dutch ILS Provider HKA,” Smart Libraries Newsletter 33, no. 11 [November 2013]: 2-5). OCLC Wise incorporates and extends the rich functionality developed by HKA over its 35-year history of providing library management systems to libraries. Its technology platform has been thoroughly re-engineered from its roots in client/server architectures into a modern web-native multi-tenant platform.


OCLC will launch OCLC Wise in the United States in the Summer of 2018. Earlier versions of the product are currently in use in The Netherlands and a new deployment is underway for a consortium in Belgium. OCLC anticipates that it will offer the product in other regions and countries in the future, following additional research and development regarding public library services and functional expectations in each locality.

Competitive Environment

OCLC will be launching this new product into the very challenging market of US public libraries. This sector can be considered as saturated, with all major libraries already using a full-featured ILS product, either open source or proprietary. The turnover of ILS products in recent years has been sluggish, possibly attributable to the lack of options well differentiated from their incumbent systems. While some libraries have made lateral moves from one major ILS to another, most continue to remain with their current systems.

Public libraries also have exhibited strong demand for additional services that can be used in conjunction with their ILS products to enhance their virtual presence and strengthen community engagement. Organizations such as BiblioCommons, ChiliFresh, LibraryThing, OrangeBoy, Third Chapter Partners, and CollectionHQ all aim to strike the cords of personalized and data-driven services. OCLC Wise, as a product that holistically incorporates these characteristics, may spark interest.

US public libraries have also been slow to embrace products from unfamiliar providers. While HKA falls into this category, OCLC is one of the strongest brands in the library community. On the international scene, Axiell's new Quria platform for public libraries bears some similarities through its digital-first design, though it has not yet been marketed in the US.

Although the market of US public libraries presents significant challenges for any new product, OCLC Wise enters at an opportune time. Public libraries may resonate with a new technology product that can amplify engagement with their communities.

View Citation
Publication Year:2018
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 38 Number 04
Issue:April 2018
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Company: OCLC
Products: OCLC Wise
Record Number:23500
Last Update:2022-05-19 11:04:39
Date Created:2018-05-30 06:57:09