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OCLC Reshapes its Content Strategy as it Expands WorldCat Local Discovery

Smart Libraries Newsletter [May 2010]


A series of announcements from OCLC reveal a set of major changes in the organization's strategies for delivering and indexing content. In broad terms, OCLC will focus more on expanding WorldCat Local as a discovery platform that indexes a broad range of library content and will phase out its role in hosting and licensing subscriptions to commercial content. Those that are involved with the procurement of e-content products, especially in libraries that subscribe to FirstSearch products, will need to pay close attention to the specific resources changing hands. In terms of the evolution of the discovery services genre, these moves represent a fairly massive expansion of WorldCat Local in this increasingly competitive product category.

One set of announcements concerns OCLC's exit as a reseller of commercial content products. It has sold NetLibrary to EBSCO, and made arrangements with H.W. Wilson to discontinue offering its products through FirstSearch.

OCLC entered the publishing e-book content arena when it purchased NetLibrary out of bankruptcy in January of 2002. NetLibrary was launched in March 1999 by Tim Schiewe, who was one of the early players in the eBook arena for libraries, specializing in producing electronic versions of scholarly and professional books. Following this transaction, EBSCO takes ownership of NetLibrary's Boulder, Colorado-based operations, as well as its delivery platform and inventory of eBooks. NetLibrary eBooks will continue to be indexed on WorldCat Local and discoverable to mutual subscribers.*

OCLC's FIrstSearch will phase out resources resold from commercial publishers and retaining library-owned databases. The current FirstSearch platform will gradually transition to OCLC introduced FirstSearch in 1991 as an online reference service, prior to the emergence of the Web and when many databases were delivered to libraries on CD-ROM for use on local computers or networks. The overall landscape has changed radically since that time, with a variety of robust commercial products available. The need for OCLC as a reseller of these content products has diminished and its current priorities involve focusing resources on enhancing WorldCat, in terms of content and functionality.

One aspect of this transition involves phasing out databases from H.W. Wilson from FirstSearch. Libraries that have subscribed to Wilson databases through FirstSearch will be migrated to access through Wilson's own WilsonWeb platform. This shift will be implemented over the next 18 months. Much of the content in the Wilson databases will continue to be indexed by WorldCat Local and

As OCLC moves away from hosting and reselling commercial databases, it significantly extends the volume of content indexed through and WorldCat Local. A new agreement with Gale results in the expansion of WorldCat Local by about 100 million records leading to full-text articles through the indexing of the metadata associated with Academic OneFile and General OneFile. This arrangement brings the volume of content indexed by WorldCat Local to over 420 million articles, loaded from over 100 databases in addition to the 170 million items cataloged directly through WorldCat.

Each of these moves guides the respective organizations toward the direction of their core strategic business. EBSCO gains NetLibrary to extend its portfolio of content products; H.W. Wilson losses OCLC as a reseller, but gains direct access to a potential pool of new subscribers; OCLC gains access to the metadata of Gale's flagship databases to populate WorldCat Local.

In the current discovery services arena, much of the competition centers on the ability to attract partners willing to provide their content for indexing. The main competitors in this arena include Serials Solutions' Summon, Primo Central from Ex Libris, EBSCO Discovery Service, and OCLC's WorldCat Local. Each of these products offers different search and interface features, but a critical distinguishing characteristic involves subsuming a broader range of content than the competition.

The number of articles represented in the central index represents just one measure of the reach of a discovery product. Other factors include whether the index includes the full text of the article or only citation data. Full text indexing provides much more powerful retrieval capabilities, though it also introduces some complexities. As competitors mention the number of articles indexed, it's also important to consider whether the total represents unique articles, excluding duplications caused by coverage overlap of the products indexed. Each of these products aims to address as much of the books, articles, and other content represented in a library's collection as possible.

*Note: “Mutual subscribers” has come to be a key concept in the web-scale discovery arena. A library may select among different discovery products and naturally subscribes to many different content offerings. As the provider of a content product partners with a discovery service, in most cases the intent is for the indexing to appear only to users whose library operates that discovery service and that also subscribes to the content product. It would confuse users if items appeared in the search results that were not available to them. As the implementation of a discovery interface is configured for a library, it must be configured with the profile of the library's e-content subscriptions so that items appear in search results only if users have access to them. When a content provider provides its data to a discovery service, it does not mean that libraries with that discovery service get the product itself without subscribing, but rather provides a more efficient way to allow users to discover and use that content.

View Citation
Publication Year:2010
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 30 Number 05
Issue:May 2010
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Products: WorldCat Discovery Service
Record Number:25167
Last Update:2022-12-05 16:00:18
Date Created:2020-05-17 10:29:50