At the recent update meeting for library automation consultants held at the utility's Ohio headquarters, Rowland C. W. Brown, OCLC President, provided the attendees with a broad view of what he believes has made and will continue to make OCLC what it is. Brown suggested that three elements have combined to create the fabric of OCLC--1) the fact that it is a collaborative-cooperative enterprise, 2) that its bibliographic data base is the largest in the world, and 3) its enormous infrastructure including telecommunications, hardware, documentation, training, maintenance, research efforts, etc. is able to support and deliver OCLC's various products. Brown, in part, views the OCLC role as that of a facilitator. Where automation and technology have been supporting the traditional activities of libraries in terms of staff functions, realizing efficiencies, etc., he suggested that in the future OCLC would need to go “beyond bibliography” and play a more active role as a facilitator between the “library business and the publishing business.” In that realm, Brown noted that the online environment is not always the answer, especially for retrospective conversion activity, where increasingly tape, microcomputer-based, and CD-ROM conversion activity will replace online activity. At the same time, he acknowledged the increasing “internationalization” of OCLC with its efforts to maintain the online environment for European and Asian access, and as interlibrary lending across national boundaries grows.
Brown maintained that as a profession, librarians are still talking in terms of the “containers of information” rather than the content, and the role that he sees for OCLC is not only to make the containers more effective in order to facilitate access, but also to go beyond the traditional bibliographic information which the utility provides to include materials such as indexes, tables of contents, abstracts, etc. within the framework which has combined successfully to make OCLC what it is.
Following on Brown's remarks, OCLC continues both to expand the scope of its activities and enhance its existing services. At the recent ALA Midwinter meeting in Chicago, the Ohio-based utility announced that its data base is undergoing a second AACR2 conversion to bring name headings into conformance with “Anglo-American Cataloging Rules,” Second Edition (AACR2) authoritative names as established by the Library of Congress. The first conversion was undertaken in 1980, and the utility has increased in size by nearly seven million records since that time. Processing for the latest conversion began on December 30 and is expected to take ten weeks. Unlike the first conversion when the system was shut down for ten days, the OCLC Online System (OLUC) will be available during normally scheduled hours throughout the process, which will be undertaken offline.
OCLC is undertaking the conversion to reconcile the many changes in policy and practice pertaining to the LC Name-Authority File since 1980 and also to enhance the overall quality of the Online Union Catalog in preparation for the new OCLC System. The conversion will match current Name-Authority File information with the records in the OLUC. OCLC will convert only exact matches representing approximately 20 percent of the 15 million records in the data base. Users will see converted records as they are processed.