DUBLIN, Ohio, February 28, 2005 -- OCLC Members Council discussed the future of the integrated library system, how WorldCat might fit in that future, and how different models of library systems might better serve the needs of libraries and library users as we enter a Web 2.0 world.
Members Council met in Dublin, Ohio, February 12-14 in the second of three 2005/2006 meetings with the primary theme, "Building and Expanding the Collaborative." Council voted to hold their February 2007 meeting in Canada in an effort to expand the experience of delegates who normally meet three times each year in Dublin.
The Future of the Integrated Library System
"Technology is one of the biggest drivers in our lives today and one of the biggest forces behind change," said Pat Sommers, CEO of Sirsi/Dynix, who was invited to speak about the future of integrated library systems. Mr. Sommers noted that, in this period of rapid change in technology and user expectations, library systems have to adapt to and keep pace with that change or face extinction.
He cited a number of studies, including OCLC's "Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources," that show information seekers are increasingly relying on search engines instead of libraries for what they need, they want information delivered fast and free, and they want it à la carte-in disaggregated form.
Mr. Sommers described a new pilot service recently launched in Ohio's Shaker Heights City School District, called Sirsi/Dynix SchoolRooms, which combines teacher-selected, standards-based content with student-friendly software to promote learning and to supplement school curricula. Developed in cooperation with INFOhio, the information network for Ohio schools, and partnering with Kent State University's School of Library and Information Science, content is accessed through virtual rooms that help students discover information, provide educators with access to materials and enable parents to find appropriate resources for improving their children's education.
"Our vision as a company is to partner with our clients to create a future in which libraries play a more strategic role within their communities, making sense of the vast world of information and bringing knowledge in all forms to real people to meet real needs," said Mr. Sommers. "We believe libraries should be the center point where people find information. It's not enough to merely expose users to the Internet. We believe there is real value in libraries creating a community perspective, and helping users make sense of information."
Gregg Silvas, Assistant Director of Library Computing Systems, University of Deleware Library (PALINET), questioned the future of some local library systems with a presentation titled, "The Impending Demise of the Local OPAC." Mr. Silvas suggested that libraries have not moved far from the old models of printed catalog cards.
"The problem, I see, is that in replacing printed catalog cards with electronic catalog records, libraries have perpetuated the redundancies of effort that were present in the old, physical environment," said Mr. Silvas. "We've done the same old thing with the electronic format."
Mr. Silvas pointed to examples of duplication of effort in loading of records, indexing of records, authority control, user interface design and support, back up of data and library staff resources.
"Why not perform all cataloging on OCLC, forego the local loading of bibliographic records, and use Open WorldCat or WorldCat through FirstSearch as the OPAC?" asked Mr. Silvas.
Mr. Silvas said the skeletal framework for providing real-time links to local systems for acquisitions and circulation functions already exists in both Open WorldCat and WorldCat on FirstSearch.
He said advantages of an OCLC OPAC include an excellent user interface; minimal duplication of effort; single point of record maintenance; incorporation of new functionalities like FRBR, reviews, interfaces, etc.; facilitated resource sharing; and reinvestment in the library cooperative.
Mr. Silvas also pointed to issues that would need to be addressed before moving toward an OCLC OPAC, including how item-specific or special collection materials will be handled; some libraries' holdings information is incomplete; locally enhanced records must be considered; scalability and reliability of the system; and the potential loss of local control.
Maggie Farrell, President, OCLC Members Council and Dean of Libraries, University of Wyoming (BCR), suggested that delegates carefully consider these thoughts about change in integrated library systems. "As we see integrated library systems changing and we see our environment changing, we have to continue to ask ourselves, 'What does this mean for OCLC products and services?"
New Service models for a new Web environment
Lorcan Dempsey, Vice President, OCLC Research and OCLC Chief Strategist, described some new and upcoming services, developed through OCLC Research, that will help libraries in a new Web environment.
"Web 2.0 is basically about moving from a Web full of pages that we can visit and read, to a Web that's more programmable," said Mr. Dempsey. "Web 2.0 will have more intelligence in it, more applications in it that you can actually exercise within the Web pages themselves."
Mr. Dempsey offered examples of services in the new Web environment:
- Audience Level system uses library holdings data in WorldCat to calculate audience levels for books represented in the WorldCat database, based on the types of libraries that hold the titles. Using a Greasemonkey script, the Audience level data interacts with a Web service and inserts results in a Web page, such as an Amazon page.
- Livesearch illustrates a rich interaction in the Web environment. Livesearch uses the Ajax scripting technique to facilitate quick searches with each keystroke of a search term/phrase. Livesearch retrieves ordered, FRBR-grouped results, and uses the Dewey Decimal Classification system to narrow search results.
- FictionFinder is a project that uses the FRBR model in a system for searching and browsing bibliographic records representing fiction. Users can search by character or by place or setting, and can find items they might be interested in and learn whether their library has it. Elements of potential interest to readers of fiction, such as summaries, subject headings, genre terms, etc. are extracted from individual bibliographic records, filtered, and presented at the work level.
Mr. Dempsey stressed the importance of "making data work harder" for libraries, as illustrated by the FictionFinder project. He said libraries have spent a lot of time and effort creating rich data that is not used to its fullest potential.
"We've invested a lot in this data, and we can really exercise it much more strongly," said Mr. Dempsey. "FictionFinder is based on existing MARC records. We're not creating anything very new with FictionFinder-we're processing the MARC record. There is, in fact, a very rich structure that you can expose in the MARC record. We just don't use what's in them in our systems."
Robin Murray, CEO of Fretwell-Downing Informatics, which was recently acquired by OCLC PICA, suggested that library systems in this new information environment must synthesize, or combine often diverse conceptions into a coherent whole; specialize, involve specific knowledge to serve a particular purpose and apply or direct that knowledge to a specific end or use; and mobilize, to put these applications into action.
In short, Mr. Murray said that libraries are evolving from acquiring, cataloging and circulating physical collections to synthesizing, specializing and mobilizing Web-based services.
He used the UK National Health Service as an example of how this system can work to get information where it is needed. Critical to the NHS service delivery is the mandatory use of "evidence-based healthcare." "And to support this, a well-mobilized and synthesized evidence base is clearly essential," Mr. Murray said.
The NHS model synthesizes using a single-search environment provided across multiple specialist library services, commercial databases and internal information resources and the search process is augmented with various Web services. The specialization layer performs real-time data analysis to categorize and present information according to target user
requirements. Then the information is mobilized to meet the user at the point of need, such as integration in Microsoft Office suite applications, e-mail or RSS feeds.
"If this model can be delivered effectively within healthcare service, there is unquestionably immense and tangible value to be realized," Mr. Murray said. "The model does translate to all spheres of library service, though clearly the value proposition is particularly dramatic in the health space."
OCLC President's update
Jay Jordan, OCLC President and CEO, provided an update on OCLC activities. He noted a few acquisitions OCLC has made within the last year. In June, OCLC PICA acquired Sisis Information Systems, a provider of library management systems and portal software based in Munich, Germany, to combine their technologies and capabilities and speed up product and service enhancements and updates. In November, OCLC PICA acquired Fretwell-Downing Informatics, an information discovery, library management and knowledge delivery organization, a move that will accelerate progress in resource sharing. And in January, OCLC acquired Openly Informatics, whose knowledge base and linking software will help OCLC libraries manage their e-serials collections.
"In our merger and acquisitions activities, we look for opportunities that will add value to the cooperative," said Mr. Jordan. "Our alliances must be consistent with OCLC's public purposes and should lead to new or better services, to new markets or to lower costs for member libraries. Each of these mergers meets those criteria."
"Our mergers and acquisitions provide the OCLC cooperative with not only a rich pool of talent and state-of-the art services, but also with a host of opportunities to make new services available for our member libraries faster and more economically than we could by ourselves," Mr. Jordan said.
Members Council also:
- Heard an update from Betsy Wilson, Chair, OCLC Board of Trustees. "I think we have seen notable achievements and improvements in strengthening OCLC governance over the last few years," said Ms. Wilson. "I believe we are now positioned better than ever to serve the members interests because of this strengthened governance."
- Voted to hold its February 2007 meeting in Canada.
- Conducted a Networks and Service Centers Information Session. Kate Nevins, Executive Director, SOLINET, and RONDAC Chair, presented a RONDAC update, and James Estrada, Vice President for Information Services and University Libraries, Fairfield University (NELINET), facilitated discussion.
- Shirley Baker, Vice Chancellor, Information Technology and Dean of University Libraries, Washington University in St. Louis (MLNC), led a discussion on E-Content.
- Delegates met in small, library-type groups and interest groups for discussions. Delegates also discussed a broad range of issues in plenary sessions.
The next OCLC Members Council meeting will be May 21-23, 2006, at the Marriott Northwest in Dublin, Ohio.
About Members Council
The 66-delegate Members Council supports OCLC's mission by serving as the key discussion forum and communications link between member libraries, regional networks and other partners, and OCLC management. By providing a channel for recommendations and questions from Members Council delegates, approving changes in the Code of Regulations, and electing six members of the Board of Trustees, Members Council helps shape the future direction of OCLC.
Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, OCLC Online Computer Library Center is a nonprofit organization that has provided computer-based cataloging, reference, resource sharing, eContent and preservation services to 54,000 libraries in 109 countries and territories. For more information, visit www.oclc.or.