OCLC Review Board Recommends the Withdraw of Proposed Policy; Advocates for an Open Process

Earlier today, OCLC posted the recording [Flash] and presentation slides [PDF] from Jennifer Younger’s presentation to the Members Council updating them on the progress of the Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship. Although the work of the Review Board is not yet complete, they are recommending the “policy should be withdrawn.” They also acknowledge a ‘gap problem’ in understanding the role of OCLC and the social underpinnings of the cooperative. Oddly (my interpretation) this seems to be couched in a generation gap between those around when OCLC was founded and those that have come after: “But as new generations of members come into our ranks, it becomes more difficult to explain the social contract that is OCLC.” I detect a hint of us-versus-them thinking, but I hesitate to mention it and almost didn’t include it here because it is based on such a flimsy foundation. Jennifer’s report also lists some initial questions to consider in a process of forming a new policy. She acknowledges that this is work that the members of the review board need to tackle before presenting the final report.
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Use of JPEG2000 for Broadcast Video Transmission

Although my day-to-day work takes me farther away from working with digital collections in general and JPEG2000 specifically, I still have a Google News search set up looking for hits on JPEG2000 topics. An entry appeared yesterday that gives some interesting insight into how motion JPEG2000 is being used in broadcast video transmission: “HBO Opens T-VIPS Video Gateways: Norweigan Vendor Helps Premium Net Ship Content Coast to Coast

The article describes how HBO is using video gateways based on the JPEG2000 standard “to transport high-definition programming from its New York City studios to the HBO Communications Center.” The device, a TVG430 HD JPEG2000, encodes and decodes HDTV signals in motion JPEG2000 for transmission over gigabit ethernet. (Take a look at the data sheet [PDF] for all of the fine details about the product.) The article also describes some of the operational advantages and disadvantages of real-time motion JPEG2000 transmission:

For HBO and other clients, JPEG2000 has proven to have a number of advantages over MPEG formats for video-signal transport, Dolvik said. MPEG signals that are repeatedly encoded and decoded have much poorer image quality than JPEG2000 signals, and JPEG2000 does a significantly better job of error correction. In addition, the latency for JPEG2000 signals is about 120 milliseconds, compared with as much as two to four seconds for MPEG.

A downside to JPEG2000 is that it requires significantly more bandwidth than MPEG. This isn’t a major problem for sending content over IP networks, in which bandwidth has become much less expensive, but it is a significant issue for “the last mile” connection into homes where bandwidth is often extremely limited.

Very interesting to read, even if it doesn’t have a direct impact on libraries and other cultural heritage institutions. It does show, though, that JPEG2000 is gaining market share and mind share in other fields.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.t-vips.com/sites/default/files/datasheets/0409_Datasheet_tvg430.pdf to http://www.t-vips.com/sites/default/files/datasheets/Datasheet_tvg430.pdf on January 28th, 2011.

At the Intersection of the OCLC Records Use Policy and the WorldCat Local Cloud-based Library Management Service

Last Friday, Andrew Pace (Executive Director of Networked Library Services for OCLC) was interviewed by Richard Wallis of Talis on OCLC’s recent announcement of a cloud-based library management service. As part of that conversation, Richard and Andrew touched on the ongoing debate on the OCLC record use policy. Below is a transcript from that part of the interview (with time markers from the start of the interview).

Richard Wallis (27:00)
What about [libraries’] local data? By providing data up onto the OCLC platform, will that data be restricted in its use — how they can use it — or will it be totally open for them to use it in any way that they want to?
Andrew Pace (27:17)
That data is the library’s data.
Richard Wallis (27:21)
One of the reasons I ask that question is obviously we’re aware of the issues about bibliographic record reuse licensing that is going on at the moment. Do you see that conversation having any impact on the back-end data or the usage statistics data or anything like that?
Andrew Pace (27:41)
I imagine there will be service-level agreements we’ll build for the data that are going into library management services, but I am reluctant to combine what is going there with the record use policy discussions. I think as the record use policies are under revision — they are under discussion right now — I think libraries are cognizant of all of the data issues, but I am reluctant to tie the two together completely.
Richard Wallis (28:11)
So you probably see the bibliographic conversation separate from the raw data type conversation.
Andrew Pace (28:20)
Yeah, I think they are related to each other but I think they are separate conversations.

I think this is absolutely the right answer, and I’m glad to see the distinction between the shared bibliographic data and the holdings/circulation-transaction data so cleanly separated. They are related, but in the case of the former it is truly the library’s data. Earlier on in the interview, Andrew addressed the issue of how OCLC would respond to disclosure requests from law enforcement agencies.

Richard Wallis (21:35)
How would OCLC handle an inquiry under the [USA] Patriot Act or something like that?
Andrew Pace (21:42)
I might beg off on that as being a legal question, but it is one that we have asked about what it means for that data. I’m not sure it is going to be entirely different than how libraries would have to deal with it on a local system.
Richard Wallis (22:02)
I suppose the only concern is if you have the records for transactions in a signifcant number of libraries, it may actually be somewhere that government star people might want to wander and ask questions. I suppose that is where it is different in this environment.
Andrew Pace (22:20)
Yeah, and what I’m arguing is that it would be similar situation to software as a service or other hosted applications as well. But I’m not going to attempt any kind of legal answer since I’m not a lawyer.
Richard Wallis (22:37)
Ah, that’s disappointing. I could have quoted you back to yourself in a year’s time, but never mind, I understand why you ducked that question. I would have done so as well.

For me, this is further evidence that OCLC would consider the transaction data to be owned by the library. I’m not a lawyer either, but this would seem to push the responsibility for responding to a law enforcement agent request to the member library. Hopefully, there is legal precedent to make that stick.

Overall, it is a good interview that really puts some added definition to the plans for WorldCat Local Library Management Services.

The text was modified to update a link from http://blogs.talis.com/panlibus/archives/2009/05/oclcs-andrew-pace-talks-with-talis-about-web-scale-ils.php to http://blogs.capita-libraries.co.uk/panlibus/2009/05/08/oclcs-andrew-pace-talks-with-talis-about-web-scale-ils/ on August 27th, 2012.

OCLC Record Use Policy Issue Coming to a Head

In roughly a week, the OCLC membership through the Members Council will hear of the preliminary findings from the Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship. The Review Board was tasked with formulating recommendations in response to the community’s objections to the proposed Record Use policy. The charter for the Review Board says that “delegates will discuss the report at the May Members Council meeting….” In anticipation of this event, I posed this question to reviewboard@oclc.org: is the review board planning on publicly posting a draft report prior to the meeting so the Members Council delegates can bring community feedback to the meeting?

Dr. Jennifer Younger, director of libraries at the University of Notre Dame and chair of the of the review board, replied and gave permission to post her response widely:
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Google Search Engine Adds Support for RDFa, Or Do They?

Via a post and an interview on the O’Reilly Radar blog, Google announced limited support for parsing RDFa statements and microformat properties in web page HTML coding and using those statements to enhance the relevance of search results as so-called “rich snippets”. In looking at the example review markup outlined in the O’Reilly post, though, I was struck by some unusual and unexpected markup. Specifically, that the namespace was this http://rdf.data-vocabulary.org/ thing that I had never seen before, and the “rating” property didn’t have any corresponding range that would make that numeric value useful in a computational sense.
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Summary of Recent Google Book Search Settlement Activities

Today was to be the deadline for objecting to, opting out of, and/or filing briefs with the court on the Google Book Search Settlement. That was the plan, at least, when the preliminary approval statement from the court was issued last year. That deadline changed, and that is part of a recent flurry of activity surrounding the proposed Settlement. This post provides a summary of recent news and an index of documents that you might want to read for more information.
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Library Associations File Amicus Brief for Google Book Search Settlement

The American Library Association (through the Association’s Washington Office and the Association of College and Research Libraries Division) and the Association of Research Libraries filed a brief [PDF] with the court in support of the Google Book Search Settlement while asking the judge to “exercise vigorous oversight” over details the settlement. In the 22-page amicus1 brief, the library associations say they do not oppose the settlement, but they do request that the courts provide strict oversight of the activities of Google and the Book Rights Registry. From page 2 of the brief:

The Settlement, therefore, will likely have a significant and lasting impact on libraries and the public, including authors and publishers. But in the absence of competition for the services enabled by the Settlement, this impact may not be entirely positive. The Settlement could compromise fundamental library values such as equity of access to information, patron privacy, and intellectual freedom. In order to mitigate the possible negative effects the Settlement may have on libraries and the public at large, the Library Associations request that this Court vigorously exercise its jurisdiction over the interpretation and implementation of the Settlement.

The brief then describes “concerns with the Settlement, and how the Court’s oversight can ameliorate those concerns.”
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  1. Latin: “friend”, informal form of amicus curiae of “friend of the court” — Wiktionary []

Tweaking the New FriendFeed Interface

FriendFeed went live yesterday with changes to the user interface and back-end systems. The changes were moderately positive, taken as a whole, but there are aspects of the new user interface that I don’t like — the color scheme, the removal of the service icons, and the (over)-use of whitespace. Fortunately, with Firefox plus a few extensions as my primary browser, I’m able to tweak the interface to be closer to my liking. If your tastes resemble mine, I both feel sorry for you and want to help you improve your view of FriendFeed.
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OCLC’s WorldCat Local “Quick Start”

Last week, OCLC announced a “strategy to move library management services to Web scale.” With this move, OCLC is rebranding “WorldCat Local” to include functions typically associated with an integrated library system. From the press release:

OCLC plans to release Web-scale delivery and circulation, print and electronic acquisitions, and license management components to WorldCat Local, continuing the integration of library management services to create the Web-scale, cooperative library service. OCLC will begin piloting the Web-scale management service components this year.

There are many thing going on here. So, in order to get our bearings I think it is useful to break this down into two parts: the broader scope of web-scale integrated library system components and the narrower scope of the “quick start” trial version of the patron interface to WorldCat.org. But first we need to tackle the phrase “WorldCat Local.”

What is “WorldCat Local”?

Until now, many of us probably thought of WorldCat Local as a locally-scoped version of the WorldCat.org database. It is, in fact, interesting to go back to the 11 April 2007 press release announcing the pilot of WorldCat Local; it says “the service will provide libraries the ability to search the entire WorldCat database and present results beginning with items most accessible to the patron.” Further on in the same release, it says “WorldCat Local service interoperates with locally maintained services like circulation, resource sharing and resolution to full text to create a seamless experience for the end user.”

OCLC now seems to be rebranding “WorldCat Local” from a discovery layer service to a replacement of a local integrated library system (although OCLC seems to go through great pains not to use the phrase “integrated library system” to describe this new offering). This rebranding varies depending on the page you are viewing: the press release has the quote at the top of this post while the first link in that press release (to the Web-scale, cooperative library management service) seems to speak of WorldCat Local in its 2007 definition. Andrew Pace’s blog post is somewhere in the middle: “OCLC is extending the WorldCat Local platform to include circulation and delivery, print and electronic acquisitions, and license management components.” In a conversation on the Code4Lib IRC channel, Roy Tennant says “AFAIK (as far as I know) WorldCat Local, which formerly was completely bounded by the catalog part, now will have different components, one of which is the catalog.”

Since the branding seems to be in flux, in this post I’m going to refer to WorldCat Local Web-scale Management Service (WCL-WMS) and WorldCat Local Discovery Service (WCL-DS). Any resemblance to current or future OCLC product names is quite definitely a coincidence.

Web-Scale Integrated Library System

Starting with WCL-WMS. In places on the OCLC website, this effort also goes by the name of Web-scale management services. OCLC describes its broad efforts this way:

OCLC’s vision is similar to Software as a Service (SaaS)1 but is distinguished by the cooperative “network effect” of all libraries using the same, shared hardware, services and data, rather than the alternative model of hosting hardware and software on behalf of individual libraries. Libraries would subscribe to Web-scale management services that include modular management functionality. Moreover, libraries would benefit from the network-level integration of numerous services that are not currently part traditional integrated library systems, e.g., Knowledge Base Integration, WorldCat Collection Analysis, WorldCat Selection, WorldCat Local, etc..

Further down the Web-scale management services page there is a list of proposed services: Web-Scale Circulation and Delivery, Web-Scale Print and Electronic Acquisitions, Web-Scale License Management, Web-Scale Self-Configuration, Web-Scale Workflow, and Web-Scale Cooperative Intelligence. The list also has brief descriptions of each of these services.

Trial Version of Patron Interface

The second component is a feature-limited version of the (formerly branded?) WorldCat Local interface. According to OCLC, the “quick start” version is missing the ability to have a consortial scope of holdings (between locally-owned and the-world), branch-level scoping within a local library, and local information display (such as notes and local URLs). The “quick start” version also won’t have the forthcoming metasearch integration or the ability to place holds via NCIP. (Holds can be place by redirecting the user to the home ILS and using whatever functionality is in place locally.) WCL-DS will pull availability information from local systems for items in which the library’s OCLC symbol is recorded in the WorldCat database. Status information is pulled either by Z39.50 look-up (in the case of Ex Libris Aleph systems) or HTML-scraping the Web OPAC display (all other systems). By offering it for free, OCLC is giving libraries the option of trying out a large subset of the WCL-DS functionality.

Initial Thoughts

From an OCLC-as-business perspective, this is a shrewd move. They may have effectively frozen two markets in one press release: libraries looking at discovery layers and libraries looking for new automation systems. For the former, the ability for libraries that already subscribe to OCLC FirstSearch — an interface that in transition to WorldCat.org — to get a version of WCL-DS can be seen as a “gateway drug” that allows them to try out a thorough and robust challenger to Primo, Encore, Summon, and EBSCO Discovery Service, which is to say nothing about the open source contenders out there like Blacklight, VuFind, and the Extensible Catalog Project. In the case of the latter, there isn’t much movement in the ILS marketplace, but there is the 2-year-old Ex Libris URM and the soon-to-be-released report from the Open Library Environment project. (Will OCLC’s announcement of work in this area freeze out potential build partners for the OLE Project? The Web-scale document lists a feature of “A Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) for interoperability with local environments and 3rd party business process systems (e.g., financial management, HR systems, and course management)” — one of the hallmarks of the OLE project.)

It is this second effect that has caught my eye the most. When pushing the back-room library automation tasks of circulation, acquisitions and such from local systems to “the cloud”, we’re fundamentally talking about a system migration. We’ve got to unload all of the records from our current system, massage them however we need to, put put them in another system. The twist comes from the fact that the other system is not the library’s own. I have no doubt that OCLC can work with existing ILS vendors to migrate their information into OCLC. My questions and concerns come at the other end — what if you want to migrate from the cloud back to a local system?

This is where considerations of OCLC-as-a-cooperative take over. If OCLC were acting as a cooperative — acting on the best behalf of its members — there would be no question that the data could easily come back out. The announcement, backlash, and response to the proposed changes to the record use policy are, however, a dark cloud2 over any reading of OCLC’s intentions. In a world where I could trust the cooperative to provide single-item lookups and batch aggregated extracts of holdings and acquisition data from the SaaS, what OCLC is offering could be a good thing. If it came along with demonstrations of real cost reductions (not simply “reducing the rate of rise” of costs) it would be even better. But OCLC has turned into a behemoth much larger than the collective whole of the collaborative, and I’m not sure I can trust them (collectively) at this point farther than I can throw the headquarters building in Dublin, OH.

Other Interesting Tidbits

The initial article in Library Journal by Marshall Breeding says: “OCLC said it will work with the more than 1,000 libraries and partners that are currently using OCLC library management systems in Europe and Asia Pacific to help build the new service.” In this context, I think “New Service” refers to WCL-WMS, and given the description is probably in reference to the OCLC PICA division.

In a future post, I’ll start to summarize the reactions to the OCLC announcement.


  1. Software as a Service is a model for deploying software where a firm provides the hosting and support of a system for a client. For example, Google Docs is a SaaS deployment for office automation applications and Salesforce.com is a supplier of a customer relationship management system. As opposed to a model of software-purchase-plus-maintenance, SaaS involves a ongoing subscription fee. For more information, see the Wikipedia article on the topic. []
  2. Please pardon the cloud-computing pun. []

Intervention by IA Denied; Deadline for Objections Extended

New York Judge Denny Chin recently issued two rulings in the Google Book Search settlement. In the first, he the request by the Internet Archive to intervene as a defendant in the lawsuit (and thus, presumably, be on firmer founding to guide aspects of the settlement). In his response, Judge Chin said:

The Court has received requests for pre-motion conferences by the Internet Archive, Lewis Hyde, Harry Lewis, and the Open Access Trust, Inc. seeking leave to intervene in this action. I have construed their letters as motions to intervene, and the motions are denied. The proposed interveners are, however, free to file objections to the proposed settlement or amicus briefs, either of which must be filed by the May 5, 2009 objection deadline.

(The Open Access Trust is a proposal to form a legal trust for the revenue generated by unclaimed orphan works.)

In the second, Judge Chin granted a four month extension to the deadline for class members to opt out of the settlement or file objections. The new deadline is now September 4th. Requests for the extension came from a group of authors (including heirs of Steinbeck) in an April 24th letter and a group of academic authors represented by Berkeley School of Law Professor Pamela Samuelson (who recently wrote an eloquent post about the settlement on the O’Reilly Radar blog). Attorneys in the case requested a two month extension.

In related news, the court has received and logged three letters that object to the settlement: from authors Hope Ryden and Lee Killough as well as Jenny Darling & Associates in Australia. More may come next week from those anticipating the May 5th deadline, but I expect most will continue to flow in around the new September 4th date.

Found via two articles and a tweet by Tim O’Reilly.

The text was modified to update a link from http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/ to http://web.archive.org/web/20081219194925/http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/ on August 22nd, 2013.