Interesting Bits from the OCLC Update Breakfast

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I think it is a statistical anomaly that many of the meetings I attended during ALA Midwinter were somehow related to OCLC. That statistical anomaly has certainly played out in postings here on DLTJ of my impressions of Midwinter meetings. Continuing with this thread of OCLC events, I attended the OCLC Update Breakfast Sunday morning for a membership-dues-paid croissant and orange juice, and to listen to Jay Jordon's biannual update on the past, present and future of OCLC. What follows are highlights that I found interesting in the course of his remarks, but certainly not a comprehensive report of what was said. Video of Jay's remarks where recorded and are to be posted at some point on the OCLC website (roughly six to eight weeks from now, if my memory of past events can be any guide).

WorldCat Growth since 1998

When Jay started in 1998 there were 39 million records in WorldCat. At the start of this year, there were 170 million records representing 1.5 billion holding statements. When I heard counts of the number of records in WorldCat, I've wondered if they were inclusive of all of the non-monograph activities happening in WorldCat, and as it happens it is not. The slides showed that there are an additional 325 million electronic database records representing licensed digital content (including 4.5 million records of JSTOR items that were recently added).

New "Search Engines"

Jay set the stage for his remarks by talking about what is happening with information searching beyond the library community. "Google is king," he remarks "but there are new launches" of systems that produce fewer but more highly relevant results. Microsoft's Bing and Wolfram|Alpha are probably well known, but he also mentioned "hakia" -- known for indexing just selected content on the web and presenting search results "galleries" in a tabbed form -- and "yebol" -- a knowledge-based semantic engine. He brought it home to the cooperative's community, though, with the description of the planning stages of "Reference Extract" -- a grant-funded effort of Syracuse Univ, the Univ of Washington, and OCLC to create a search engine based on the citations and recommendations of reference librarians.

OCLC Services in the Cloud

Jay then reflected on how the current exploration of "cloud computing" elsewhere has threads -- for our community -- all the way back to Fred Kilgour's vision for library services. Portions of the WorldCat web-scale management services, where one relocates aspects of the technology supporting back-room library operations into a service provided by OCLC, continued development. A number of institutions -- the CPC Regional Libraries in North Carolina, the Idaho Commission for Libraries, the Orbis Cascade Alliance and Linfield College Libraries, and Pepperdine University -- are now testing the circulation component of this suite of back-room services. Jay also remarked on the deployment of an application for iPhones and Droid smartphones that enables a user to scan the UPC barcode on the back of any book and be directed to holdings information at a home library or at a library closest to the user's location. WorldCat Navigator -- OCLC's product to enhance ILL with integration into the local circulation system -- is being rolled out through the Texas State Library and Archives Commission to 500 public libraries; members of the Boston Library Consortium are in the process of implementing WorldCat Local and WorldCat Navigator. QuestionPoint, OCLC's remote reference service, can also now be imbedded into Facebook, MySpace and a Text-a-Librarian widget.

OCLC is also looking to help with collection management as a cloud-available tool. Working with the New York University Libraries, OCLC is bringing analytics to bear on collection management and space allocation decisions by helping with data about the location of items in the campus library, in the library's "ReCAP" remote storage, and what is available digitally in HathiTrust. And speaking of HathiTrust, the public interface to 7.5 million volumes digitized largely through the Google Book Search partnership, OCLC is working with project participants to aid the metadata description of items in HathiTrust, to ensure that items in HathiTrust have records in WorldCat, and to add WorldCat Local as an interface to the HathiTrust collection.

Recent problems for Cataloging Partners

I have to give OCLC credit for owing up to issues with the membership. At most recent OCLC update meetings, it was the uproar about the proposed-the-withdrawn OCLC Record Use Policy. At this update there was mention of problems in cataloging system disruptions (October) and problems with generating labels (December). Remediation for these problems has received dedicated effort to resolve. The systems are fixed and the backlogs that resulted from the problems are now being worked through.