For such an announcement I was surprised to see how little fuss it had created in the library blogosphere. After all it told us that “OCLC will test interoperability with systems used by participating pilot libraries, including Innovative Interfaces, SirsiDynix, and ExLibris Voyager.” – effectively opening up those vendors’ systems to have all their public facing functionality replaced by an OCLC software service. Are these vendors intimidated by this bold encroachment on to their patch, or do they welcome it? Are they going to make it easy for OCLC or not? I’m sure their customers would be very interested to discover their views on this.
The possibility of OCLC providing the OPAC surely must raise a couple of questions from the libraries – “Do I get a support discount from my vendor if I don’t use their OPAC?” and “Who do I ring when it starts misbehaving?” are just a couple that come to mind.
Nevertheless my search did turn up some interesting comments.
Tim Spalding on the LibraryThing Blog gets quite heated about it:
That’s the news. Here’s the opinion. Talis’ estimable Richard Wallis writes:
“Yet another clear demonstration that the library world is changing. The traditional boundaries between the ILS/LMS, and library and non-library data services are blurring. Get your circulation from here; your user-interface from there; get your global data from over there; your acquisitions from somewhere else; and blend it with data feeds from here, there and everywhere is becoming more and more a possibility.”
I think this is exactly wrong. OCLC isn’t creating a web service. They’re not contributing to the great data-service conversation. They’re trying to convert a data licensing monopoly into a services monopoly. If the OCLC OPAC plays nice with, say, the Talis Platform, I’ll eat my hat. If it allows outside Z39.50 access I’ll eat two hats.
I agree with your main point Tim, and I believe your millinery assets are safe at the moment! I don’t think OCLC are not about to offer Open Web Services for all to consume, but nevertheless getting the OPAC from an external Software-as-a-Service supplier is a major crack in the traditional monolithic walls of ILS/LMS supply.
Jessamyn West has some interesting thoughts on her How WorldCat solves some problems and creates others posting.
…further blurring the boundaries between book data and end users services using that data… …Meanwhile WorldCat still tells me that I have to drive 21 miles — to a library I don’t even have borrowing privileges at (Dartmouth) — to get a copy of the Da Vinci Code when I know that I can get a copy less than half a mile down the street.
In comments to Jessamyn’s posting, GinaP characterises the ‘digital divide’ as between those libraries that can afford to pay the OCLC subscription and those that can not – a problem apparently solved in Idaho with a State-wide agreement which allows all libraries to avail themselves with OCLC services, the smaller ones only paying $300/year. (I wonder what the larger ones pay?)
In a following comment GeekChic says:
The two consortia that I used to work with in South Texas could never afford OCLC membership (and they will likely never be able to afford it). As a result, patrons using “World”Cat are directed either to academic libraries or to public libraries that are a four hour drive away. I now work in Canada and there are very few Canadian public libraries that are members of OCLC – so the “World”Cat label really sticks in my craw.
Echoed by David Bigwood of the the Lunar and Planetary Institute:
….we can’t afford OCLC membership. Even though it would benefit scholars around the world. Patrons come from Egypt, South Africa, Australia, and so on to do research here.
Much of what I catalog in not in OCLC, I know because I check Open WorldCat. Yet $1200.00 a year for membership is not in the budget. That is another journal we would have to cancel.
The LibrarianInBlack is employed by one of the libraries that OCLC is using as a Worldcat Local pilot through their consortium, the Peninsula Library System, so I was interested to check out what Sarah had to say about it.
None of us has actually seen any part of the product yet–we’re just going on what we’ve been told. We are hoping to see the product in action soon, and are told that we will see it before it is launched live on our site. This project has been a huge deal for our consortium and libraries, and none of us has been able to talk about it for months.
Ah well maybe we will all have to wait to see, and hear more opinion about it.
Other commentators have been:
- ResourceShelf – Is this the beginning of the end for the local catalog from OPAC providers? – It’s always exciting to see new things/ideas but we wish that OCLC would also get other longtime WorldCat issues up and running correctly.
- Peter Suber – Apart from the way this new service supplements the standard library OPAC, I like the way it ranks items with the most accessible first.
- Information and the Future – This would all seem to have pretty major implications for our thinking about the OPAC, the local catalog, ILS software, electronic resources and consortial catalogs like I-Share’s Universal Catalog.
An opening up of Library systems, an evil plan to capture the library services market, just a bit of added value for those that can afford to be part of the ‘World’, or just a bit of interesting news? – only time will tell.