OCLC library management services

Thoughts provoked by Peter Murray’s excellent untangling of what’s going on with OCLC’s new offerings.

What does web-scale mean?

First, what the heck is “web scale” anyway? Is this just a marketting buzzword, or does it mean something?

I guess they do actually say a bit:

“…is distinguished by the cooperative “network effect” of all libraries using the same..”

ALL libraries? Like, every library everywhere?

That’s not going to happen, even if it were desirable (which I don’t think it is, to anyone but OCLC; the monopolistic aspirations are rather laid bare there, aren’t they?)

I’d be a lot more comfortable if they explained how the WMS was going to be inter-operable such that you could get these benefits even before/without their rather frightening vision of 100% market penetration is realized.

Inter-operability? And what do they mean anyway?

Peter mentions that the OCLC marketting materials mention use of a ‘service oriented architecture’:

“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.)”

Okay, the REASON that SOA is a focus of the OLE project is to achieve inter-operability — to allow you to mix and match components without lock-in.

So does they mean it (and what does it mean if they mean it), or is this just more buzzwords being thrown around? If not for inter-operability, what do we customers care about what it looks like inside the OCLC black box, what is “SOA” but something that sounds good in marketting materials?

I need fewer buzzwords, and more transparent sharing of strategy. I needed Peter’s post to even make sense of what they’re talking about, it’s a lot of marketting buzz, and little clarity.

Some of us are a bit cautious of accepting OCLC’s interest in inter-operating well with other players, rather than try to encourage lock-in. From one perspective, encouraging lock-in where you can’t afford NOT to use all these services from OCLC — is really the underlying force behind all this new stuff.

Teh Future

That said, we all know our current ILS type systems are just awful. What they are describing is certainly a better way. I want my choice of better ways, and I want to mix and match the best components from various better way ideas.

The proof is in the pudding (and the tasting thereof), of course. While the legacy of WorldCat gives OCLC some particular advantages, that very same gigantic legacy system also gives them some handicaps in trying to fulfill a vision of rational workflow integration for both patrons and staff –  especially, but not only,  when it comes to integrating electronic and print management and access. Right now, you can’t even get your non-MARC records into Worldcat discovery at all (unless they’re from ContentDM; whaddyaknow, another OCLC product ; why can they take crappy metadata in OAI-DC from ContentDM, but not crappy metadata in OAI-DC from DSpace or Fedora?).

And even Worldcat Local, right now, is not, I don’t think, very good at delivering the right licensed electronic resources to patrons in the right ways (and NOT sending patrons to un-licensed behind-pay-wall resources without warning them!). These and more issues are made harder by the handicaps of the MARC-based WorldCat infrastructure.   Those who have tried to use the existing Worldcat Local have found the promises of effortless integration to sometimes not be borne out by reality.

But from a business perspective, this is the right direction for OCLC to be going, income through providing valuable services and infrastructure, not by monopolizing data. As a cooperative, it’s members need to make sure they go in that business direction without trying to use the kind of lock-in strategy that’s often characterized our vendor’s approaches to us. They need to keep customers by being the best at what they do, not by making it as hard as possible for anyone else to try doing it, or insisting their customers get it all or nothing when ‘nothing’ is a losing proposition.

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One Response to OCLC library management services

  1. Scribe says:

    This was posted almost a year ago–any new thoughts/gossip on how the OCLC management system is functioning for people?

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