OCLC record use survey comments

Here is the final free response comment I left to the OCLC record use policy survey. One more day to fill it out!

Members are not doing original cataloging in order to make a profit. There is not much money in it for them. They’re doing it in order to collaborate on providing a public service. The MORE these records are used — by individual experiments on the web, by non-profits, by consortiums, and yes, even by for-profit concerns — the MORE useful they are, the MORE non-monetary return on our investment we get.

In fact, the kind of innovation and inter-operability which can only come by aggressive and open SHARING of our collective bibliographic output — is the only way to keep the very practice of cataloging relevant and alive in the 21st century.

At the same time, OCLC definitely provides a variety of valuable services. It is in members interests that these services continue to be offered — and that they be offered by a non-profit cooperative. OCLC needs a sustainable business model. However, the reason a non-profit cooperative is important to us is precisely because it violates the mission of a non-profit cooperative to find a business model that is against the interests of it’s members. Attempting to exercize monopoly ownership-like control of our collective bibliographic database would be exactly that. It’s fortunate that our collective bib database isn’t owned by a for-profit concern, because they’d be likely to do exactly that. OCLC ought to live up to it’s non-profit cooperative nature and behave differently. OCLC is already offering a variety of highly significant value added services on top of the data. It ought to be able to create a sustainable business model on that.It won’t be easy, these are not easy times for anyone in the library sector. But if it can not, then libraries are really in trouble.

A comment on this instrument: I found this survey instrument a reasonably good one, EXCEPT for question 18: “STATEMENT: OCLC members should receive benefit from uses of WorldCat records outside the membership, wherever the records are shared or transferred.”

That question, provided without context and with vagueness, is leading. I would be careful what conclusions you draw from the responses. What kinds of benefits are you talking about? Do you think a benefit to OCLC itself is ipso facto a benefit to members? Do you specifically mean monetary benefit? A respondent may be thinking “Well, gee, if OCLC is going to be making money, then sure, we should get a cut too.” But I don’t think that’s what you meant to ask. And the very question at hand is if OCLC will be making money from record sharing.

I think that OCLC members _will_ benefit from the open and free sharing of records outside the network — maybe not from every single use, but from many of the uses that result from such sharing. I think neither OCLC _nor_ it’s members need to benefit monetarily.


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