thoughts on OCLC Knowledge Base product and Umlaut

So I watched the OCLC Webinar on “WorldShare Metadata collection management”, quite interesting, I’d recommend the recorded webcast, which they said they’d make available, although I have no idea where to find it (I was unsuccesful googling).

I’m not quite sure what OCLC product name is meant to refer to what part of their integrated-but-decoupled suite, but here are some things I believe to be true, based on that webinar and other research, with interesting implications for link resolver options, especially related to Umlaut.

1. OCLC has a “Knowledge Base” product, which is (I think?) free to Cataloging Members. It’s similar to a link resolver or ERM knowledge base, with packages you check off as subscribing to, keeping track of what titles (serials or increasingly ebooks) are in that package, etc.

2. OCLC has a “Knowledge Base API, on top of the Knowledge Base, which is (I think?) also free to Cataloging Members.

The Knowledge Base API looks like it could actually be considered a ‘link resolver api’ — it’s got quite similar functionality to, say, the SFX API or the SerSol 360Link API, etc.

Now, if you bought WorldCat Local, I think it comes with ‘link resolver’ functionality that’s based on the OCLC Knowledge Base. I’m not sure if you can buy the ‘link resolver’ based on the OCLC KB seperately without WorldCat Local.

But even without buying any product… if you are an OCLC Cataloging Member, I believe the Knowledge Base — and its API — are free to Cataloging Members.  And this API seems like it should be quite sufficient to write an adapter for it for Umlaut. (Umlaut, if you aren’t familiar with it, can be considered for these purposes to be a “link resolver front end”, although I think it’s actually more than that too).

Which suggests that it might be possible to essentially get a free link resolver product from OCLC, if you’re a Cataloging Member, and are already using Umlaut as your user-facing link resolver UI, or would like to.

Which is pretty interesting.  There are of course many considerations before embarking on that course, including making sure OCLC’s link resolver functionality is of sufficient quality, and asking OCLC “Hey, you didn’t make this free by mistake did you? You don’t have any plans we should know about to start charging lots of money for it next month, do you?”

3. OCLC has a MARC record export service based on the Knowledge Base, which is also free to Cataloging Members.

I think maybe this is what the “WorldShare Metadata Collection Management” name actually refers to, with some new improvements to the export service it got that name.

But they were quite clear that you can use the Knowledge Base — and the Marc Export service based on it — both with OCLC WMS (their hosted ILS-type product, compare to Ex Libris Alma or SerSol Intota)  or with your own ILS; both with WorldCat Local or with your own discovery layer.   If you were using WorldCat Local, I believe you wouldn’t actually use the ‘marc export’ component, it’d just happen under the hood syncing to your Worldcat Local. But if you don’t use WorldCat Local — that’s what the MARC export service is for, exporting MARC records in such a way that you keep an external system in sync with your Knowledge Base holdings, and changes to vendor URLs, etc. (The export service is designed to give you nightly deltas, I think).

I am pleased that these services are being clearly marketted as “You don’t have to use WMS or WorldCat Local” to make use of them — and seem to be genuinely designed with this goal in mind too.  It’s the right thing for a Cooperative to do to serve it’s member/owners (as opposed to be a vendor trying to create ‘lock-in’, which OCLC has sometimes historically acted like too).

So what we’ve basically got here is what I’ll call a “next generation ERM”.  It’s too bad the “Electronic Resource Management” phrase has been used by our industry to refer to something that’s basically just a database of licensing material.  What we’ve always needed is an ERM that’s actually integrated electronic subscription processing needs — a single knowledge base of your subscriptions, which powers record export to your discovery system, link resolving, AND license management.

Now, the “License Manager” component from OCLC is not free, if you want the functionality to keep track of licensing terms and licenses in the knowledge base. I think it’s not. I’m not sure what the pricing is like, but even if you add that in, you’re getting an integrated ERM knowledge base and still not paying for the marc record export or link resolver components, like you would from other vendors.

Quite interesting. Then of course, everybody’s trying to make this integrated ERM functionality also integrated with print and other library workflows, in one big integrated hosted ‘next generation’ Library Management System/ILS.  Like OCLC WMS. Or Ex Libris in-development Alma. Or SerSol in-development Intota. Which of course makes sense.  But there’s a lot of benefit to integrating your ERM type stuff even if the rest of the ILS is still a seperate product — especially if the ERM provides good record export to your discovery layer (whether that’s your traditional ILS/OPAC or not).  I think the incremental advantage of then integrating ERM with rest of ILS, while it makes sense, is relatively smaller (although it’ll get bigger as these systems get better and more feature-rich, say including built-in Overdrive integration or something).


2 thoughts on “thoughts on OCLC Knowledge Base product and Umlaut

  1. Jonathan, the recording to the WorldShare Metadata collection management webinar is now available at

    All of your assumptions are correct, and I can also confirm that libraries do get a link resolver (including your typical A-Z and knowledge base query tools) included with WorldCat Local. It’s also available without WorldCat Local for libraries that have the WorldShare License Manager (

  2. Couple other things of note regarding WorldCat Knowledge base and License Manager. First, the License Manager product also comes with a web service –

    Second, some libraries, most notably University of New Brunswick have chosen to build their own user interfaces to the data in the WorldCat Knowledge base. University of New Brunswick uses this data to power an customized A to Z List of e-resources for their users.

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