SkyRiver merges back into III

SkyRiver was, if I understand it right, a spinoff of Innovative Interfaces, which aimed to provide a ‘next generation’ shared database of bibliographic data. (Ie, ‘cooperative cataloging’).

One thing they did from the start was be clear that they claimed no intellectual property ownership of the bibliographic data. From Marshall Breeding in 2009 Library Journal:

The company has also taken measures to insulate itself from any debate regarding records usage, such as the controversy that has recently preoccupied OCLC: SkyRiver makes no claims to own the records contained within its bibliographic database. None of the records are derived from OCLC or other organizations that assert ownership or restrictions in terms of use. Once received from SkyRiver, libraries can use the records in any way.

Early on, Michigan State University made news by attempting to switch their ‘cooperative cataloging’ (source of downloading shared bibliographic data) to SkyRiver, but continue participating in OCLC for the many other services OCLC provides.  OCLC, apparently unexpectedly to MSU, took steps to make this financially prohibitive. From Josh Hadro in Library Journal in February 2010:


MSU had expected to pay $6000 to upload roughly 26,000 records per year, Haka indicated, writing that “OCLC’s current pricelist of service charges suggests that the cost for such record uploads would be $0.23 per record, a charge they verbally quoted to another library utilizing SkyRiver”…

Haka went on to say that the estimate from OCLC was $31,000

…MSU’s Haka wrote, “The contention has been made that actions such as ours seek to undermine the WorldCat database. I would simply respond that the price currently quoted to upload these records into the database is the factor that should be questioned.” He also notes that the $88,500 MSU pays for resource sharing “does not seem like freeloading.”

At least in 2010, it looked like that would lead to MSU withdrawing from additional OCLC services, rather than abandoning SkyRiver. “Haka wrote, ‘I regret that our newer holdings will not be available for others to consult,’ and that MSU would ‘aggressively pursue alternative avenues for cooperative document delivery arrangements’ until the university and OCLC can reach a new agreement.” (Can anyone confirm whether MSU ever reached an agreement with OCLC, whether they were still on SkyRiver up to this week, or what?)

But MSU had already made the migration to SkyRiver, clearly OCLC’s hope was anyone else considering following them would be discouraged.

In July 2010, with respect to actions like this, SkyRiver sued OCLC in federal court on anti-trust grounds. 

However, several days ago SkyRiver withdrew the suit, and, according to Marshall Breeding, are merging with III too.  It’s not entirely clear what prompted this or what it means; apparently the ‘cooperative cataloging’ service will continue as a III product.  But has the service under SkyRiver not been as profitable as originally anticipated?  Will it actually be supported and expanded under III, or left to wither on the vine?  Will III have the same approach to intellectual property controls over the service?  Will OCLC try to be more accomodating of libraries trying to meet their needs by taking some but not all services from OCLC?  How is MSU feeling about their decision now?

Curious about all these things, don’t know.

More questions I don’t know the answer to: Will further innovation, experimentation and diversity of options occur in the field of library cooperative metadata management?  Is it too late to save library metadata practices as cost-effective and productive?


One thought on “SkyRiver merges back into III”

  1. These are great questions Jonathan, and we want to assure everyone that Innovative remains committed to providing _all_ libraries with an economical alternative for high-quality bibliographic data, unencumbered with claims of intellectual property ownership. We continue to urge the entire marketplace to act in the best interest of libraries.

    SkyRiver’s future is bright.

    — Tom Jacobson, Director of Resource Sharing, Innovative Interfaces, Inc.

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