Re: OCLC and Michigan State at Impasse Over SkyRiver Cataloging, Resource Sharing Costs

From: Tim Spalding <tim_at_nyob>
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 2010 20:18:09 -0500
OCLC should be paid for the services they render. Or at least such
services as customers are willing to pay for. That's fair.

So, what is that service?

The core service that OCLC provides is receiving, storing, indexing
and transmitting tiny text files. This sort of service used to be
very, very hard—and therefore expensive. When 1MB hard drives were the
size of tables, and bandwidth was dear, OCLC deserved to be richly
compensated for its effort.

Now, WorldCat can—and has—fit on an iPod and a library spends far more
on streaming a few inane YouTube video than they would to send all
their MARC records to Dublin, OH every day. LibraryThing, a tiny
little company with 9 employees and a rack of crap commodity servers,
has a searchable, continuously updated store of unique records equal
to half of the WorldCat database. And that's not even the main thing
we do—it's a side project we took on, to make it a little faster for
insane book nuts to catalog their Star Trek collection in their
underpants! (And no, we don't sell library data. We never have and
never will.)

The real work here is done by librarians, not OCLC. In the main it's
done by government organizations, and when not, it's done by
non-profit academic institutions. They do it for their own purpose, as
a public service, or in the furtherance of knowledge. And all that tax
money, love and diligence is coopted by an organization in Ohio so
profitable that it lost its tax-exempt status because the judge
couldn't discern a charitable purpose in the business of selling data
services to libraries. (OCLC's tax-exempt status was restored by a
"special bill" of the Ohio legislature.)

Today, when libraries are starting to realize OCLC's core service
isn't worth what it was worth in 1967, OCLC is looking to permanently
lock up their central position with viral contracts and—as the MSU
case makes clear—monopoly pricing and flat-out bullying.


On Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 1:59 PM, Weinheimer Jim <> wrote:
> The way I look at it, the original need for centralized databases to  find copy for cooperative cataloging no longer really holds. There are other technologies that are far more powerful and better than z39.50 transfer of ISO2709 MARC21 records. OCLC also has ILL capabilities, but I think these are similar to some of the web2.0 tools and could be developed without too much trouble.
> Technological change is not a bad thing, and it should be a catalyst to move into other areas. IBM started as the "Tabulating Machine Company" but they moved on as the technology changed to become one of the giants of the world and society. Today, there is a genuine need for library metadata to leave the confines of our libraries and go out into the world where users are doing their research and information searching. We can't expect users today to come to our library catalogs when they have online databases of all kinds, government information, excellent materials on the WWW, and of course, Google Books. There is and will be plenty to keep our users occupied in these projects, and they won't have time to come to our stuff. If we are to have a chance, our records must go to our users and not wait for them to come to us.
> This is why I think we need OAI-PMH so that we and the rest of the information universe can help create innovative tools. OCLC will still be vital in this world as a library think tank, and I think libraries will be happy to contribute to OCLC's researches. But we must remove beyond proprietary z39.50 databases.
> James L. Weinheimer
> Director of Library and Information Services
> The American University of Rome
> Rome, Italy
> ________________________________________
> From: Next generation catalogs for libraries [NGC4LIB_at_LISTSERV.ND.EDU] On Behalf Of Frances Dean McNamara [fdmcnama_at_UCHICAGO.EDU]
> Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 7:30 PM
> Subject: Re: [NGC4LIB] OCLC and Michigan State at Impasse Over SkyRiver Cataloging, Resource Sharing Costs
> Nobody said OCLC costs nothing.  The information from MSU said OCLC was jacking up the price from $5K to $88K.  I'm not understanding why that is all right.
> In point of fact if all libraries dumped their catalogs to linked data, some xml files, those files could be crawled by various services and in various ways they could link up the data to point someone to the library's holdings.  Who says OCLC has to have a monopoly on that?  Suppose there was a site for people enthusiastic about some specific topic and part of what they wanted to share was lists of books about their topic.  If they could send a spider out to crawl some or all libraries, they could link back to the library for that.  Why should they not do that?  Because ONLY OCLC is allowed to record and hand out information about which libraries hold which items?  I don't think so.  Google, Yahoo, Bing, Amazon any of those ought to be able to link back if they want to.  OCLC wants you to think that ONLY OCLC is allowed to hold and make available that information.  Don't drink the Koo-laid.
> In paying $88K instead of $5K, is that library paying for support to libraries to catalog on OCLC?  Or are they paying for OCLC to develop some "cloud based" ILS that they will then require (extort) people into participating in.  Oh, and to do that you need to load up all your ordering and purchasing info into their central system so they have access to that.  After all it's a cooperative right?  Now what do you think they are going to do with all that interesting info about which libraries are paying what to purchase or access what?  Do you think they will turn around and sell it commercial services?  What will prevent them from doing that?
> So we are allowing Ex Libris access to some information from SFX that they combine with some other info to try to recommend that someone interested in one journal article might also be interested in another journal article.  We are in no way restrained from using the info ourselves, or sharing it with someone else.
> But if OCLC had counts on which books had circulated how many times from our circ system, would they REQUIRE we give them that info and then REQUIRE we NOT give it to anyone else and then turn around and sell it Google or someone else to use in relevancy ranking?  This excuse that we all must sacrifice for "The Cooperative" makes me think they should not be trusted.
> Back to my original statement.  That library expected to pay $.23 per bib which is what OCLC had been charging.  It was not that they expected not to pay anything.  But OCLC jacked up the price to $2.85.  I believe the library is right to feel that extortion, not support of the cooperative is going on here.  The cooperative needs to support the libraries, many of whom are having their budgets slashed.
> If OCLC continues on their current course they will put themselves out of business.  They need to lower their charges so strapped libraries can continue to participate.  How can libraries defend exorbitant prices to support Worldcat?  Technology has changed.  You could probably put the thing on a flash drive which you could not when it was started.
> It would be helpful for this list to continue discussion and experimentation of linked data and how we can share data that way. (Even if Big Brother OCLC is watching).
> Frances McNamara
> University of Chicago
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Next generation catalogs for libraries [mailto:NGC4LIB_at_LISTSERV.ND.EDU] On Behalf Of Jacobs, Jane W
> Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:17 AM
> Subject: Re: [NGC4LIB] OCLC and Michigan State at Impasse Over SkyRiver Cataloging, Resource Sharing Costs
> Hear, Hear!
> Speaking strictly for myself (see Below).
> Although I'm uncomfortable with the role of self-appointed defender of OCLC, and am sure they can be faulted on many points, they have reliably provided cataloging for nearly 4 decades.  Yeah RLIN was great, except for the going bankrupt part and regular assessments to member libraries to keep its head above water in the years preceding its demise.
> It's pretty naďve to imagine that all the infrastructure of OCLC should cost nothing or is worth nothing.  It's a bit like thinking that driving is free vs tax subsidized public transit, until you remember that roads are constructed and maintained (or not) with tax money!
> JJ
> **Views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent those of the Queens Library.**
> Jane Jacobs
> Asst. Coord., Catalog Division
> Queens Borough Public Library
> 89-11 Merrick Blvd.
> Jamaica, NY 11432
> tel.: (718) 990-0804
> e-mail:
> FAX. (718) 990-8566
> The information contained in this message may be privileged and confidential and protected from disclosure. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, or an employee or agent responsible for delivering this message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by replying to the message and deleting it from your computer.-----Original Message-----
> From: Next generation catalogs for libraries [mailto:NGC4LIB_at_LISTSERV.ND.EDU] On Behalf Of Kyle Banerjee
> Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:58 AM
> Subject: Re: OCLC and Michigan State at Impasse Over SkyRiver Cataloging, Resource Sharing Costs
>> I'm not quite sure what OAI-PMH would offer in this situation.  The
>> value-add of OCLC's shared cataloging is that it provides a searchable
>> aggregated index of bibliographic records that, in turn, feeds an ILL
>> service based on holdings (based on who has particular records).
> The key word being holdings.
> For many years, any library can avoid OCLC entirely and download
> records from many sources using z39.50 or doing something clever with
> data from public sources to create records. But this is a bad idea for
> a couple of reasons.
> There may be a lot of garbage in the WorldCat database,  but as soon
> as you start mining all these other sources, you'll see it's far more
> reliable than the alternatives as a source of metadata. This increases
> the time (i.e. cost) of getting a good record in the catalog.
> More importantly, without a common control number (ISN's are highly
> problematic for a number of reasons), keeping track of holdings
> becomes much harder. It becomes WAY harder for libraries to work
> together as consortia and resource sharing gets hosed fast. In short,
> the only thing that libraries really have on the Amazons, Borders, etc
> gets decimated.
> As a membership organization, OCLC answers to its members. That means
> that if something's screwed up, it falls upon us to help them fix it.
> I realize OCLC moves far slower than many of us would like. But given
> that libraries typically move at the speed of goo when it comes to
> making small adjustments to local workflow, labeling, etc when only a
> handful of individuals are involved, I'm not sure why we would expect
> a different organization to work so much better.
> kyle
> --
> ----------------------------------------------------------
> Kyle Banerjee
> Digital Services Program Manager
> Orbis Cascade Alliance
> / 503.999.9787

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Received on Mon Mar 08 2010 - 20:20:31 EST