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WorldCat Local: moving into ILS territory

Library Journal April 1, 2009 issue

OCLC has begun to unveil its plans to develop full library automation capabilities through WorldCat. The initial announcement talks about WorldCat Local quick start to allow any library that subscribes to FirstSearch to get a taste of OCLC next-gen discovery interface. The more interesting part of the announcement describes the larger strategy to extend WorldCat Local with capabilities that include circulation, delivery, acquisitions, and license management, effectively putting into WorldCat Local the functionality that libraries otherwise receive from their ILS and ERM products. This strategy changes the game in the ILS arena. It introduces a radically new option relative to the traditional approach of integrated library systems, electronic resource management, link resolvers installed and maintained library-by-library. OCLC wants to move these functions to the network level, which is WorldCat.org, freeing libraries from the burden of installing and maintaining these unwieldy applications. This model places library automation into the realm of cloud computing. It also leverages the cooperatively created data in WorldCat to the problem of library automation.

This move will not be without controversy. OCLC has both its supporters and detractors. Some will view the move as a positive opportunity, others will worry that it places OCLC in a position where it wields too much power and control over libraries.

I see this move stirring up the mix of options and opportunities for libraries. Anything that provides new alternatives to libraries is welcome relative to the state of affairs of recent times where libraries feel frustrated by too few options. So we’ve seen open source come in to challenge proprietary systems; we’re seeing initiatives to fundamentally rebuild library automation systems. Now OCLC adds Web-scale, WorldCat-based library automation to the mix. The library automation scene is getting to be more interesting.

I have written an article for Library Journal that provides some additional details and perspective.

Apr 23, 2009 10:40:39

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