SkyRiver, a new company delivering bibliographic services in competition with OCLC, formally announced its launch in early October 2009. The company offers a suite of software and services that compete with the cataloging services of OCLC. The service includes a bibliographic database of MARC records, a cataloging client, and a set of services for record delivery and enhancement. The SkyRiver database has initially been populated with bibliographic and authority records from a variety of sources including the Library of Congress, the British Library as well as with records from the current cataloging activities of a broad set of libraries. The service includes record delivery for those not immediately available in the database and notification when enhanced records become available. SkyRiver’s goal is to offer a competitive product at a subscription cost around 40 percent lower than what libraries would otherwise pay to OCLC.
SkyRiver is backed by Jerry Kline, who also co-founded Innovative Interfaces and serves as its President and CEO. Leslie Straus, former Vice President of Worldwide Sales for Innovative, leads SkyRiver as its President. Straus retired from Innovative in 2006.
Since the initial announcements were made last month, SkyRiver has made progress in appointing individuals to additional leadership positions and bringing in new customers.
Michael Markwith, a major figure in the serials and subscription services arena, joined SkyRiver as a sales executive. Previous positions include serving as President of TDNet, Inc., the US subsidiary of the Israel-based company; Markwith also led the academic sales team for WT Cox Subscriptions, has also worked for Swets Blackwell as VP for Academic Sales, and was CEO for Swets & Zeitlinger. Markwith brings a broad background as an executive with organizations specializing in providing services to libraries to SkyRiver.
SkyRiver has also announced its first customer libraries. Michigan State University Libraries, a member of the Association of Research Libraries, and University Library at California State University Long Beach both served as development partners with SkyRiver and are fully operational on the service.
The deployment of SkyRiver in libraries provides the opportunity to begin gathering comparisons with other services, like OCLC’s WorldCat cataloging service. According to Nancy Fleck, Associate University Librarian for Technical Services, Michigan State University began using SkyRiver in August 2009, with OCLC still available when needed. On November 1, the library switched to the exclusive use of SkyRiver for cataloging. Fleck confirmed that the SkyRiver cataloging client functions much like the OCLC Connexion client, requiring very little retraining of staff.
Catalogers especially like the searching capabilities of SkyRiver, which offers results returned according relevancy rankings with facets that help users identify records for their materials. Catalogers at MSU have been surprised at the high percentages of records that match the materials in their cataloging stream. The MSU libraries express such satisfaction with SkyRiver that they have moved from being development partners to day-to-day users of the system. Fleck commented, “SkyRiver is functioning, usable, and very easy to use. For my staff it was a change, but not a big change. It was transformative in that we were not under the constraints of OCLC and could seriously think about doing cataloging in a different way. We have worked with OCLC cataloging for years, so the biggest change for us involves more about questions regarding cataloging and what is best for our library. In some sense this whole experience has been liberating. How often do you get a chance to do something this exciting?”
As a new company, SkyRiver faces many challenges. OCLC, with its WorldCat cataloging service, stands as a formidable competitor that currently dominates this business arena. Yet, in these times of constrained budgets, libraries must find ways to identify savings. If SkyRiver proves itself able to deliver comparable services at lower costs, it may find a fertile niche.