Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Products and Services

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Products and Services

Article excerpt


Chapter 3 of Library Technology Reports (vol. 49, no. 1) "Resource Sharing in Libraries: Concepts, Products, Technologies, and Trends" provides profiles of the various products and services available to libraries that facilitate resource sharing. Each profile includes background information on the organization that provides the product a general description of the product or service and its capabilities, the architecture or technologies involved, and a summary of the numbers or types of libraries that have adopted it Much of this chapter reflects information the author has collected over years of monitoring the field of library automation. Interested readers can find more comprehensive information on the author's website Library Technology Guides at


Company Background and Perspective

OCLC stands as the largest organization providing services to libraries, with more than 25,900 members spanning 170 countries. A global organization, it operates as a nonprofit based in Dublin, Ohio, with multiple layers of governance, including a board of trustees, a Global Council, and a set of regional councils. One of the key principles of OCLC, underlying all of its products and services, involves facilitating cooperation among libraries to gain efficiencies and to increase their impact on their patrons.

OCLC was founded in 1967 as the Ohio College Library Center with an initial purpose of providing a source of cataloging records. The bibliographic database and the number of member libraries has steadily increased over the organization's history. Its bibliographic services allow subscribing members to catalog efficiently using MARC records in the massive WorldCat. In 1979, OCLC introduced its interlibrary loan service, which continues to stand as one of its core services.

One of the key roles of OCLC since its inception has been to facilitate resource sharing among libraries. The organization has a variety of products and services in this area, including its core interlibrary loan subscription service as well as those for facilitating resource sharing within consortia. More than 10,000 libraries spanning forty countries participate in WorldCat Resource Sharing.

The realm of interlibrary loan and resource-sharing technology includes only a very small number of players, with OCLC holding a dominant position. Other national and regional interlibrary loan services continue to flourish, many with close relationships to OCLC. Other bibliographic services and resource-sharing services that previously co-existed with OCLC have been subsumed. In July 2006, OCLC acquired RLIN, a competing organization in both the bibliographic services and interlibrary loan sectors. The WLN (Western Library Network), based in Lacey, Washington, merged into OCLC in January 1999. (For a more detailed history of OCLC's resource-sharing activities, see "An Ongoing Revolution" by Kate Nevins. (1))

OCLC is also involved with products that support peer-to-peer interlibrary loan or consortial resource sharing within participating members. This genre of consortial resource-sharing applications includes such products as URSA, Auto-Graphics, VDX, and Relais D2D. SirsiDynix has withdrawn URSA, and most of the organizations using it have moved to other solutions. OCLC acquired Fretwell-Downing, which included the VDX technology, in 2005, expanding its portfolio to include both centralized and consortial resource-sharing products. The ILLiad interlibrary loan workflow management application developed by Atlas Systems is exclusively distributed by OCLC. In the document delivery arena, OCLC also distributes the Odyssey software, developed by Atlas Systems, that competes with other established products such as Ariel.

OCLC offers products and services across almost all areas of resource sharing and ILL. The domain of interlibrary loan and resource sharing falls well within OCLC's public purpose, which includes the statement "that we will work together to improve access to the information held in libraries around the globe, and find ways to reduce costs for libraries through collaboration. …

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