Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

WorldCat and SkyRiver: A Comparison of Record Quantity and Fullness

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

WorldCat and SkyRiver: A Comparison of Record Quantity and Fullness

Article excerpt

In 2009, a new company, SkyRiver, began offering bibliographic utility services to libraries in direct competition to OCLC's WorldCat. This study examines the differences between the two databases in terms of hit rates, total number of records found for each title in the sample, number of non-English language records, and the presence and completeness of several elements in the most-held bibliographic record for each title. While this study discovered that the two databases had virtually the same hit rates and record fullness for the sample used--with encoding levels as the sole exception--the study results do indicate meaningful differences in the number of duplicate records and non-English-language records available in each database for recently published scholarly monographs.


The existence of SkyRiver means that libraries now have another choice of vendors from which to acquire bibliographic records and contribute original records. Therefore a comparison of the quantity and fullness of records available from OCLC's WorldCat and Innovative Interfaces's (III) SkyRiver can be helpful to libraries deciding which vendor would be best for their institution. This study compares the two databases in an attempt to determine whether there is a meaningful difference between them in terms of hit rates (percentages of records found in each database for each sample title), types of records (language of cataloging and format), and record fullness. Libraries can use this data in conjunction with other points of comparison, such as functionality, cost, and complementary services, when shopping for bibliographic services for cataloging. An understanding of the development of the two vendors and their products sets the stage for the comparisons made in this study.

Overview of OCLC and SkyRiver

In 1967, the presidents of Ohio's academic libraries established the Ohio College Library Center with the goal of using computer technology to share bibliographic records to help reduce cataloging costs. The shared database, now known as WorldCat, became a reality in 1971. Ohio's experiment was extremely successful and quickly grew into an international nonprofit membership organization, Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). (1)

Between 1971 and 2009, OCLC increased the size of its WorldCat database to more than 200 million records through the original cataloging records contributed by its members and with the acquisition of the Research Libraries Groups Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) database and the Washington Library Networks (WLN) database. (2) However, OCLCs exponential growth has not been without difficulty. OCLC has faced not only monopoly related allegations from its competitors, but has had to face many challenges as the company attempts to build its international base. Various languages, bibliographic formats, and cataloging rules have made OCLCs foray into the international market challenging and have resulted in problems for its end user clients. Despite those difficulties, OCLC now serves libraries in 170 nations. (3)

In 1978, Jerry Kline co-founded Innovative Interfaces Inc. (III), which created as its first product a hardware/software system that libraries could use to automate the transfer of bibliographic records from OCLC into local catalogs. (4) Having observed the growth of OCLC for three decades, Kline decided to mount a challenge by launching SkyRiver in 2009, only three years after the merger of OCLC and its last competitor. In 2013, Kline sold his interests in SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces, and the new owners merged the two companies. This merger brings the bibliographic database, SkyRiver, into the product fine of the parent company, III, just as WorldCat is a product of OCLC. (5)

At the outset, SkyRivers database consisted of a variety of public sources including the Library of Congress (LC), the British Library (BL), and the Cooperative Online Serials Program (CONSER) records. …

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