Monday, August 2, 2010

RE: SkyRiver Files Antitrust Suit Against OCLC

Posting to different lists

I've been reading the messages on this list and on others, plus a few blog posts about the antitrust suit. Some of the responses have been surprising to me. There are a few facts that should be kept in mind.

First, while I think OCLC has certainly done a lot of good for libraries, we should not forget that the current situation is unique in that they have had no competition for the past several years. OCLC has proven itself to be a very successful organization, swallowing its "competitors," most notably RLIN, and since that time, libraries have had no choice at all except OCLC. RLIN's ability to keep all the records by "clustering", as opposed to the "Master record" of OCLC was something I always liked that was thrown overboard. The idea of the "master record" vs. "clustered records" has probably had some influence on the "record use policy"

Also, the original purpose of WorldCat: to allow libraries to share MARC records for cooperative cataloging, which was a very expensive and difficult task back then, has been taken over by technological advances and can now be achieved in all kinds of other ways: some ways that are more efficient and cheaper, other ways that are more useful for the public, and in still other ways that are simply new and interesting.

As I have written before, it is an error to equate OCLC with libraries, themselves. While I can very much want OCLC to succeed in the future, their success does not mean that libraries will also succeed, since libraries may actually end up doing very badly. Conversely, libraries may be able to do very well while OCLC may do badly. Our futures are not linked at all.

For the good of libraries, I see nothing wrong with bringing back some real, genuine competition out there, which is something that has been sorely lacking.

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