Posting to Autocat
Joel Hahn wrote:
Even after the buyouts of WLN and RLIN there’s always been *some* choice, but the alternatives have not always been as fully featured, as it were, as OCLC. The many non-OCLC member libraries out there is proof that it’s possible to get along without having access to OCLC. (One can download records directly from LC, for example.)
That said, isn’t getting rid of all the compartmentalized, competitive silos and replacing them with a single worldwide catalog database that all ILSes dynamically query, all catalogers submit records to & make wiki-like changes to, and all 3rd party apps can use for patron-initiated mashups one of the goals of the New Library Order? That concept of the future would seem to point to some sort of monopoly
(albeit a significantly more open & low-cost one) as a common good.
I will say that OCLC was often the worst catalog to search when it bought out some of these databases. The old 3,2,2,1 etc. searches are what I am thinking about. (I remember being involved in a project using these methods to try to find uniform titles for musical works, which proved to be almost impossible) So, many times the “winning” organization or product is not the best, but it won for other reasons, witness VHS tapes, or Microsoft.
But that said, the idea of a “natural” monopoly is an interesting one but it takes a lot of things for granted. For one, the current monopoly we are currently experiencing has only existed since 2006 when RLIN disappeared, so for the vast majority of time, the normal situation was one of competition. Another, we are already seeing a somewhat related debate taking place now concerning Google Books and the wisdom of giving one organization such control.
At the same time, I will point out that the “single worldwide database” does not have to be “single” in the sense of only a single copy. There can be multiple copies of such a database with myriads of frontends on each one and different APIs for each as well. So, I could see copies of this “worldwide library database” in OCLC, SkyRiver, LibraryThing, and even in the Internet Archive for general download, each providing different services and possibilities. Personally, I think that with today’s power of computers and formats, something like this would lead to highly dynamic uses of our work and we could become much more important in the information world, compared to simply having one version under the lock and key of a single agency.
But, I am a firm believer in Open Access and Open Source!