RE: [NGC4LIB] OCLC and Michigan State at Impasse Over SkyRiver Cataloging, Resource Sharing Costs

Posting to NGC4LIB

Lois Reibach wrote:
Two reasons we want our holdings to display in when someone is at an auction and considering a book appropriate for our collection, they would be able to tell in one search if we already had a copy, and if it was widely held; and we want our rarer holdings to be visible to researchers

> They’re promoting it? How’s that going, exactly?
There have been some webinars recently pushing the advantages of having a library’s holdings visible in this setting; seems like I’ve also gotten some targeted emails, although I don’t have an example at hand

But this is exactly Tim’s point: it can be proven that very, very few people use Worldcat or even know about it. So, if someone wanted to know if “we already had a copy, and if it was widely held; and we want our rarer holdings to be “visible to researchers” they would *not* know because they would have to go to Worldcat in the first place, which is virtually unknown outside the library community. Therefore, when we place materials in Worldcat, we cannot logically conclude that we are making them visible to researchers.

Again, there is no need to fault anyone on this: this was never the mandate of OCLC, which was originally very library-centric and existed mainly to provide *cataloging copy* for *libraries* and some other services. The need to make it open to be public happened only later. According to the Wikipedia entry
“In 2003, OCLC began the “Open WorldCat” pilot program, making abbreviated records from a subset of WorldCat available to partner Web sites and booksellers, to increase the accessibility of its member libraries’ collections. In 2006, it became possible to search WorldCat directly at its website.”

So, Worldcat is definitely a latecomer to the newer world of information, and it must catch up, if it can at all. Expecting the world to come flocking to its door once it came online could never have been expected in reality. Will it become much more important in the future? I doubt it very seriously because it retains its library-centric focus and will probably continue to do so.

Aside from this point however, there is a deeper question about the fundamental purpose of a catalog in today’s environment. If even Worldcat is having trouble making a dent in the information world, what does this portend for our own local catalogs? Especially when (not if) the Google Books agreement will be ratified eventually? Perhaps even this month?! But if the judge says no, it’s still only a matter of time.

I agree that holdings of a library should be “visible to researchers,” but this is becoming far more complex a task than it used to be. Just making a record in the local catalog and throwing it into Worldcat is definitely not enough today. To compensate, there are many more avenues available to us than ever before.

I console myself with the thought that finding solutions to these problems could turn out to be one of the most fascinating eras in the history of librarianship!