RE: WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative

Posting to Autocat

McDonald, Stephen wrote:

It looks to me like your objection boils down to this–you disagree with this paragraph in the policy:

“The fact that OCLC has a public purpose does not mean that WorldCat is a “public good” in the economic sense. On the contrary, WorldCat is a shared community resource intended to benefit the cooperative of members who contribute to its growth and financially support it. The goal of sharing widely the benefits of WorldCat sits alongside the practical need to sustain the economic viability and value of WorldCat over the long term. Significant costs are involved in the ongoing provision of the high-quality database on which OCLC members rely. If the database does not receive the continued organizational support of OCLC members, there is a very real danger that it will become fragmented and lose its integrity, that its quality will be diminished, and that, consequently, its utility to the OCLC cooperative will be reduced.”

You feel that the bibliographic records _should_ be considered a “public good”, in the economic sense. From that viewpoint, all your arguments make perfect sense. I can even understand why you feel that way, in the semantic web environment.

However, I don’t think you can argue that Worldcat was ever intended to be a “public good”. Worldcat’s Principles of Cooperation, which were written _by the members_, clearly describes Worldcat in terms which preclude it being a “public good”. In fact, to fulfill the “Principles of Cooperation”, it is clear that there needs to be a description of the rights and responsibilities of both the members and the OCLC organization.

To clarify, I discussed this paragraph in my first posting, discussing what “integrity” and “fragmentation” mean today, but not the public good part.

In fact, I do not believe it is a public good. I want libraries and OCLC to cooperate and I believe it is vital that this happen, but I have gone to some pains to point out that this is not nearly enough: we have to find all kinds of other partners today. There is very little chance that we will find a “one size fits all” solution for every library, and each library will have to experiment and determine for itself the best relationships it needs. Several of these may not be in the best interests of OCLC, but I think the interests of my library outweigh those of OCLC, just as the interests of my family outweigh the interests of my neighbors. In any case, it does not follow that the records in my catalog suddenly belong to OCLC, or that OCLC can tell me what I can and cannot do with my records based on what they say is in their interests or what they claim to be the interests of “the collective.” To me, it’s like the plumber I hire to keep things running smoothly would suddenly claim that in the interests of the neighborhood, he owns my pipes and I can’t do anything without his permission.

If I would decide to implement WorldCat Local, that would probably be a completely different situation because I would then really be using the WorldCat record, i.e. the record within the WorldCat database.