what does it mean to call OCLC a monopoly?

Karen Coyle has a new blog post detailing what Sky River’s specific allegations against OCLC are.

[O]ne could look on WorldCat as a shared community resource, not the property of OCLC. In fact, OCLC uses this kind of argument in its record use policy, but somehow leads to the conclusion that WorldCat should not be used to foster non-OCLC library services. It seems easy to make the opposite argument, which would be that WorldCat could be the basis for a wide range of services that would benefit libraries, even if they do not come from OCLC.

give OCLC some feedback?

I’ve been following the OCLC policy change stuff from the position of a vaguely interested observer. My local public libraries aren’t members and aren’t affected terribly much, but of course I think the policy changes are a step in the wrong direction, a big and bold one. From a friend’s twitter stream [which I read via LiveJournal] comes this comment which I agree with.

Wow. A research company hired by OCLC seems to be unclear on the difference between a survey and a push poll.

If you haven’t given your feedback yet, even if you’re not an OCLC member, please do.

why you can’t google a library book

The Guardian has a long article about what the mechanisms are that keep local library catalogs form being effectively spidered and Googleable. They dip into the complicated area that is policies around record-sharing and talk about OCLCs changed policy concerning WorldCat data. This policy, if you’ve been keeping close track, was slated to be effective in February and, thanks in no small part to the groundswell of opposition, is currently being delayed until at least third quarter 2009.

What is up with OCLC?

This all started with a little wink-wink posting about OCLC from Tim over at LibraryThing which was the first I’d heard about OCLC’s policy changes. As someone who doesn’t interact with OCLC or their data too much, I didn’t really understand this and had to wait for some clarification posts to understand both what was going on and how it affected people and projects like LibraryThing and Open Library. The upshot as I understand it is that OCLC is basically saying “Sure you can share your records, but not with people or organizations who materially compete with us” That’s my summary anyhow. Here’s the non-legalese policy on the OCLC site. Here’s the more legalese version. Here’s a wiki version of the changes between the “old” new policy and the new policy. Isn’t technology grand? Karen Calhoun a VP over at OCLC has written a defense of the new policy on her own blog; there is some lively discussion happening in the comments. There is also this podcast of Roy Tennant and Karen Calhoun talking with Richard Wallis from Talis (whose business model is also potentially affected by this policy change) about the ramifications of this change.

So, the policy OCLC has put up has been revised somewhat, doesn’t go into effect until February, and gives people a lot of time to think about what if anything they want to do about this. Tim Spalding has a business model that is compromised by OCLCs refusal to let their members share these records. The Open Library project is also possible compromised and Aaron Swartz has written two posts about the policy change: Stealing Your Library: The OCLC Powergrab and OCLC On The Run. He also directs people to the Stop OCLC Petition if you’d like to sign on to ask OCLC to repeal these changes. More community discussion taking place at MetaFilter, Inside Higher Ed, and Slashdot and code4lib is maintaining a wiki with links to more commentary. I’m still catching up on the back and forth and may write more later, but it’s interesting to watch this unfold.

WorldCat’s meme requests

The funny thing about memes is you can’t force them. I mentioned this particular issue on Twitter a little bit ago but I find WorldCat’s Meme Request [update: link suddenly broken, see comments for text. another update: the post is now back. Huh.] post to be a little sketchy-seeming.

Maybe this is because of my particular perspective of not feeling that I get a lot of value for me or my library from WorldCat. Here’s the thing with this request. If this is a legitimate and okay use of Wikipedia — to add links to WC identities to applicable pages — Wikipedia has an open API, just go build a bot and do it, on the level. If it’s not okay, and my reading of the Wikipedia guidelines seems to indicate that it may not be, trying to end-run this by faking a grassroots movement seems to not be in the best interests of either Wikipedia or WorldCat. I don’t think WorldCat is trying to be shifty or sneaky here, I just don’t think their approach is as helpful as they may think it would be.

Also, let me state for the record, that I think the WorldCat identities project is really smoking hot. However there is still a huge difference between “all libraries” and “OCLC member libraries” and I’ll continue to raise these polite objections to the willful blurring of the line between the two until the point at which WorldCat can direct me to the actual nearest copy of Jane Eyre to my house.

OCLC – “from awareness to funding…”

Dear OCLC,

I’m sure you do this for some very important reason, but spending $16 to express mail me a copy of a report that I didn’t ask for (though it does look quite interesting) seems wasteful. I go to the post office once a week and all express mail does is makes my postmistress agitated. While WorldCat is closer to being useful for me — showing one copy of Jane Eyre shown that is actually in my state before the ones one state over; the closest copy actually being about a quarter mile from here — I’d love it if you could apply this money to some sort of teeny-library scholarship fund so that we could benefit from WorldCat in Vermont instead of just hearing about how we can raise more money to pay you with.

Thanks.
Jessamyn

watch worldcat grow

I’ve been watching WorldCat grow, but I’m a little confused. When I fist looked, the “title” I saw was Americana, cinema and dramatic arts, cookbooks, erotica, fine, decorative and graphic arts, illustrated books, literary first editions, metaphysics and the occult, science fiction, juvenalia, investment rarities. Now it just says List #2. These are not book titles. What am I watching?

speaking of Worldcat

Slow reading points me to the Not in WorldCat blog, showcasing weird funky and obscure books that you can’t find in one of the many libraries Worldcat covers.

Worldcat.org is the public face of the largest combined (or “union”) library catalog in the world. Library folks usually refer to it as OCLC (Online Computer Library Center). Currently OCLC/WorldCat catalogs over 1 billion items from over 60,000 libraries around the world. This blog is not affiliated with OCLC/Worldcat in any way. It’s just an outlet for one bookseller/librarian (me) to feature unusual, rare and interesting items that exist outside of WorldCat’s vast reach.

How WorldCat solves some problems and creates others

Tim has a post on the Thingology blog about OCLCs new announcement that they are creating something they call WorldCat Local, further blurring the boundaries between book data and end users services using that data.

There are a lot of good things about this. And—lest my revised logo be misunderstood—there are no bad people here. On the contrary, OCLC is full of wonderful people—people who’ve dedicated their lives to some of the highest ideals we can aspire. But the institution is dependent on a model that, with all the possibilities for sharing available today, must work against these ideals.

Keeping their data hidden, restricted and off the “live” web has hurt libraries more than we can ever know. Fifteen years ago, libraries were where you found out about books. One would have expected that to continue on the web–that searching for a book would turn up libraries alongside bookstores, authors and publishers.

It hasn’t worked out that way. Libraries are all-but-invisible on the web. Search for the “Da Vinci Code” and you won’t get the Library of Congress–the greatest collection of books and book data ever assembled–not even if you click through a hundred pages. You do get WorldCat, but only if you go sixteen pages in!

Meanwhile WorldCat still tells me that I have to drive 21 miles — to a library I don’t even have borrowing privileges at (Dartmouth) — to get a copy of the Da Vinci Code when I know that I can get a copy less than half a mile down the street, and another copy eight miles away, and another copy if I go another two miles, and then another copy eight miles beyond that. I can get maybe eleven copies of the Da Vinco Code before I hit a WorldCat library.

There may be a future world where teeny libraries like the ones in my area and other rural areas become part of this great giant catalog that is supposedly so beneficial to library users everywhere, but for now they can’t afford it. And every press release that says that this sort of thing helps everyone is like another tiny paper cut added to the big chasm that is the digital divide out here. How is this problem getting solved? Who is trying to solve it?

open records and open cataloging data

Keep in mind that while it is in the best interests of librarians to access to bibliographic records be as open as possible — to facilitate record-sharing, search and retrieval of items in a library and just our collective knowledgebase generally — it is often NOT in the interests of library companies, or libraries who act like companies, to share their data such that other people or libraries can use it to do what they want with it. So goes the saga of NYPL vs ibiblio, a long and not at all complicated tale concerning their records and what is or is not copyrightable about them. Special appearance by OCLC and their revised policies about records sharing.