It’s time to reinvent the collective collection


This year, we are celebrating the cooperative’s 50th anniversary. In 1967, the Ohio library community changed the way they worked together to share their catalogs. It was truly a reinvention of cataloging, resource sharing and library discovery.

Today, as we begin our next 50 years, we are at another turning point that requires a new, even bolder vision. We are building on WorldCat, now the definitive global library collection, to provide library members, groups and regional and national partners even greater capacity to build, manage, and curate the collective collection.

The biggest picture

For years, OCLC Research has been at the center of industry-wide work that seeks to understand and plan for the evolution of library collections. We’ve been exploring trends such as the shift from locally owned to jointly managed print library collections. Several recent reports delve deeply into the subject, including Right-scaling Stewardship and Understanding the Collective Collection.

The conclusion? We anticipate that a large part of existing US print collections, distributed across many libraries, will move into coordinated or shared management in the near future. Interest in shared print management reflects a growing awareness that long-term preservation of the published record can be organized as a collective effort.

As print collections move into a shared environment, stacks are giving way to reimagined library spaces. These historic transformations require new methods for thinking about and managing collections.

A global approach to print management

To meet these needs, OCLC is bringing together the best tools, technology, and talent to provide a new approach for building and managing libraries’ collective collection. Our strategy encompasses all elements of shared print workflows—cooperative infrastructure, collection analysis, retention commitments, and quick and efficient resource sharing. It will enable regional, statewide, and even national holdings management for monographs.

This new approach starts with the global WorldCat data network, which already provides a comprehensive view of many regional and national collections. It is the only set of library data really able to manage and secure libraries’ record of human knowledge for future generations.

From a technical standpoint, we will build on the capabilities of Sustainable Collection Services to further analyze WorldCat and help libraries make the decisions needed on where and what print to keep for a national collection. Capabilities from our resource sharing services will be leveraged to allow for new resource sharing practices that reflect network-level commitments and resources. OCLC’s recent investments in state-of-the-art analytics capabilities helps guide us as we build new services so libraries can make decisions for cooperative collection development. And this will all happen on the WorldShare platform, which is already used by hundreds of libraries for cataloging and ILL services.

OCLC is providing a new approach for building and managing libraries’ collective collection. Click To Tweet

One such innovation we have recently announced is a shared print registration service that expands our shared print capabilities and enables libraries to preserve unique content by identifying protected monograph titles in shared print initiatives using WorldCat. A streamlined process of registering retention commitments will make the shared collection available and help it grow much more quickly.

This new capability will be included in a full OCLC cataloging subscription at no extra charge.

Continually reinventing the collective collection

For five decades, WorldCat supported libraries as they built their print collections … and it’s now becoming a vital tool as we begin to reconfigure these print collections and operationalize a new collective collection across consortia, across regions, and ultimately across countries.

We are excited about this vision and I invite you to view a short video with more details about our plans. Working together, we can significantly accelerate our efforts in collection management and shared print projects.

In the coming months, we will reach out to involve the community in a dialogue to help build this future. Together, we can make sure that the collective collection grows and changes to support libraries and the communities they serve over the next fifty years.