OCLC Global Council: going after the big questions


I’ve gotten to the point where I feel as if almost any question should have an easily findable answer. Maybe the question will require some research time and effort … or (of course) the help of one or more librarians to uncover. But the answer has to be “out there” somewhere.

Sometimes, though, it just isn’t. And sometimes it’s about something important, like libraries’ efforts around open content resources. What do you do when the information you need simply doesn’t exist? If you’re OCLC’s Global Council, you find a way to get answers to the big questions, especially those that impact libraries globally.

Leadership is often about asking the right questions

I’ve had the fortune to work with OCLC Global Council now for more than two years. And I’ve never been so personally and professionally grateful to a group of colleagues in my life. They are all incredible leaders in the library field. They are all smart and  dedicated, and work incredibly hard on behalf of OCLC and all its members. And one of the most important things they do on behalf of all OCLC membership is help identify gaps in our collective knowledge that we can work to fill.

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Global Council delegates reflect the interests, issues, concerns, and challenges of our membership in their respective regions. They engage with each other and OCLC staff to exchange ideas, discuss issues, and identify challenges in shared areas of interest. These insights are really valuable to OCLC leadership and help inform the cooperative’s direction.

During the 2018 March Global Council meeting, access to open content was a major discussion topic among delegates. To help respond to the global questions being asked, the Council decided to partner with OCLC Research to design a survey that delegates could use to gather insights from libraries all over the globe related to open content activities. The objectives of this survey were:

  • To map and align libraries’ open content efforts
  • To explore current library investment in this type of content
  • To build a common foundation for cooperation to widen access to free, online content

Despite many productive and ongoing discussions about the benefits of open content, Global Council felt that the subject could benefit from a larger study to understand the impact on libraries globally.

What are libraries doing with and about open content?

More generally, OCLC Global Council also wanted to know how the ecosystem of free and open access resources was evolving within libraries and the communities they serve. Once the question was identified, it was up to Council to get the ball rolling.

I’d like to personally thank the OCLC Global Council Program Committee members who led this effort:

  • Debbie Schachter, University Librarian, Capilano University (ARC)
  • Kuang-hua Chen, University Librarian and Full Professor, National Taiwan University (APRC)
  • open_content_cover_300Tuba Akbaytürk, Library Director, Koç University (EMEA)
  • Rupert Schaab, Deputy Director, University of Göttingen (EMEA).

Because of their hard work—and that of OCLC Research and other staff—we were able to survey 705 library professionals: 49% from 11 countries in the Americas, 36% from 56 countries in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), and 15% from 15 countries in Asia Pacific.

The detailed results of that work have been shared with Global Council and have been incorporated into OCLC’s Open Content portal, which brings together other important research and discussions. Today, you can download a high-level summary of the work. In the future, we’ll be reporting out on various subsets of the data.

There’s always another question …

Global Council has indicated that our next research project will focus on issues related to discovery and fulfillment. I’m excited to, once again, be involved in this effort and hope that we can get even more members and staff involved and participating.

If you’d like to know more about Council and how you can play a role in our ongoing work, your best bet is to join us at one of our regional council meetings. Our theme this year is “Library Futures: Community Catalysts.” And whether you join us in Phoenix in October, Singapore in November, or Vienna next March, you’ll be able to meet with and learn from some of the most remarkable leaders in the profession.

Some questions need the attention of thousands of libraries. OCLC Global Council is your opportunity to help direct the resources necessary to get those answers.