The OCLC Community Center at five years: Your “extra colleague”

Susan Chaney

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Five years ago, when we started the OCLC Community Center, if you’d told me that working online with my colleagues would become the most welcome, interpersonal, almost extroverted respite from my daily routine, I would have thought that was a very … odd statement. All of us have, I assume, wonderful colleagues in our libraries and offices. We have lunches and meetings and seminars and stand-up sessions and coffee breaks, and we have… .

Or, should I say we had.

For the last few months, since many of us have been working from home because of COVID-19, the chance to work together online virtually using tools like the OCLC Community Center has cemented a belief that I held before—that the relationships and connections we make online are just as strong and important as those we make “in real life.”

A space for sharing

Since July 2015, more than 29,000 unique users have signed into the Community Center. These community members all use at least one of the OCLC products or services with a community space on the platform. They have used the space to connect with each other and OCLC staff to share best practices, ask questions, participate in online events, and submit suggestions for product enhancements. Roughly half of these users signed in at least once from July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2020. This growth has been steady over the past five years, and with more great content added all the time by our users, we expect that growth to continue in the coming years.

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Some users are very new to our products and services while others are quite seasoned. This variety of perspectives creates opportunities for intersections of new ideas with tried and true workflows. Our users represent the global nature of OCLC, and users from around the world often chime in with suggestions on how to address certain questions. Our frequent contributor list includes community members from around the world, so you truly get a global perspective when you join the Community Center.

The only real way to understand the library professionals who make this community so special and useful to each other is to let them tell you in their own words.

An invaluable resource

“Reading about challenges faced by other institutions, or clever solutions in their workflows has me looking at our own workflows to see if we can improve these based on what I read in the Community Center. … The Community Center is like always having an extra colleague around. One who is willing to help look for answers, present alternative ideas, challenge your approach to a problem, and inspire you to do something new, something you never would have thought of.”

Richard Broekman, Tilburg University

“For an early-career librarian in my first professional position, the OCLC Community Center has been an invaluable resource for communicating with colleagues about situations I’m encountering for the first time in WorldShare Management Services (WMS). … Although detailed discussions also occur on more traditional listservs, the OCLC Community Center has a particularly collegial atmosphere that distinguishes it from other forums. Thus, I strongly recommend membership in the Community Center to all library employees using OCLC products, no matter their job titles or stages in their careers.”

Thomas Waters, Brenau University

“Each reply to a discussion post essentially becomes the basis for a global database of knowledge, thus a more detailed response not only helps the individual who created the post but anyone who might search the discussions in the future. … The saying ‘knowledge is power’ describes the value of OCLC’s Community Center. The more we share and help each other, the more we learn and that in turn helps to improve the services we provide to our individual institutions and adds value to the work we do. By helping each other, we are also helping OCLC to improve the products we use, and I personally appreciate the fact that OCLC encourages and welcomes each library’s contribution to the conversation.”

Laura Vogler, Wabash College

“[Others] shared some great tips throughout the years, which can directly lead to improved library operations and/or patron experiences. I have seen threads pop up that lead our library to implement a change or tweak that directly impacted our patrons. … It is easy to feel like you are working in a bubble or an issue you are facing is insurmountable or only applicable to yourself. If you post about your experiences and issues on the Community Center, you may find that you are not alone in this issue or may find a resolution/alternative to your problem.”

Brandon Martin, Northeastern State University

“Regardless of whether the issue is of direct relevance to my library’s situation or not, it adds to my understanding of the products, and how they may be used; and I use that understanding in discussions within my library on how we could use them. To me personally, it has added an extra level of enjoyment in the things I do. And, I hope others find a use for my contributions too. … Together, as a community, we can learn about solutions and possibilities now, figure out how to or how not to do things; we can share and develop ideas about future wishes and possibilities. Alone, as an individual or even as a library, we get lost and stuck.”

Anneke Houtkamp, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

“I think my contributions to the Community Center are more about quantity than quality, but I believe there is some value in ‘keeping the conversation going’ as this usually prompts someone else to say something helpful. … It was very useful to learn from other users’ experiences about the Discovery/Google Analytics search within functionality. It was the member presentation on the topic that finally made things click into place for me.”

Tamsin Rothery, Oxford Brookes University

Our top contributors

The value expressed by these top community contributors is only possible thanks to everyone who has asked or answered a question, submitted an enhancement suggestion, or presented in a webinar. While every piece is valuable, we do want to recognize those who have made the most frequent contributions over the past year. The following list comprises our top contributors for the past 12 months, listed alphabetically:

  • Janelle Bitter, Raritan Valley Community College
  • Terry Brandsma, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
  • Richard Broekman, Tilburg University
  • Lisa Gonzalez, PALNI
  • Lisa Hatt, De Anza College
  • Anneke Houtkamp, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Judy Hsu, University of the West
  • Sherri Langton, Northwestern College
  • Heather Loehr, Hannover College
  • Alli Martel, Springfield College
  • Brandon Martin, Northeastern State University
  • Teun Potjewijd, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam
  • Ger Potze, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Tamsin Rothery, Oxford Brookes University
  • Laura Vogler, Wabash College
  • Thomas Waters, Brenau University

The next five years and beyond …

The OCLC Community Center continues to gain momentum with more users signing in every year. And in these challenging times, as I said, online engagement provides a welcome respite to the isolation of working in new circumstances. We know there are more folks who can contribute and share, and we look forward to seeing you in the Community Center. The days I work with community members on Community Center content are always my best days. Thank you for the work you do, and we look forward to all the collaborations to come!

If you use an OCLC product or service with a community and haven’t joined us already, see how to Sign in to the OCLC Community Center.