We persevere through challenges when we rely on each other

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a year since the pandemic turned our lives upside down. And despite shutdowns and closures, libraries still found incredible ways to serve their communities. You adjusted to conditions and responded to critical information needs. You pivoted to deliver content and programs digitally and to support online learning.

My colleagues and I at OCLC have been proud to support you. We prioritized product investments, research, and development opportunities that helped respond to new challenges. As a member-driven organization, that’s what we do—empower libraries to meet changing needs.

Libraries are stronger together

During this extraordinary year, I was reminded that our technology, research, and expertise don’t just help libraries succeed on a case-by-case basis. What we do connects libraries around the world, so we can meet the needs of today’s information seekers—together.

We receive feedback from libraries about products and services, priorities, and direction through a variety of regular community engagement activities and communications. And our Global Council delegates elevate members’ interests and opportunities to our leadership team and the OCLC Board of Trustees, which currently includes nine librarians.

Research that supports all libraries and their communities

Across the organization, and in partnership with our members, other libraries, industry groups, and educational institutions, we accelerate and scale learning, innovation, and collaboration to advance libraries and librarianship.

This past year, we partnered with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Battelle to implement the REALM (REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums) research project to produce science-based information about how materials can be handled to mitigate COVID-19 exposure to staff and visitors. Also, our WebJunction learning platform is used by thousands of librarians to share information and best practices, and those connections and online learning opportunities have been particularly helpful during the pandemic.

We have an active “Advancing Racial Equity” working group charged with reviewing our products and our practices. And every OCLC associate around the world is participating in anti-bias training, building on our strong foundation of equity, diversity, and inclusion in everything we do. As part of these efforts, we are beginning a new initiative called “Reimagine Descriptive Workflows,” an eight-month project supported in part by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. This initiative will generate a community agenda to inform steps that libraries, archives, and allied organizations can take to reimagine descriptive practices in records and address obsolete, discriminatory, and harmful language in bibliographic descriptions.

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Technology that supports your objectives

We reinvest heavily in our technical infrastructure to ensure we can meet the demands of today’s libraries while preparing for our collective future. Data centers in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States keep services running and data secure. And our shared, cloud-based infrastructure provides fast, distributed processing of multiple applications and large data sets across clusters of servers. It also supports an expanding set of diverse APIs, many of which are developed with libraries and other partners who share our commitment to increase access to knowledge.

There are way too many projects, services, and features to mention them all. Here’s just a handful:

  • Our staff and thousands of member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the most comprehensive global network of data about library collections. We enrich records with new information, and remove records with automated Duplicate Detection and Resolution software. We also collaborate with search engines and partners like Goodreads and Google Books to drive traffic back to WorldCat.org and our member libraries. Last year, we added nearly 30 million records to WorldCat, bringing the total to more than 500 million records with 3 billion holdings.
  • The OCLC resource sharing network links together the world’s largest community of libraries. This includes the recently launched Express digital delivery program for libraries that consistently fulfill ILL requests within 18 hours using our WorldShare ILL network. Participating libraries have embraced this smart fulfillment option, part of our “Library on-demand.”
  • This year we marked the completion of a two-year, grant-funded project to add support for the registration of serial retention commitments in WorldCat, to improve the discovery of shared print data, and to enhance the Center for Research Library’s Print Archives Preservation Registry. We also added shared print capabilities to the WorldCat Metadata API and the WorldCat Search API.
  • As the WorldShare Management Services (WMS) community marked its tenth anniversary, libraries around the world continued to grow and support the world’s first cloud-based library services platform. WMS allows library staff at nearly 700 libraries to draw on the collaborative data and work of libraries worldwide for more efficiencies. In the past year, more than 200 features and enhancements were added, 70 percent of which came directly from community feedback. WMS also achieved FedRAMP certification, meeting rigorous US government standards for security assessments and continuous monitoring of cloud products. And WMS was ranked #1 in customer satisfaction in Marshall Breeding’s “Library Perceptions 2021” report.
  • OCLC Wise, the first community engagement system for US public libraries, continues to advance, combining the power of customer relationship management, marketing, and analytics with integrated library system functionality. Wise is designed around people, not collections, expanding the impact libraries have on their communities. Public library members were also very excited by our new Capira offerings, as mobile app and curbside services have been especially valuable during the pandemic.

Looking forward

We’ve accomplished a great deal together despite enormous challenges this past year. Your resilience, creativity, and energy reinforced what we have always known to be true—that libraries can do anything when they work together.

We’re grateful to all of you for inspiring us with your spirit and determination. You overcame every obstacle to succeed for your users. We look forward to continuing our vital work together, no matter what lies ahead of us in the years to come.