Too many cooks?

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They say that "too many cooks spoil the broth." I'm not sure that's always the case, especially when it comes to building partnerships.

You may have seen the recent announcement that the cooperative's relationship with H.W. Wilson has been expanded to include access to 29 additional databases through WorldCat Local (21 in the WorldCat Local central index; 8 more available remotely via a Z39.50 search of WilsonWeb). We've had a long and very productive relationship with H.W. Wilson and are very glad to be able to make more of its valuable content available to our member institutions.

This relationship is an excellent example of how a community, working together, can accomplish more on behalf of libraries than any single member. That community includes OCLC, its member institutions and information producers such as H.W. Wilson.

The key factor working on our behalf is that when my team or I sits down to discuss details with a partner like Wilson, it's not just us at the table--we're backed up by thousands of libraries from all over the world.

That's important, because being able to advocate on behalf of the library community leads to a productive, virtuous cycle--an "engine of cooperation," if you will. Tangible results from partnerships--in this case, making WorldCat more comprehensive and better able to represent libraries' full collections--leads to better value for members. That, in turn, lets us attract more partners and members, who then bring further improvements. The cooperative becomes stronger when our services attract more partners.

I spend quite a bit of time talking both to librarians and industry partners--publishers, booksellers, Web-technology providers, search engine companies--all kinds of people doing interesting things in our space. And in those talks, there is often a discussion of one of the following: content, technology or community. What I've come to realize, though, is that the best results come from places where all three come together.

I've noticed that this model is driving lots of companies that already have one or two of the ingredients and are looking for ways to lock onto a third. Possibly this is because libraries are now very focused on electronic content, which is an area that attracts lots of nonlibrary players. Which is great. It means more innovation, more attention, more resources and more options for our users.

What it doesn't mean, necessarily, is more community.

There is a fundamental difference between "improving technology" and "cooperation." What libraries do together can be managed for our mutual benefit. And that's the most exciting part of our discussions with information industry partners: being able to point at the results and say, "Libraries built this."

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