Fewer Shades of Grey

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When I was in library school in the mid-nineties, I was told there was a "greying  of the profession" in process.  As I cocky, young, soon-to-be librarian, I read this threat as a promise.  So many librarians would be retiring in the next 20 years that we literally could not fill their seats with the new generations of librarians "coming online." 

I was intrigued by the challenge but utterly stunned by the professional response.  Somehow this looming threat was turning into a library school recruitment effort.  I had a different reaction.  If we were a factory, I thought, and we could literally not replace the workers on the line, we would only have two choices--slow down our production or increase our levels of automation.  In this sense, I don't consider myself an accidental systems librarian, like so many of my contemporaries.  The desire to automate processes to replace redundant, inefficient, and commoditized workflows conducted by hand was apparently in my DNA.  So, I traded in what I'm sure would have been a lucrative and fulfilling future as a rare book cataloger in order to be a systems librarian.  My humble goal: to replace those empty seats with better automation.

I've used this blog to crow about WorldShare Management Services quite a bit, especially the features, efficiencies, and network effects made available in acquisitions, discovery, and circulation.  But my product team also has responsibility for new product features that can stand alone from these initiatives.  So, I'm very proud to point at a new development in WorldShare Metadata.

Using the WorldCat knowledge base, we have developed a method to set holdings for licensed content and then deliver MARC records for those holdings.  We're calling this WorldShare Metadata collection management--the ability to manage resources at the collection level, as opposed to the traditional record-by-record workflows.  Moreover, this means that libraries can have records delivered for local system use in one step, rather than provider-by-provider.

"Using the [WorldCat] knowledge base and this new MARC record delivery service for some e-book collections is really a more efficient workflow overall. It provides more thorough and accurate access to e-books in our catalog and discovery tools."   
--Holly Tomren, Head, Metadata Services, Drexel University Libraries

This means no more tracking and managing multiple workflows, varying frequencies of updates, and dealing with a breadth of quality in metadata records.  This WorldShare service not only streamlines technical services workflows, it means better and more consistent access for patrons.  Even a slight URL change will trigger delivery of a new record.  Since the knowledge base is updated and managed by OCLC and the entire cooperative, this means more accurate linking and no more need for URL-checking in your local catalog.  We all know how quickly URLs can grey.

WorldShare Metadata collection management functionality allows you to define and configure your e-book and other electronic collections in one place, and automatically receive initial and updated customized WorldCat MARC records for all e-titles from one source, providing your users access to the titles and content from within the local library catalog or other discovery interface.  And output is determined by the library...don't want MARC?  Then choose MARC XML, multiple variations of Dublin Core, or MODS. 

In the future, WorldShare Metadata collection management will not only deliver records for local use regardless of provider and in multiple outputs, but also regardless of material format.   This means libraries can create record delivery criteria across print, licensed, and digital materials--true collection management, a vast improvement over record, format, and supplier management. This is pretty exciting stuff.  Speed up the production lines!

I had a birthday a few weeks ago and I've noticed a lot more grey hair in the mirror.  I've become what I once beheld, but it only encourages me to double the effort to increase efficiencies for libraries and patrons. 

About the Author

Andrew K. Pace

I am Executive Director for Networked Library Services at OCLC. I am also a past President of LITA. On occasion, I am known for pontificating "on stage, in writing, and via the web" on a variety of issues important to libraries.

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