Archive for the 'OCLC Research Library Partnership' Category

Libraries rebound

Monday, April 9th, 2012 by Merrilee

I’d like to put in a plug for the next event for those who are in the OCLC Research Libraries Partnership, which is
Libraries Rebound: Embracing Mission, Maximizing Impact (June 5-6, Philadelphia). We are still confirming speakers but so far we’ve got a great line up of speakers — we’re also adding reactor panels, so check out the program now and in a week or two to see how it’s shaping up.

The meeting will focus on how libraries can more closely tie services and collections to the university’s (or parent institution’s) mission. In the midst of static or decreasing budgets, being able to demonstrate impact in the pursuit of the institution’s research and teaching goals is paramount.

The day and a half meeting will focus on three themes:

  • How library staff are working side-by-side with researchers in specific disciplines
  • How institutions are adapting special collection-building to align with high priority teaching and research focus areas
  • How libraries are using library space to forge partnerships with other units on campus
  • We’re fortunate to have some smart people from forward-looking institutions who will share their knowledge and experiences with us. And the conversation and discussion will definitely spill into areas beyond the three themes I’ve outlined above. Which is where you come in — we need you to come and talk about what you have planned (as well as to learn from your peers). Register now! Always free for those in the partnership.

    Questions? Let us know. We always love to hear from you.

    Turning out the lights on

    Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 by Jennifer

    It’s always sad to say goodbye, but sometimes it’s the right thing to do. I want to alert you that the experiment will close at the end of 2012. The blog is now read-only.

    OCLC Research developed with the guidance of the rare book and law enforcement community, in order to provide a long-desired venue for transparency about theft and loss in libraries and archives. However, the service never achieved the broad usage and adoption we all hoped for: only 10 institutions registered WorldCat Lists and few items were tagged. And although there were 188 posts to the blog, it is not clear if contributed to recovery of any materials.

    While the decision to close is disappointing, there have been many positive outcomes from this project. The Working Group has ensured that the community paid greater attention to transparency about theft and loss, and the project promoted collaboration with booksellers and law enforcement. For example, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of American (ABAA) has adopted social media to broadcast news of thefts.

    This project also did much to promote ideas about how to manage loss in a transparent manner. We held two webinars and published an article in Archival Outlook about the outcomes of the Working Group. I also spoke about at a panel at ALA with an attorney, an FBI agent and Mark Dimunation from the Library of Congress.

    In addition, the concept of using a light touch to alert the community has resonated in many quarters. Development of the free Missing Materials procedure helped OCLC Research staff learn to build services quickly and inexpensively, to meet functional requirements scoped by the Working Group and to repurpose “good-enough” low-overhead components, such as blog software. This has helped to inspire other experimental systems that made greater use of off-the-shelf software, such as the new ArchiveGrid and Website for Small Libraries.

    I’m very proud of our efforts — we were approached by the rare book community to “do something” about the shared problem of stolen materials. We showed up, put forward our best foot, put creative thought into a difficult problem. So despite the fact that is closing, we’d like to thank and congratulate everyone who participated in this great experiment!

    OCLC Research 2011: The OCLC Research Library Partnership launched (successfully)

    Friday, December 30th, 2011 by Jim

    We’ve been writing a mini blog series to put a spotlight on just some of our accomplishments this year. This is the final post in that series.

    Winding up this series of year-end posts is a big bow to the successful launch of the OCLC Research Library Partnership. The launch and the associated rationale and aspirations were discussed in a variety of posts back at the start of the fiscal year. All of us were pleased with the response and have enjoyed these first few months of working with staff at Partner institutions in this new configuration.

    Instead of more words here are two pictures of the Partnership to end the year. Happy new year. We look forward to more progress and congenial work on behalf of the Partnership and all OCLC libraries.

    OCLC Research Library Partnership

    ORLP and Times Higher Education World Rankings

    Happy Holidays from us to you — the OCLC Research Holiday Song

    Friday, December 16th, 2011 by Merrilee

    It’s that time of year, and before you start tuning out your feed reader and start tuning into your favorite holiday tunes, we have a little something to get you in the spirit. This video was created by my very talented colleague Dennis Massie (for a long time know around here as the “SHARES Guy” although his work spans well beyond that). It’s both wry and heartfelt, and I think you’ll find it worth your while.

    You can also check out other offerings on the OCLC Research YouTube Channel

    p.s. My favorite holiday music is the SOMA FM Christmas Lounge stream. What’s yours?

    The value of the OCLC Research Library Partnership

    Thursday, October 20th, 2011 by Merrilee

    What is the value of the OCLC Research Library Partnership? Don’t take it from me, hear it directly from library thought leaders, who describe the strengths of the OCLC Research Library Partnership and discuss how libraries benefit from participating. Fortunately we had a camera rolling and their thoughts are captured in this video.

    Thanks to Ron Brashers, Rich Szary, Paul Constantine, Isabel Holloway, Mary Augusta Thomas, Paul McCarthy, Suzanne Thorin and David Farneth for sharing their views!

    You can watch other video offerings on the OCLC Research YouTube Channel.

    The Research Library Partnership – Qui Bono?

    Thursday, September 22nd, 2011 by Nancy

    In a previous post, I gave you some statistics about our current partnership and where all those 153 Partner Institutions come from. Today I’ll talk a little about why those institutions decided to come together and form the OCLC Research Library Partnership.

    Some of the Benefits of Partnership

    First and foremost, the leadership at these Partner Institutions chose to join the Partnership in order to gain a seat at the table of the largest collaborative research and action-oriented organization devoted to the needs of research libraries. This means that they have a voice in advising us about our directions, a hand in testing our solutions and a participatory foot in the door of activities that push out the boundaries of what we can accomplish together. The Partnership is a venue for institutions ready to lead in shaping the future of research libraries and archives.

    Second, Partner Institutions have privileged access to the outputs of our collective work. This is a new benefit this year – we’re experimenting with offering Partners exclusive, 30-day access to the wealth of materials and experiences being produced and shared under the Partnership roof. Published reports, survey analyses, webinars, videos and events are all available to Partners at no charge and before the rest of the community.

    A third benefit is one that some Partners have already taken advantage of – direct consultative access to program officers and research scientists to advise on some of your thorniest problems. We’ve engaged in a range of consultations in recent years – Here are examples of three types of direct consultative access that had impact and influence over more than just a single institution.

    In 2008, the Mellon Foundation — together with the Council on Library Resources — established a new national grant program in the US focusing on cataloging hidden collections in libraries and archives. Program officers worked in consultation mode with partner institutions, serving as objective readers on draft proposals and in offering advice to help strengthen proposals. Many of the proposals we advised on were ultimately funded! We think of this as a grant- or external, project-driven consultation.

    One of our university museum partners got in touch earlier this year wanting to extend the capabilities of the OAICatMuseum software so that it could recognize and report deleted records. We worked with a software company and with the museum team to add and test this feature in April. We think of this as a business or technical consultation.

    A few years back an institution reached out to us to participate in a campus initiative on evaluating risks associated with digitizing unpublished, in-copyright materials. We realized this was a shared challenge across the entire partnership. We scaled this into a programmatic effort and gathered community support for an agreed, new, common practice for those wishing to digitize and share images of this class of material. We think of this as a work process consultation, one where institutions both inside and outside of the partnership ultimately benefit from the seeds of one institution’s needs.

    A related form of direct consultative access to staff is one of our most common inquiries. An example might be an institution with a strong photographic collection of Polar Explorations is looking for partners who hold personal papers or correspondence collections around some of the less well-known participants in those explorations. We can often be helpful in Match-Making. Sometimes this is one institution looking for one other institution but more often it ends up being a group effort and sometimes it turns into an issue that we pick up and run with as part of our Partnership work agenda.

    A fourth class of benefit is entirely new this year and has been developed in response to expressions of interest from across the Partnership: an annual, individualized profile of each collection as represented in WorldCat and in sync with strategic priorities within the Partnership. This annual profile work will help partners plan and take collective action in areas of key need. In this first year, the profile work will be shaped by an Advisory Group (composition of which will be shared soon) – they will provide input into the sorts of analyses we should undertake.

    A Final Word about Partnership Benefits

    Deriving benefit from an institutional affiliation is not a unilateral proposition. Benefit is not measured solely by the number of opportunities presented; instead, benefit — or ROI — is best measured by the extent to which Partner staff act on those opportunities and participate in activities that help shape new solutions and services. Partners can watch for our weekly news updates, subscribe to our RSS feeds, read reports, download webinars. . . raise your hands and your voices when interesting opportunities present themselves – your colleagues within the Partnership will thank you and so will we.

    Reach out to us, share your thoughts, help us to shape the future!

    A little about the OCLC Research Library Partnership

    Tuesday, September 20th, 2011 by Nancy

    Back in April, Jim wrote about the OCLC Research Library Partnership, which launched in July. It’s been an exciting few months, and I thought I would share some facts and figures that I pulled together.

    As of September 1st, there are 153 institutions who have joined the Partnership. Of these, 105 (or 66%) were part of the “old” RLG Partnership. 11 institutions who had been affiliated with RLG rejoined. What was most surprising (delightfully so) is that 41 institutions who had never been affiliated decided to join. This means that 27% of the Partnership is new, which is both a great opportunity in terms of new energy and ideas and also a challenge in terms of getting institutions up to speed in our activities.

    What else can we say about the Partnership? 77% are from the US and Canada, but 23 percent are from Europe and Asia, which means that we are more international than ever. If you look across other library organizations for comparison, we have almost 50% of ARL members represented in our ranks, as well as almost 60% of RLUK members among our numbers.

    You can view a full list of our current partners on our website.

    Born digital, from zero to sixty

    Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 by Merrilee

    Last month, several of us attended the Society of American Archivists meeting in Chicago. I was struck by how many sessions focused on or were related to dealing with born digital materials.

    As Jackie has reported, OCLC Research is working in this area. As part of gaining perspective and gathering input, I convened a small group of New York City based OCLC Research Library Partners to share information about where they were on the born digital continuum. Here are some brief notes from this meeting, which was held in May of this year.

    Meeting participants shared where they were on a continuum that ranged from “we haven’t done anything” to “we’ve done one project with an intern” to “we’ve been at the beginning for what seems like 8 years” to “we are prepared to invest major time and resources in building an environment to store and manage materials.”

    Participants underscored the need for a broad and shared understanding of “do no harm” steps that can be taken to deal with media in a way that won’t compromise it (with the understanding that sometimes it will arrive already having been been compromised). [Note that in fact this is one of the goals of the OCLC Research project in this area.]

    Institutions dealing with records management (either material from the partner institution, as in university archives or from a donor institution) face significant challenges in being able to influence record creation practice. Records retention practices has shifted significantly, particularly given the influence of Sarbaines-Oxley, FERPA, and other compliance measures that the records that remain may not be worth much, in terms of informing future researchers.

    There was a tension between doing a more fine grained “digital appraisal” of materials in the short term (while curators still have a good idea of what’s in custody), versus an approach where we take it all in, stabilize, and bank on the future helping us to deal with on-the-fly conversion.

    Many institutions have surveyed (or are interested in surveying) collections already in custody in order to see what’s there and to make a plan for future work. Often collections are a mix of paper with the occasional box or folder with a hard drive or floppy disk. Finding aids may or may not take account of these materials.

    There was an interesting observation, that we are coming out of a time of what will most likely be viewed as unusual stability – we are now shifting away from an era where most stuff was created on a Windows PC on Microsoft produced software into an era marked by an increasing proliferation of devices, storage media, proprietary formats, apps, and the cloud. Designing an approach limiting ourselves to the materials we are taking in now (mostly produced in the 1980s and 1990s) would be a mistake. And yet, we need to start somewhere.

    One institution has a collection of “stuff” previously used in media production that may soon or someday come in handy in converting or reading materials. Each institution doesn’t need this setup – it could be cooperatively owned and operated. Or we should identify regional vendors who can do this work, rather than developing expertise in libraries. After all, the advanced skills in the field of digital forensics are far beyond what’s needed by cultural institutions.

    It’s become clear that from a resources standpoint, managing digital materials can be resource intensive. Partnering with other institutions will be key in making progress and minimizing costs. Also highlighted, a need for case studies: how often do researchers report that needed information is lost (whether in digital form or not)?

    Thanks to the participants in this useful discussion, which included representatives from Columbia University, Museum of Modern Art, New-York Historical Society, New York Public Library, New York University, and Weill Cornell Medical Library.

    Introducing ArchiveGrid – the sandbox where archivists build something better

    Monday, September 12th, 2011 by Jim

    Those of you in the archive or research library world may be familiar with ArchiveGrid®, a database and discovery service that grew out of RLG’s Archival Resources service which leveraged all the collection level descriptions in the union catalog and aggregated the encoded finding aids that institutions made available for their collections. For many years ArchiveGrid was a subscription service and it has continued as such within the OCLC environment.

    Although ArchiveGrid is currently available as a subscription service at, it will eventually become a free discovery system. To facilitate this transition, OCLC Research is developing a new ArchiveGrid discovery interface that is now freely available. To try it out, go to

    The great work of my Research colleagues, Bruce Washburn and research assistant Ellen Ast, has produced this experimental version of ArchiveGrid which will signficantly expand the work and impact of OCLC Research in the archives arena.

    A major strand of Research investment has gone toward the broad area of Mobilizing Unique Materials where the objective has been the achievement of economies and efficiencies that permit the unique materials in libraries, archives and museums to be effectively described, properly disclosed, successfully discovered and appropriately delivered. There’s been great work done and I hope you’ll review some of it at the link above but we’ve also been hampered by the lack of a proving ground where innovative approaches to description can be tested, where discovery behaviors can be watched and measured and where we can identify the best ways to have search engines incorporate these unique institutional assets into results.

    We want ArchiveGrid to fill that gap. My colleagues are structuring a program of work around ways in which this sandbox can be best exploited to the advantage of archivists and potential users of archives. We’ll look first to what the institutions in the OCLC Research Library Partnership can contribute both in the way of content but ideas and direction as well. We’ll generalize our findings and feed this back to the community.

    Check out ArchiveGrid now. It includes over a million descriptions of archival collections held by thousands of libraries, museums, historical societies and archives worldwide and enables researchers to learn about the contents of these collections, contact archives to arrange a visit to examine materials or order copies—all from one simple, intuitive search. At the bottom of the landing page you’ll see the links to provide feedback and to indicate interest in including your descriptions in the aggregation. Operators are standing by.

    Gazing out to 2030

    Thursday, August 11th, 2011 by Merrilee

    In March, Jim and I attended a workshop on using the ARL 2030 Scenarios (I know, it was a while ago, but its been a busy year). If you have not had a chance to look at the scenarios, I urge to to at least give them a skim. I was intrigued by the idea of scenario planning, reading through the materials on the ARL website and watching a webinar on scenario planning made me even more interested in how one would use the scenarios to do strategic planning.

    The workshop was focused on using the materials in the user’s guide to start a strategic conversation as part of a long range planning process. At the beginning of the workshop, attendees talked about how they hoped they would use the scenarios. Several attendees talked about the need to develop new services, while others wanted to use the scenarios in developing a strategic framework for their organization (either from scratch or renewing an aged strategy). Still others talked about using the scenarios to approach workforce transformation within an organization, or how to utilize a new space. As the workshop progressed, we tested how to use the scenarios for a variety of purposes, and they seemed to work beautifully — ARL has pulled together a terrific set of materials that would make it easy for an institution to apply the materials in an institutional setting — “just add water and a few facilitators.”

    We are interested in hearing from institutions that have used the scenarios, and what their findings have been. We are even more interested in bringing groups of institutions together around a shared concern or uncertainty and the ARL scenarios are one tool we may be able to use to find shared solutions or to identify areas where we can see we will need to move collectively. Are you willing to share your findings with us? Are you interested in doing group planning with other members of the OCLC Research Library Partnership? Get in touch!

    Many thanks to Susan Stickley, who did a terrific job facilitating the workshop and to the ARL staff who have worked on the scenarios and supported the workshop.