March 15, 2010
Is OCLC Wexish?
When Jerry Kline of iii fame first released his new bibliographic utility Skyriver back in October 2009, I was a bit annoyed. I was hoping he would have invested energy in making iii a truly "integrated" integrated library system. (I am referring to Encore here, but that is another post). In fact, I thought that it was a risky venture to dare compete with OCLC. Nevertheless, I found Marshall Breeding's review in LJ of this new service intriguing.
The new service, although representing a small universe of a mere 20 million records, promises higher quality records at a lower price. In this age of budget slashing and suspect products, who could argue with that?
Well, OCLC of course.
Late in February, Josh Hadro at LJ reported that OCLC was shaking down early Skyriver adoptor Michigan State University. MSU had switched over to Skyriver with the idea of saving about $80,000 in cataloging fees.
According to the LJ story, MSU had expected to pay 0.23 cents a record to upload their Skyriver records, or, roughly, $6000 for 26,000 records. A post on Karen Coyle's InFormation blog reports that OCLC instead offered MSU a price of $2.85 a record, or $74,000 for 26,000 records. Coyle also reports in a separate posting that MSU was not the only Library fooled by OCLC pricing schemes.
I have always been a fan of OCLC. I think the organization has done wonderful work with libraries. And, I am very disappointed in their actions toward libraries that are trying to be better consumers and provide more innovative services to their institutions. In the February LJ article, Hadro reports that OCLC Trustee Alford defended OCLC's position as being motivated by a need to protect the integrity of the data and the existence of a well established cooperative. (Coyle provides a more detailed report on Alford's position.)
But it really does not ring true.
We upload records from other services to OCLC without any repercussions. And we used to load RLIN records before RLIN folded and left OCLC a virtual monopoly. As for integrity of the data, well, have you seen some of the records in OCLC? They aren't always so good.
A better response, and a more OCLC-like response, would have been to counter with an even better service. As a cooperative of libraries, wouldn't it have been more appropriate to help us move toward an open bibliographic data arrangement? (You can follow the excellent discussion on NGC4LIB on the idea of responding to OCLC with open archives initiative protocol at the grassroots level.) Or, if the bottom line gets in the way, at least lower their prices in recognition of the times.
What happens when a big research facility decides to be innovative (ahem), move to Open Library or some other vendor product, and drop out of OCLC? If the domino effect takes place, the usefulness of the OCLC resource sharing platform diminishes significantly. This is the point that Alford is trying to make. It is a good and valid point, but the OCLC response to Skyriver might just make it happen sooner rather than later.
Dare I say that their actions make them look Wexish? (VS)
HT to Karen Coyle!