From Radical Reference Wiki
OCLC Policy Change Radical Reference Salon Discussion
WorldCat is a great idea—libraries band together to share catalog records in a single repository. Libraries add their own records and download others, spreading the work of maintaining a library catalog across the profession while enabling services like interlibrary loan. But these good acts are in danger of being compromised by a rapacious, monopolizing OCLC that is seeking to severely restrict the ways libraries can share their own data. The new Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records is scheduled to go into effect in the third quarter of this year. What does it mean for libraries? For open access projects like LibraryThing and Open Library? What does it mean for library activists committed to freedom of information, including the freedom of data we ourselves produce? What might meaningful resistance look like, before and after the policy change?
Date/Time: Friday, January 23, 8pm
Cost: Free, but a $1-2 contribution for ABC No Rio would be nice
Organized by: The NYC Radical Reference Collective
Written by: Emily
In attendance: Angie (facilitator), Ann, Ellen, Emily, Eric, Jenna, Jennifer, Jess, Jill, John, Julie, Karen, Lynley, Mel, Molly, Natalie, Romel
We had a wide-ranging discussion about the policy change for about ninety minutes. My notes are sprawling but still somehow incomplete. Rather than producing a transcript, I've pulled out the key problems with the policy change and ideas for political response and listed them here. Please feel free to add/subtract/multiply. No dividing allowed; this is a collective effort.
Jennifer gave a report back from the NYLINK meeting concerning the policy change earlier this month. (NYLINK notes have been posted to the bottom of this wiki.) With this framing and a helpful discussion of the particulars of OCLC relationships with libraries and catalogers, we went around in a circle with those of us who claimed articles sharing key arguments with the group.
PROBLEMS WITH THE POLICY
- While libraries will be allowed to continue to share records with non-commercial entities (e.g., other libraries), commercial vendors will require separate contracts with OCLC to use those records. This will affect libraries that outsource retrospective conversion projects, entities like Open Library and Library Thing, and other union catalogs like that recently produced by and for New York art libraries.
- Libraries will suffer 'vendor-lock,' being unable to switch vendors and take copy cataloged records with them.
- Shifts in leadership at OCLC have made what was an open, collaborative group from its inception into a profit-motivated monopoly. With a former Deloitte and Touche executive running the show, decisions about data sharing will not be driven by principles of openness.
- Closed data systems mean that WorldCat data does not show up in Google searches, where our users increasingly begin the research process. Will the new policy mean fewer library users?
- Much of the WorldCat data is produced by the Library of Congress in the form of Cataloging in Publication data, a taxpayer-funded entity. When we pay for WorldCat records, are we essentially paying twich--once as taxpayers to produce the record, and again as a library to download it?
- Early WorldCat records were produced by many libraries but all listed as produced by LC. How will the new Policy deal with assigning ownership of these older records?
- The proposed Proposal for Use form does not define 'reasonable use' and gives no process for appeals.
POTENTIAL STRATEGIES FOR CHALLENGING OCLC CONTROL
- Many of us reported hearing nothing from our own catalogers about the policy change. John reported on the particularly useful ("Policy For Use And Transfer Of WorldCat Records – Revisited.", written by and directed to catalogers, might be a good thing to send to our colleagues.
- The slipperiness of the 'reasonable use' clause suggests we might adopt strategies from struggles around fair use.
- OCLC extended the discussion deadline. Input can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Suggest SRRT and/or PLG articulate a statement about the policy. The ALA response has been largely neutral.
- Separate the cataloging work from the other functions performed by OCLC (e.g., interlibrary loan). Which could be performed by other library organizations? How might librarians claim ownership of their work?
- Adapt open content/creative commons licensing to original cataloging work, thereby circumventing the OCLC rules. Those of us who do original cataloging (unique materials, archives collections, zines) might license our own records.
- Make connections with political movements that have dealt with similar issues before: e.g., anticopyright movement, open access journals folks.
- Please add items you think people should read ahead of time.
- Please keep them in anti-chronological order.
- Feel free, encouraged even, to provide some annotation.
- Please volunteer to summarize one item for the group at the salon by putting your name after it in parentheses, like this: (Farfel)
- Code4Lib. "OCLC Policy Change." Editing ongoing, cuz it's a wiki.
- OCLC. "Summary of the Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat® Records." (Undated, accessed 1/22/2009) - includes links to both new "Policy" and old "Guidelines" and FAQ .
- American Libraries Online. "OCLC Delays WorldCat Policy Pending Review Board" January 16, 2009.
- Hadro, Josh. "OCLC Delays New Records Policy and Convenes Review Board." Library Journal. January 14, 2009.
- OCLC. "OCLC Board of Trustees and Members Council to convene Review Board of Shared Data Creation and Stewardship." January 13, 2009.
- Hadro, Josh. "ARL/ASERL Task Force to Investigate OCLC Policy Change." Library Journal. December 15, 2008.
- American Libraries Online. "WorldCat Policy Revision Draws Librarians' Ire." December 12, 2008. (Natalie)
- Spalding, Tim. "The Elusive Moose and OCLC." Thingology Blog. December 7, 2008. (EricG)
- Pinsley, Lauren. "Policy For Use And Transfer Of WorldCat Records – Revisited." Status Line (Nylink). December 3, 2008. (JBeek) Jbeek's notes
- Moody, Glyn. "Save the Libraries – With Open Source." Linux Journal. November 27, 2008. (Emily)
- West, Jessamyn. "OCLC Kerfuffle Summarized in a Way I Agree with." Librarian.net. November 17, 2008. (Jill)
- Swartz, Aaron. "OCLC on the Run." November 15, 2008.
- Guess, Andy. "Maelstrom over Metadata." Inside Higher Ed. November 14, 2008.
- Wallis, Richard. "OCLC Talk with Talis about the new Record Use Policy." November 14, 2008.
- Crane, M. "Stealing Your Library." November 13, 2008.
- Swartz, Aaron. "Stealing Your Library: The OCLC Powergrab." Raw Thought. November 13, 2008. (Jenna)
- Anonymous Hater. "Declaration of Independance (sic) of Metadata." November 6, 2008. (Julie)
- Reese, Terry. "A look at the Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records revision." November 5, 2008.
- Reese, Terry. "OCLC’s proposed new guidelines for the transfer of bibliographic records." November 2, 2008.
- Beall, Jeffrey. "OCLC: A Review" in Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front, edited by K.R. Roberto. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. 2008. (Emily)
Beall writes with fervor about the problems he sees with OCLC. First, he argues that OCLC represents a monopoly that steals and consolidates the labor of catalog librarians and then sells it back to them at an exorbitant rate. Because they have no competitors--or buy them up, as they did with netLibrary--libraries have little recourse. Second, OCLC has notoriously dirty data and provides no incentive for librarians to clean that data up. Third, despite their reliance on computer science and business majors, OCLC fails to implement software well. Connexion, the cataloging client, goes down with regularity and OCLC is nonresponsive. Beall touches throughout on labor problems with OCLC including their failure to hire degreed librarians, a parochial reliance on Ohio State graduates, and the poor working conditions of temporary catalogers.
We expect the conversation to take on a shape guided by who shows up and what they're interested in. Here are some guiding questions we might keep in mind as we read and respond--feel free to add your own.
- Is a true cataloging cooperative possible under capitalism?
- Considering the reach of OCLC's power and products--could we do interlibrary loan without them?--what are strategies libraries and librarians can use to resist them?
- What can open access movements teach us about how to approach OCLC today?
Some notes from Policy for Use and Transfer of WorldCat Records: A Moderated Discussion
Please note that these are my personal notes and not verbatim.
Karen Calhoun – VP of OCLC WorldCat and Metadata Services
Moderated by Robert Wolven (from Columbia University Libraries)
This discussion/question & answer session was video-taped and will probably be made available to all NyLink member libraries.
Overview by Karen Calhoun
OCLC hasn’t updated its policies since 1987
- with the Guidelines
- update on current process –
- policy created by their board [she says that it wasn’t just OCLC people, but it was their board so wouldn’t that mean it was their people since it was people they chose to be on their board?]
- policy implementation has been delayed until the third or fourth quarter of this calendar year
- review board has been created to review the policy and discuss policy with community
Expand record sharing
- member and non-members
- archives and museum
Revised Policy to address
- commercial and non-member sources using/copying member records
- via z39.50
- she calls them ‘attacks’
See FAQs for more information about questions already asked
- will be considered part of the policy
- some of the questions asked during our session may end up here for future reference
- adds non commercial sharing or archival & museum records
- framed as legal document when the first document (the Guidelines) were not
- is about reaching agreement with outside organizations that are not members of the cooperative and a fair return for the coop as a whole fair return
- new – enhanced content
- cataloging partners – vendors
- search engines
- the records belong to the member that contributes them & OCLC
- to OCLC if you paid for a record to be exported to your library’s catalog (copy cat.) your library does not actually own that record, it belongs to OCLC
- pool analogy here
Data sharing environment
- everyone has right policies (this is OCLC’s stab at ‘everyone else is doing it’)
- degree of rights policy usually related to financial viability
[here the speaker becomes a little condescending]
my questions – is OCLC a business? Does OCLC rely on content/data to make money? How are they still a non-profit?
Data sharing environment, continued
- reduce operations costs
- data creation, management
- resource sharing & public services
- enable exposure of library data
- more traffic to libraries from popular websites [like Google Books – she brings this up all afternoon]
For more comments or questions email: mailto:email@example.com
Discussion between librarians and Karen Calhoun, moderated by Bob Wolven
Parts of the discussion – Bob was trying to keep us on track
- What is the need for the policy?
- If there is a policy, what should it be?
- What about process?
What is the need for the policy?
Z39.50 – don’t you have control over who accesses your database and can’t you just approach the issue with those that ‘attached’ you?
- yes, they can deny access to non-authorized users and they have approached those that ‘attacked them’
- between libraries and non-commercial use the use of z39.50 is ok
Price – dropping per use of cataloging transaction
- changes depending on location/geography
Identified companies that were harvesting records – but cutting off all commercial users?
- OCLC has partner agreements with vendors
- Specifies guidelines but those superceded by these agreements
Once customer uploads record to OCLC for customer…
- that record belongs to OCLC and OCLC ‘membership’ or ‘coop’ not vendor
- [so the general rules of OCLC record ownership doesn’t appear to apply to vendors? Or those records are counted as belonging to the member institution? Either way taking the vendor out of the equation]
- yes for provisions for what happens if you violate
- also for negotiations with Google’s of the world
- isn’t about libraries, about people outside of the coop that want to use member records
- more like a contract
WorldCat API – developers
- want to encourage this
- OCLC is developing this more in the international community right now – with other union catalogs
- Strongly endorsed by OCLC for future development
Harvest set available
- free of charge but have terms & conditions required
Policy ended up being more about control than openness – and hopefully review board will push more towards openness
- need to integrate services
If you want to use these records you have to reach an agreement with OCLC to contribute (give back to), etc to the coop.
If there is a policy, what should it be?
Basically, if a vendor/library share – its ok, but its NOT ok if they (vendor) retains our records and later uses them for profit.
No connection between policy and cost.
Algorithms add value to the records
- therefore OCLC copyrighted the entire database
- ‘curatorial role’
- [most of these are added values aren’t actually passed on the members after the record has been exported to the local ILS, because the record isn’t updated by OCLC ever – only if its done by an outside vendor]
Records created or purchased by the library are not covered by the policy
- original records are not included
- ownership rules come from existing Guidelines
If you are going to share your records with an institution that would sell them to others
- not ok, without an agreement with OCLC
- basically, if OCLC is loosing money, etc. from your relationship with someone else – then you have a problem and an agreement needs to be negotiated
Seems like they are trying to ensure their place outside and within the library community – vendor lock.
OCLC’s idea of adding value is subjective, because there are some libraries that have closed collections and don’t want their information shared with outside ‘Google –like services’
- there are opt-out settings/options for each member, so if they don’t want their information contributed it doesn’t have to be, but it is considered a service to the larger coop even if everyone doesn’t consider it that way
What can OCLC do with unique data?
- use records to support coop
- allow others to process/edit data
What about process?
This is never really discussed – and really number 2 is really just wishful thinking on Bob’s part. The entire moderated discussion is mostly just question and answer, and every now and then people throw out their ideas for why this is good or why it isn’t, etc. etc.
Some referenced OCLC documents: