New shared Web catalogue to boost visibility and usage of public library resources
OCLC and The Combined Regions (TCR) have announced plans to launch Britain's first freely accessible national public library union catalogue. Containing the bibliographic data from 80% of the UK's public libraries, the service will make it possible for Web users to simultaneously search 9 million bibliographic records and 50 million holdings.
Leveraging information already indexed in WorldCat, the world's largest online resource for finding library materials, this customised union catalogue will provide a view of holdings contributed by the 149 local authorities with a current full package subscription to UnityUK, the UK's only nationwide network for resource sharing.
The initiative will make bibliographic data more discoverable on the open Web. Indexing of WorldCat data through search engines such as Google and Yahoo! will vastly improve awareness of public library resources and drive significantly increased traffic back to local libraries.
Requiring no other expenditure than a current full package UnityUK subscription, the service increases visibility for public library holdings – positioning them as primary sources of information alongside other Web resources.
A recent agreement drafted by OCLC with input from The Combined Regions securing the provision of UnityUK and making important provisions for its future as a national platform for resource discovery and inter-lending paved the way for the development of this new union catalogue. Both organisations share an ambition to achieve wider access to public libraries. This agreement is a vital step towards that goal.
Commenting on the plans Rob Froud, Chair, The Combined Regions said: "We have long held the ambition to create a national union catalogue and we are delighted that we are going to achieve this in partnership with OCLC. It is one of the biggest developments for public libraries since the People's Network: it's the Big Idea that public libraries need to demonstrate their combined value, their relevance and accessibility at a time when resource sharing is more important than ever."
These are sentiments echoed by OCLC's Robin Murray, Vice President, Global Product Management: "This is a crucial time for UK public libraries. The focus on shared services and collaboration to raise the profile of UK public libraries in the midst of declining budgets has never been more important. The need to employ technology in new ways to increase visibility and usage is key."
Robin continues: "OCLC is acutely aware of the challenges facing libraries today and we are devoted to maximising the value our customers receive from existing investments. Our strategy has always been to leverage the benefits and efficiencies of scale brought about through cooperation and the aggregation of library data – this initiative is the latest manifestation of this approach – a way to provide a simple, scalable solution to a long-standing challenge faced by the public libraries in the UK."
The first phase of this project is to produce an initial 'proof of concept' which will be available for review by those UnityUK libraries with a full package subscription in March 2011.
More information is available from the OCLC Web site.