OCLC was built on a foundation of collaboration. Whenever we can, we look for ways to reflect and replicate that value in other areas. When we reference the OCLC vision, “Because what is known must be shared,” that holds true as much for member-to-member knowledge as it does for sharing library materials with users.
The power of that model was made especially clear to me during the launch of WorldShare Management Services and during each subsequent implementation. This was not just a new service for OCLC—the idea of a cloud-based platform for library management tasks was a new one in our profession. While OCLC staff was, obviously, involved in all of the training, implementation and support, we realized early on that peer-to-peer learning was going to play a huge role in how libraries got the best value from this unique opportunity.
The OCLC Community Center was a direct result of those observations. It’s a place for library staff to connect online, share best practices, stay up to date on new product releases and contribute ideas to improve OCLC services. Since its launch last July, over 5,000 users from 2,400+ libraries have registered, connecting members from all over the globe. Our work there with you, the OCLC community, has reinforced what we’ve known all along—the OCLC member community truly rocks.
But we’ve also learned important principles about collaboration and community engagement:
- Provide ways for members to be leaders.
- Share and communicate in many formats.
- Collaborate through transparency.
In retrospect, these may seem obvious. But they’re an important part of how we’re getting to success together.
Get some leadership bullets on your resume
If you’d like to share ideas about product development with OCLC and are looking for a leadership role, the Community Center provides a great avenue. Many of the communities, such as those for WorldShare Management Services and EZproxy, have formalized community leadership teams that plan and host online events and roundtable discussions with OCLC staff. But the leadership opportunities don’t stop there. You can hone your talents by helping to plan or host a regional community gathering or conference meet-up. You could adopt a forum discussion board and help lead and foster conversations. Contributors earn bronze, silver and gold badges as they participate in discussion forums and share ideas, making it easy for everyone to identify superstar contributors.
Share the way you want to
In addition to regularly scheduled online sessions, several communities have coordinated “deep dive” roundtable discussions around a particular topic area. Online office hours hosted by OCLC product management staff are another avenue for collaboration and conversation. And for those who prefer in-person conversations, many communities, like those for WorldShare Management Services and CONTENTdm, also host regional user group meetings. Since 2013, there have been over a dozen community-planned, and regionally hosted WMS user group gatherings across the globe, including international community gatherings in Australia and the Netherlands.
See what everyone else thinks
Have you ever wondered if you’re the only person who thinks your idea is worth building into an OCLC product? Or been curious to know what other libraries have already suggested? The OCLC Community Center answers both of these questions by providing transparency into the enhancement process. Members can view already submitted suggestions by product area and can add their own comments and ratings to help improve a request. If the idea hasn’t been captured already, they can submit it online so that other librarians can add their thoughts. Once a suggestion has been implemented, it’s acknowledged with an update including a link to release notes or documentation. It’s exciting to watch as your idea gets taken up by your peers, improved and made real!
More than just crowdsourcing
You might think of the Community Center as simply crowdsourcing. But it’s much more. By adding opportunities for leadership, keeping the process transparent and creating more ways for community members to be involved, everyone benefits—from the librarian leading a discussion group, to the one whose idea garners peer support, to OCLC staff knowing that a new feature fulfills the needs of multiple libraries. When we work together, we make breakthroughs happen.
If you haven’t taken a look at the OCLC Community Center yet, I strongly encourage you to give it a try (or check out the short intro video below).
OCLC members have always led cataloging, research and other professional efforts by using the power of collaboration. Now you can apply those principles to the product improvement process, too.