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National Public Library Union Catalogue in UK

OCLC and The Combined Regions (TCR) have announced plans to launch Britain's first freely accessible national public library union catalogue, the first of its kind in the country.

While the objective is to ultimately include all UK public libraries within the catalogue, initially, the project will provide a view of holdings contributed to WorldCat by the 149 local authorities with a current full package subscription to UnityUK. As the UK's only national network for resource sharing, UnityUK participants already provide regular updates of holdings records to WorldCat, which are intended primarily for inter-library loans purposes. This data, as it stands, will be used to provide an initial 'proof of concept' of the union catalogue for review by those UnityUK libraries with a full package subscription in spring 2011 (see timings below).

This preliminary version of the catalogue will then be extended to include other UK public libraries that do not currently have a full package UnityUK subscription and wish to join.

As a pre-requisite for the project, the holdings data of participating libraries will need to be made visible on the open Web through WorldCat.org. Having your collection discoverable virtually anywhere on the Web through worldcat.org was previously only offered to UnityUK participants as a chargeable service. Now, OCLC will provide this unique benefit as part of a full-package UnityUK subscription and has therefore been factored into the 2011 renewals with these customers.

Proposed timetable

It is expected that this project will run through 2 sequential phases:

  • Phase 1 (winter 2011) - Develop a 'proof of concept' union catalogue based on existing data contributed to WorldCat by UnityUK sites.
  • Phase 2 (spring 2011) - Initial roll out of the catalogue to all full package UnityUK subscribers, seeking feedback on the 'proof of concept'.

Depending on progress of Phases 1 and 2, a general launch date will be agreed upon, when public libraries not already subscribed to UnityUK on a full package basis will be given the opportunity to participate and upload records to the catalogue.

Whilst the 'proof of concept' will be built using existing UnityUK data held in WorldCat, ultimately the success of the catalogue will depend on being able to effectively and efficiently load and regularly update the bibliographic records of all participating libraries. Therefore, running in parallel with the phases outlined above, OCLC will also be working with individual libraries and UK ILS systems vendors in order to obtain full data exports and convert them into the preferred MARC21 format.

Regular communication between those involved will be critical to the success of this plan, so please email any questions or comments you may have to uk@oclc.org. Alternatively for more information please read the recent press release which provides more detail on the project.