Working together, OCLC members advance the science and understanding of the library profession every day. The OCLC Research division, one of the largest organizations in the world dedicated to original library research, provides original research resources as well as support for broader community initiatives. OCLC staff work with member institutions to explore new ideas, technologies and projects that will advance the library profession.
OCLC Research works with the community to collaboratively identify problems and opportunities, prototype and test solutions, and share findings through publications, presentations and professional interactions. OCLC Research activities are the main units of work, the results of which are generally made available to the public. OCLC Research activities are focused in six major areas:
- Research Information Management (RIM)
- Infrastructure & Standards Support
- Mobilizing Unique Materials
- System-wide Organization
- Metadata Support & Management
- User Behavior Studies & Synthesis
OCLC researchers publish 20-30 papers every year based on the results of their efforts. One important example of the impact that OCLC Research has made on the community is the Taking Our Pulse: The OCLC Research Survey of Special Collections and Archives, which produced detailed findings from a 2009 OCLC Research survey of 275 institutions across the U.S. and Canada.
OCLC Research gives 50-150 presentations every year, more than 230 of which are freely available online. In 2010, OCLC Research held 23 free webinars on issues of importance to libraries, archives and museums worldwide. Recordings of these sessions are freely available on our Web site and in iTunes.
A collaboration with the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE), this program recognizes the importance of research to the advancement of librarianship and information science, and promotes independent research that helps integrate new technologies that offer innovative approaches and contributes to a better understanding of the information environment and user expectations and behaviors. Full-time academic faculty in schools of library and information science or related fields are eligible to apply.
Allows experienced scientists, educators and administrators with demonstrated research capabilities to pursue projects on-site at OCLC. Visiting scholars conduct research in areas of mutual interest to themselves and OCLC so that both benefit from a close working relationship.
Sponsored three times since 2005, the contest provides an incentive for entrants to develop new and creative uses for OCLC data.
In-kind support to research activities worldwide
OCLC Research makes available, on a regular basis, access to unique OCLC research data, WorldCat records, statistical data and other research materials. This data has been used by the wider library community to fuel research and scholarship on a number of important themes. Examples of supported external research include the provision of WorldCat records to support analysis of MARC field usage, data to support economic "technology shock" analysis (using library collections as a proxy for the dissemination of technology over time and place), and data to support the training of automatic classification algorithms.
OCLC actively works with the library community to raise shared issues, uncover common needs and report on trends that affect us all. We regularly publish in-depth studies and topical surveys that examine these issues and help library leaders plan for the future. All of these reports are freely available online for use by the OCLC membership and the wider library community. Reports include:
- Libraries: A Snapshot of Priorities and Perspectives
- Seeking Synchronicity
- Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community
- Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World (2007)
- Geek the Library: A Community Awareness Campaign
- College Students' Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources (2005)
- How Libraries Stack Up: 2010
- Online Catalogs: What Users and Librarians Want (2009)
- From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America (2008)
OCLC has a long tradition of working with—and leading—standards-making and advising activities in the library field. OCLC staff serve as board members on standards-making bodies, assist on committees, provide educational and systems support, and promote the values and priorities of libraries across the world. OCLC staff have been involved with more than 70 standards-making bodies, performing committee work and advising these organizations on behalf of the library community. These efforts include:
DCMI traces its roots to Chicago at the 2nd International World Wide Web Conference, October 1994, where a hallway conversation led to NCSA and OCLC holding a joint workshop to discuss metadata semantics in Dublin, Ohio. In March 1995, OCLC and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications hosted the first workshop of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. In 2001, Dublin Core was endorsed as an ISO standard. OCLC provided significant material support for DCMI for ten years, and DCMI transitioned to become an independent organization in 2010. OCLC staff continue to actively participate in the work of DCMI.
OCLC Research contributed the original work on RDF to the development of the Semantic Web.
In 1996, OCLC Research released PURL software, a system for managing Internet addresses and aliases, free-of-charge for any use. By 2010, the US GPO (Government Printing Office) was making extensive use of PURLz for government documents.
OCLC provides and maintains the OpenURL framework registry, Registry for the OpenURL Framework—ANSI/NISO Z39.88-2004. The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access. OCLC staff co-chaired the task force, which worked with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Council on Library and Information Resources, and the Joint Information Systems Committee of the United Kingdom to address the issue of economic sustainability for digital preservation and persistent access.
OCLC staff co-chaired the task force, which worked with the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Council on Library and Information Resources, and the Joint Information Systems Committee of the United Kingdom to address the issue of economic sustainability for digital preservation and persistent access.
OCLC was one of the first organizations to endorse the Phase I recommendations of the KBART (Knowledge Bases And Related Tools) Working Group, a joint initiative between NISO and UKSG to explore data problems within the OpenURL supply chain.
In 2001, OCLC Research launched the FAST (Faceted Application of Subject Terminology) project with the Library of Congress to develop a faceted version of the Library of Congress Subject Headings; an ALA advisory group formed shortly thereafter. In 2010 OCLC Research enhanced FAST records with Geographic Coordinates, and the Library of Congress uses the data to enhance LC Name Authority Records.
In 2006, following the merger with RLG, OCLC became the only bibliographic utility supporting NACO, the name authority program component of the PCC contribution. OCLC provides the most heavily used node for NACO member contributions to the Library of Congress Name Authority File (LC/NAF) and as is such is a key provider of critical infrastructure for this international cooperative effort.
Several members of OCLC staff and management have served on the NISO board, where content publishers, libraries and software developers collaborate on mutually accepted standards—solutions that enhance their operations today and form a foundation for the future.
OCLC staff have been deeply involved in the development of this mechanism that standardizes communication between existing computer systems.