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OCLC WorldShare

The power of cooperation

Recent surveys of OCLC member libraries have revealed that across organization types, geographies and sizes, libraries share very similar concerns about the future. Topping this list is a focus on improving and demonstrating the relevance of libraries in the digital information ecosystem. Members are also concerned with efficiently managing and delivering resources across physical, digital and electronic collections.

To reach these goals, OCLC members have asked for flexible tools that connect library workflows and learning environments. Developed collaboratively with members, the OCLC WorldShare strategy provides a platform and tools that enable more kinds of cooperation. Shared data promotes better discovery and delivery for users. Shared workflows save time and money. And shared innovation lets everyone reap the benefits of libraries’ collective creativity.

The importance of Webscale

By Webscale, we mean something simple: operating at the scale of the Web. Many service providers in recent years—FacebookAmazonExpediaEtsy—have achieved Webscale by concentrating capacity in platforms whose benefits can be broadly shared. These platforms aggregate data and infrastructure. They also build strong communities—networks of participants who communicate, share or trade on the platform.

Individual libraries are naturally “institution scale”—optimized to provide services at the level of the institutions or the communities they serve—the university or college, the city or township, the school or the company. Tailoring services to the needs of institutions and communities has historically meant that libraries have had to manage a significant amount of local infrastructure. As library users increasingly build their expectations around network-level tools, systems need to deliver local services as well as integrate with Web-based services.

Working together at Webscale, libraries, vendors, publishers and communities of users will be able to continually innovate, creating whatever new, customized functionality and capabilities are required. Some of that innovation will be global, affecting the thinking of the profession as a whole. Some will be local, to address specific needs. In both cases, the ability for libraries the world over to share data and activities will enable new ways to address both current and future challenges.

Developed with input from members, the OCLC WorldShare vision supports the idea that, together, libraries can overcome obstacles through cooperation.

WorldShare provides a common strategy encompassing three major elements:

  • A Web-based platform for collective development and innovation
  • Interconnected services for library management and discovery
  • A commitment to large-scale collaboration by, with and for libraries globally.

WorldCat is a remarkable example of successful, Webscale library cooperation. This asset now helps millions of people around the world connect to library resources online. With WorldShare, OCLC members can build on this foundation.

Cooperative innovation, services and applications will leverage shared library data in new and exciting ways.

OCLC WorldShare: Sharing at Webscale

Libraries are built on a foundation of sharing. They are the places where communities bring together important, unique and valuable resources for the benefit of all. OCLC WorldShare extends those values to allow all members to benefit from the shared data, services and applications contributed by each individual institution.

OCLC WorldShare is more than a new set of services and applications. It is the philosophy and strategy that will guide the cooperative in its efforts to help member libraries operate, innovate, connect, collaborate and succeed at Webscale. WorldCat data provides the foundation for WorldShare services. And WorldCat discovery and delivery applications help connect information seekers to library resources.

While the philosophy is broad, it also includes two very real, very specific sets of resources that can help libraries make the move to Webscale today: the OCLC WorldShare Platform and OCLC WorldShare Management Services.

A platform for cooperative innovation

In a learning community, one person’s breakthrough improves everyone’s experience. With the WorldShare Platform, librarians can now build applications to meet specific needs while benefiting from the innovation of the global community. The WorldShare Platform is a global, interconnected Web architecture that supports OCLC’s Webscale services and applications, and provides flexible, open access to library data through APIs and other Web services.

The WorldShare Platform facilitates collaboration and app-sharing across the library community, so that libraries can combine library-built applications, partner-built applications and OCLC-built applications. This enables the benefits of each single solution to be shared broadly throughout the library community.

Applications are loaded and shared through the OCLC WorldShare App Gallery. This provides a central place for viewing and installing apps into work environments. Information is available on the OCLC Developer Network community site for those interested in helping to create and build new apps to share through the gallery.


The WorldShare Amazon App takes information about orders from the WorldShare Acquisitions Web service and combines it with pricing and availibility information from Amazon's Advertising API. Librarians can then see pricing and availability for particular materials and choose to purchase them from Amazon via a cart created on the fly.

Managing your library, not your technology

OCLC WorldShare Management Services enable libraries to share infrastructure costs and resources, as well as collaborate in ways that free them from the restrictions of local hardware and software. WorldShare Management Services bring network effects and dramatic efficiencies to managing print, licensed and digital materials—unified collection management in a library system for the first time. Early adopter WorldShare libraries have reported being able to reduce duplicative efforts by a factor of 5-to-1 in some cases.

WorldShare Management Services bring network effects and dramatic efficiencies to managing print, licensed and digital materials—unified collection management in a library system for the first time.

Early adopter WorldShare libraries have reported being able to reduce duplicative efforts by a factor of 5-to-1 in some cases.

WorldShare Management Services include all of the applications to provide a Web-based cooperative library management service for cataloging, acquisitions, license management and circulation, and provide a next-gen discovery experience for library users:

With WorldShare, libraries can scale services to meet the global, group, local and user-specific needs of information seekers.

Over time, all OCLC services will adopt the WorldShare architecture, beginning with OCLC WorldShare Interlibrary Loan in 2012 and continuing with OCLC WorldShare Metadata Management in the near future.

With WorldShare, libraries can scale services to meet the global, group, local and user-specific needs of information seekers.

All together now

OCLC members have shown that it is possible for thousands of libraries to work together to create something incredible: the largest bibliographic database in history. WorldCat was not built by private software companies, governments or industry groups, but by libraries, working together towards common goals.

It is time to build on this success and create the principles, platform and processes that will encourage and inspire libraries and their supporters to do the same thing again.

Libraries collect the best ideas from all over the world and make them available to patrons, students, scholars and entrepreneurs. They are incubators of education, lifelong learning and success. WorldShare leverages the collective innovation of the community to create new services and value around the assets of libraries.

Libraries at Webscale

Recently, OCLC published the discussion document, Libraries at Webscale. This document explores the impact of the Web on our rapidly changing information landscape, and presents an overview of the opportunities and challenges that operating in a Web-connected world provides for libraries and library users. The essays provide a backdrop for the conversation:

  • Seth Godin believes that the Web requires us to stop focusing on mass communication and instead support individual and community-specific conversations so that we can focus on their goals.
  • Kevin Kelly describes the “universal library,” where we move beyond being “people of the book” to become “people of the screen.”
  • Thomas Friedman explains how the only path to success in our newly flattened world is innovation ... powered by education.
  • Ellen Hazelkorn reflects on the challenges of sustaining education at a time when utility and efficiency are driving funding and rating issues (see YourSpace for the full text of Professor Hazelkorn’s article).
  • James G. Neal points at the forces of innovation, collaboration and deconstruction of library collections.
  • Steven Berlin Johnson identifies innovations that demand new models and platforms for sharing and collaboration ... BIG collaboration.
  • Leslie Crutchfield and her colleagues at FSG outline how social organizations can become real agents of change and social advancement by working together to enact sustained, collective impact.
  • OCLC Global Council Delegates share their views on the challenges and opportunities facing libraries.

The document also contains excerpts from interviews with dozens of library leaders about the future of libraries and key challenges and opportunities they face today and will face in 2016.