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Virtual International Authority File service transitions to OCLC; contributing institutions continue to shape direction through VIAF Council

DUBLIN, Ohio, USA, 4 April 2012—VIAF (Virtual International Authority File), a project that virtually combines multiple name authority files into a single name authority service, has transitioned to become an OCLC service. OCLC will continue to make VIAF openly accessible and will also work to incorporate VIAF into various OCLC services.

This transition from an interim, shared-governance arrangement to OCLC having primary responsibility for maintenance of VIAF and offering it as an OCLC service is done in agreement with institutions participating in VIAF. The change has been made to assure that VIAF will be well-positioned to scale efficiently as a long-term, cooperative activity. The transition also assures that http://viaf.org will continue to have appropriate infrastructure to respond to rising levels of traffic as VIAF gains momentum and popularity as a resource for library authority work and linked data activities.

The institutions contributing to VIAF will continue to help shape VIAF’s direction through participation in a newly-formed VIAF Council which will provide guidance on policies, practices and operation of VIAF. At present, 22 agencies from 19 countries have contributed data to VIAF. Data is contributed on a non-exclusive basis.

Concurrent with the change in governance structure, OCLC has begun transitioning operational responsibility for VIAF from OCLC Research to OCLC’s production areas. VIAF will continue to be made available through http://viaf.org.

"The Library of Congress is pleased to be part of this international service," said Beacher Wiggins, Director for Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access, Library of Congress. "VIAF has already proven itself as a trusted source of authoritative data for the library community. We expect to see its importance to other communities grow in the coming years."

"VIAF is strongly used by German libraries and its authority records are often integrated in the cataloging workflow," according to Dr. Elisabeth Niggemann, Director General, German National Library. "The Library is most grateful that OCLC will continue to operate VIAF on the basis of a new agreement and looks forward to an even closer cooperation with OCLC and the other VIAF contributors."

"Matching national authority files for persons and corporate bodies enables their mutual consolidation at the international level," commented Bruno Racine, President, National Library of France. "VIAF allows the exposure on the Web of highly trusted data, demonstrating the value of authority work done for so many years by national libraries and bibliographic agencies. The new Agreement confirms the free re-use of VIAF data, including the commercial re-use of data according to the ODC-By license. We expect that this broader opening of access to VIAF will encourage multilingualism and the creation of new services beyond the library world, including for data mining, intellectual property rights management, etc."

"The VIAF project is an excellent example of how the OCLC cooperative can connect major research institutions worldwide in new and exciting ways," said Jay Jordan, OCLC President and CEO. "This collaborative effort will continue to benefit libraries and other institutions for many years to come."

A brief history of the organization of VIAF:

  • In April 1998, the United States Library of Congress (LC), the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, or DNB) and OCLC embarked on a proof-of-concept project to test linking each other’s authority records for personal names.
  • The VIAF Consortium was formed by written agreement of LC, DNB and OCLC signed on 6 August 2003, during the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conference in Berlin, Germany.
  • The National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France, or BnF) joined the consortium with an agreement effective 5 October 2007.
  • These four organizations—LC, DNB, BnF, and OCLC—assumed the role of Principals in the consortium, having joint responsibility for VIAF with OCLC hosting VIAF and supplying the software, and the participating institutions supplying the authority and bibliographic data content. Additional organizations later joined the consortium as Contributors, providing source files and expertise to advance the state of VIAF.
  • With the successful proof of concept of VIAF, discussions begin in earnest among the Principals in 2010 about a suitable long-term organizational arrangement for VIAF. After considering various options, the Principals and Contributors agreed to transition VIAF to an OCLC service. During 2011 details of the transition were discussed and agreed to.

About OCLC

Founded in 1967, OCLC is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs. More than 72,000 libraries in over 170 countries have used OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend, preserve and manage library materials. Researchers, students, faculty, scholars, professional librarians and other information seekers use OCLC services to obtain bibliographic, abstract and full-text information when and where they need it. OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the world’s largest online database for discovery of library resources. Search WorldCat on the Web at www.worldcat.org. For more information, visit www.oclc.org

OCLC, WorldCat and WorldCat.org are trademarks/service marks of OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Third-party product, service and business names are trademarks/service marks of their respective owners.


  • Bob Murphy

    Bob Murphy

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