OCLC Research exists to produce knowledge, evidence, and models that can accelerate and expand library learning, innovation, and collaboration. Find the latest research, projects, and resources here.
No single library can hold every item its users may need, so resource sharing networks are essential to expanding access to materials. OCLC Research’s SHARES working group has developed several free tools to help support best practices in resource sharing.
The proposed Principles and Protocols for Sharing Special Collections through Interlibrary Loan aims to support lending policies that promote access, enrich research, and foster a collaborative environment between lending partner libraries. These resource sharing tools were developed by member institutions of SHARES, an international resource sharing consortium within the OCLC Research Library Partnership program that collaborates to share knowledge, expertise, and ideas as well as materials.
If library administrators and funders are to evaluate collection sharing services properly, they need access to current cost information, as well as benchmarks against which to measure their own library’s data. Launched in February 2021, the OCLC Interlibrary Loan Cost Calculator is a free, online tool that has the potential to act as a virtual real-time ILL cost study. Inspired by the outcomes of a SHARES working group and beta tested by SHARES members, the calculator already has more than 90 academic and public libraries registered globally and over 15 data sets uploaded. A recorded webinar gives a guided tour of what the tool does and how institutions and the library community can benefit.
The SHARES Principles and Protocols for Sharing Special Collections through Interlibrary Loan seeks to establish common expectations among resource sharing libraries while also allowing flexibility and customization within local workflows. The OCLC ILL Cost Calculator is a free online tool to help libraries better understand the costs of sharing collections by enabling them to track relevant data at their institution and compare across peer institutions.
The Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection project investigated challenges faced by art research collections by exploring opportunities for collaboration between art, academic, and independent research libraries. The project was designed to identify new possibilities for collaboration and partnership models that support sustainable, ongoing availability of rich collections of art libraries to researchers, wherever they may be.
The project outcomes are shared in two reports:
Understanding the opportunities, challenges, and potential strategies for cooperation between art, academic, and independent research libraries helped illuminate new collaborative models to support the continued availability of the art research collective collection. Operationalizing the Art Research Collective Collection helped art libraries identify opportunities for beneficial partnerships around their collections, build effective collaborative structures to support these partnerships, and navigate the practical challenges involved in making collaborations sustainable.
Library metadata is changing. Innovations across the metadata landscape are generating opportunities for librarians to evolve how resource descriptions are created to help users discover what they need. The future of linked data is tied to the future of metadata: the metadata that libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage institutions create will provide the context for future linked data innovations.
Transitioning to the next generation of metadata presents the community with challenges to understand evolving services, platforms, and standards. Staff are also called to provide metadata for new forms of resources using efficient and effective workflows.
OCLC Research provides the critical insights about how the metadata landscape is changing through member-driven reports, pilot projects, and community-led discussions, including:
OCLC Research's engagement with next generation metadata seeks to empower communities by:
Libaries as Community Catalysts
Archives, libraries, and museums can get started on their institution’s public health crisis management plan using the Public Health Crisis Management Playbook for Archives, Libraries, and Museums. This free resource, produced by the REopening Libraries, Archives, and Museums (REALM) project, includes a set of guiding processes and tools to help cultural heritage institutions plan for, navigate through, and recover from a significant public health emergency.
The Public Health Crisis Management Playbook is available online and as a downloadable PDF document and covers the following topics:
The REALM project distributed science-based information to libraries, archives, and museums on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, prevention and decontamination tactics, and COVID-19 vaccines. OCLC partnered with The Institute of Museum and Library Services and Battelle to produce resources and research that supported operational decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic for libraries, archives, and museums.
Many institutions were caught off-guard by the scale of the public health crisis of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Public Health Crisis Management Playbook takes what the REALM project and other organizations have learned from this pandemic to develop a practical tool to help archives, libraries, and museums create or update their public health crisis management plan. Throughout the pandemic, REALM produced toolkit resources, sharing perspectives from peers in the field, and synthesizing science-based information specifically relevant to libraries, archives, and museums to help support institutions as we all continue to respond to an ever-shifting pandemic landscape.
Libaries as Community Catalysts
Description, subject analysis, classification, authority control, and cataloging practices are part of a powerful naming and labeling process in bibliographic and archival description. Collections’ metadata include outdated and racist terminology that cause harm and contributes to experiences, memories, and achievements of communities being mischaracterized or overlooked.
To identify and address the root causes of harmful practices, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and OCLC co-invested in a year-long effort Reimagine Descriptive Workflows. This project brought together a diverse group of experts, practitioners, and community members to determine ways to improve descriptive practices, tools, infrastructure, and workflows in libraries and archives.
Working in consultation with Shift Collective, OCLC hosted a conversation among community stakeholders who discussed how to address the systemic issues of bias and inequity within our current collection description infrastructure. The input from the convening, shaped by substantive input from advisory group leaders was published in the report Reimagine Descriptive Workflows: A Community-informed Agenda for Reparative and Inclusive Descriptive Practice that provides two action pathways:
Reimagine Descriptive Workflows takes action against harmful metadata by formulating a community agenda that aims to:
Libaries as Community Catalysts
Too many Americans fall into a wide and deep "justice gap," where the system fails to meet their civil legal needs. Common barriers include lack of trust in the legal system, the intimidating complexity of civil law, the high cost of attorneys, and the emotional intensity of personal crisis related to the legal issues. As a trusted community institution, public libraries are well positioned to help patrons with civil legal questions by providing an approachable access point to guide them to the help they need.
Improving Access to Civil Legal Justice Through Public Libraries provides training and resources to library staff to help close the justice gap in their communities by enhancing their reference skills to connect people in need of civil legal help to reliable information, resources, and services. Through OCLC’s partnership with Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and in consultation with law librarians, OCLC’s WebJunction developed:
Key resources from Improving Access to Civil Legal Justice through Public Libraries to help library staff respond to civil legal questions:
Libaries as Community Catalysts
OCLC's WebJunction partnered with Washington State University’s (WSU) Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation to create a series of free online digital stewardship courses to meet the needs of staff at small tribal and public libraries, archives, and museums.
Creating, managing, preserving, and sharing digital collections can be daunting for staff at small and rural cultural institutions. This undertaking is resource-intensive, requiring technology, significant staff time, new skills, and an ongoing commitment to maintain them. Understanding the full lifecycle of digital stewardship is critical to successful digital collections, but these institutions often face barriers in accessing adequate training and resources.
The courses guide learners through the lifecycle of digital stewardship, while creating an action plan for their library to accomplish the entire range of tasks and activities necessary to successfully create and share digital collections. The full seven-course series is now available.
The Digital Collections Stewardship courses offer libraries:
Research Collections & Support
Research information management (RIM) is a rapidly growing area of investment in US research universities. While RIM practices are mature in Europe—with a community of practice led by euroCRIS—and other locales in support of nationalized reporting requirements, RIM practices at US research universities have taken a different—and characteristically decentralized—course. A complex environment characterized by multiple use cases, stakeholders, and systems has resulted.
To give context for institutional leaders to examine their local practices, the Research Information Management in the United States project published a two-part report that presents a thorough examination of RIM practices, goals, stakeholders, and system components at US research universities.
Part 1—Findings and Recommendations offers a summary of six discrete RIM use cases and proposes a RIM system framework and recommendations for RIM stakeholders. Part 2—Case Studies offers an in-depth narrative of the RIM practices at five US research institutions.
For up-to-date information, this ongoing series from the OCLC Research blog, Hanging Together, covers Research Information Management in the United States reports.
This project offers recommendations for university leaders and introduces a unified definition and framework of research information management that embraces the disparate and siloed uses prevalent in the US. These elements are necessary to develop a cross-functional, collaborative, and vendor-agnostic community of RIM practice in the US.
With funding from the US Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), OCLC collaborated with project lead California Digital Library, the University of Virginia, and statewide/regional aggregators to build the foundation for a National Archival Finding Aid Network (NAFAN) to improve visibility of and access to archival materials stewarded by cultural institutions in the United States. OCLC lead the qualitative and quantitative research for this two-year research and demonstration project.
OCLC published five reports on its research findings:
Building a National Archival Finding Aid Network (NAFAN) addresses the significant challenges individuals face in locating relevant archival materials across the widespread, complex field of US cultural heritage institutions.
This project aims to provide inclusive and consistent access to finding aids by establishing a foundation for a National Finding Aid Network available to all contributors and researchers. OCLC's research will inform the next steps for the NAFAN project and provides rich information on archival user behavior and needs and the current state of archival description workflows and data.
Library Collaboration as a Strategic Choice: Evaluating Options for Acquiring Capacity explores collaboration as a key sourcing strategy for academic libraries in acquiring needed capacity and contextualizes it as one sourcing approach among a range of options available to libraries.
This OCLC Research report delivers tools and insights to support academic libraries in making strategic decisions about cross-institutional collaboration opportunities to acquire capacity. This report provides:
Library Collaboration as a Strategic Choice will be of special interest to senior academic library leadership, library consortia/group leadership, and academic library staff responsible for managing collaborative relationships.
This is the first of two thematically linked reports. The second report will apply the findings from this report to three case studies of research data management (RDM) capacity acquisition through collaboration. The second report focusing on RDM is forthcoming.
The fast-paced, relentlessly dynamic environment faced by libraries presents both challenges and opportunities as libraries consider how to approach sourcing strategies. Library Collaboration as a Strategic Choice offers practical resources and insights that can support academic libraries in making intentional, strategic decisions about collaboration opportunities to acquire capacity. The frameworks in this report also can help communicate decisions to staff and other stakeholders, improving transparency around sourcing decision-making and strengthening buy-in from those impacted by the outcomes.
Each year, OCLC Global Council selects an area of focus to engage in meaningful conversations with the library community around shared challenges facing libraries around the world. This important work spans not only geographic regions, but all types of libraries, and provides opportunities for professionals at all levels of their career to participate by adding their voice and ideas to the conversation.
The 2022 area of focus offers a four-part recorded webinar series on “Libraries and Open Ecosystems.” In this series, OCLC Global Council and OCLC Research explore the broader impact of the library in its local ecosystem, that is, the library’s symbiotic relationship with the social, educational, informational, and environmental infrastructure of the community where it is located.
On-demand webinars from this series include:
Libraries play an important role in their community ecosystem by providing crucial resources and services. As patron needs grow and change, libraries adapt to meet those needs. While much of this work happens at a local level, when libraries work together, they can achieve global impact. This webinar series brings together OCLC Global Council leaders from around the world to explore how libraries can and do contribute to open ecosystems, bringing impactful change to their communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic impacted libraries of all types around the world, requiring library leaders to strategically adapt to rapidly shifting community and institutional needs.
OCLC Research produced New Model Library: Pandemic Effects and Library Directions, a briefing based on interviews with 29 academic and public library leaders from 11 countries that captured their experiences during the pandemic and their emerging vision for the future of their libraries. We describe these transformations—how leaders strategically adapted to meet evolving needs and expectations—as movements toward a New Model Library.
This high-level briefing synthesizes findings and recommendations within the context of work experiences, collections experiences, and engagement experiences. And within each of these contexts, it identifies New Model Library transformations occurring through four areas of impact:
This collective view provides context and guidance as library leaders and their staff navigate their own transformations toward a New Model Library.
The New Model Library findings point to common ground that library leaders and staff can navigate with peers and their community to identify new ideas and directions for their institution. The ideas shared by library leaders in this project can be used as topics for discussion when imagining a new model library and planning for what comes next.
Explore additional work from OCLC Research
OCLC Research accelerates and scales learning, innovation, and collaboration to advance work in libraries, archives, and museums. Explore more of our areas of research here.
Follow our work in progress on Hanging Together
Hanging Together is the blog of OCLC Research, where we share more about our initiatives, what we're learning along the way, and the intersections we see between our areas of research.