What’s newat OCLC Research

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.

Collective Collection

New resource sharing tools and best practices

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.

Interlibrary Loan Best Practices

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.

Illustration: Resource sharing

OCLC Interlibrary Loan (ILL) Cost Calculator

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.

Impact to libraries

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.

Collective Collection

Operationalizing the art research collective collection

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:

Illustration: Sustaining Art Research Collections report covers

Our Project Partners

Impact to libraries

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.

Data Science

Advancing next generation metadata

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:

  • Transitioning to the Next Generation of Metadata: Traces how metadata is evolving and considers the impact this transition may have on library services.
  • Transforming Metadata into Linked Data: Shares project findings where OCLC and five partner institutions investigated methods for—and the feasibility of—transforming metadata into linked data to improve the discoverability and management of digitized cultural materials using CONTENTdm.
  • Reimagine Descriptive Workflows: Contextualizes the challenges facing the library and information field in inclusive and reparative metadata work and offers a framework of guidance that can help frame institutions’ local priorities and areas for change.
Illustration: Metadata reports

Impact to libraries

OCLC Research's engagement with next generation metadata seeks to empower communities by:

  • Consulting with leaders across libraries, archives, and museums to identify and track shifting attitudes about next generation metadata
  • Increasing awareness of next generation metadata services, standards, and practices
  • Articulating actionable insights about members’ next generation metadata challenges and opportunities
  • Providing innovative exploratory and pilot projects that demonstrate the value of next generation metadata
  • Sharing how colleagues are successfully adapting their people, processes, and platforms to new realities

Libaries as Community Catalysts

Self-paced courses for archive, library, and museum staff

Archive, library, and museum staff face similar challenges when it comes to responding to a crisis, de-escalating conflict, and addressing burnout. Four new on-demand courses provide staff in cultural heritage institutions with information and tools to learn about how to prepare for and handle these situations. 

These courses respond to training needs and increased demands identified by the field, including pressures from a fast-changing environment, potential and experienced conflict, constraints to resources, and challenges in the workplace such as burnout. Each course includes perspectives and real-life approaches from people who have actively worked through similar challenges.

Illustration: Public Health Crisis Management Playbook

Impact to libraries

The REALM project was created to help archives, libraries, and museums respond to the COVID-19 global pandemic. In the wake of that health crisis, cultural institution staff have surfaced new challenges, including burnout and trauma, pressures from a fast-changing environment, potential and experienced conflict, and constraints to resources. These courses build on the REALM project resources to meet these evolving needs and offer support and strategies for everyone, including frontline staff, management, and leadership.

Libaries as Community Catalysts

Toward anti-racist descriptive practice

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 WorkflowsThis 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:

  • A guiding framework for making necessary, fundamental shifts both in organizational culture and individual mindset to enact transformative and sustainable change in the descriptive process.
  • Recommendations for operational changes that organizations can make to reimagine descriptive practices in their local and global contexts.
Illustration: Reimaging descriptive workflows

Our Project Partners

Impact to libraries

Reimagine Descriptive Workflows takes action against harmful metadata by formulating a community agenda that aims to:

  • Repair descriptive systems that do not fully reflect the communities that institutions serve
  • Align and connect disparate initiatives to optimize their impact
  • Improve the usefulness of library and archive systems for users
  • Identify priority areas and offer guidance to individuals and institutions committed to reparative and inclusive description work

Libaries as Community Catalysts

New resource launches to help public libraries respond to the opioid crisis

The opioid crisis has inflicted a devastating toll on the United States, overwhelming communities with a deadly combination of addiction, overdose deaths, and socioeconomic strain. As community anchor institutions, public libraries are leveraging their assets in response to the opioid crisis that has gripped the country. To aid staff at public libraries in determining how their library can address opioid use disorder in their community, WebJunction has developed a new tool, “Opioid Crisis Support Kit for Public Libraries.” This resource will help strengthen libraries—and, more broadly, the communities they serve—as the nation continues to struggle with the opioid crisis.

About the support kit

  • It was tested by staff in 15 public libraries and enhanced with their feedback.
  • Includes pragmatic strategies, tools, and resources for library staff.
  • Helps libraries assess their strengths and capacity, identify key partners, and plan and implement programming and services that support local needs.
close-up image of a woman surrounded by a few other people, listening intently

Impact to libraries

The opioid crisis in the United States has significantly impacted libraries, their staff, and resources. This Support Kit builds on previous work aimed at helping libraries respond to opioid use disorder in their local communities. These resources will help libraries assess their staff strengths and capacity, identify key local partners with whom to collaborate or coordinate, and plan and implement an initiative that contributes to addressing the opioid crisis. 

Libaries as Community Catalysts

Meeting the challenges of digital stewardship

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.

Illustration: Digital stewardship life cycle

Impact to libraries

The Digital Collections Stewardship courses offer libraries:

  • Culturally sustainable approaches focused on community values, histories, and needs
  • Content designed to meet unique institutional needs of staff at TALMs and small public libraries
  • Free and openly accessible training through WebJunction and on WSU's Sustainable Heritage Network
  • Support for the work of increased and appropriate access to digital heritage collections

Research Collections & Support

Describing research information management in the United States

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.

Illustration: Research information management reports

Impact to libraries

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.

User Research

Building a US archival finding aid network

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:

  • Summary of Research—Synthesizes findings from across all research activities on the NAFAN project
  • Pop-up Survey—Summarizes results from a national survey of online archive users on their search behavior, information needs, and demographic characteristics
  • User Interviews—Details findings from interviews with archival aggregation end users on their information needs and information-seeking behavior
  • Focus Group Interviews—Shares outcomes from discussions with archivists about their needs for describing collections and contributing description to an archival aggregation
  • EAD Analysis—Analyzes EAD data as raw material for building a finding aid aggregation by looking for common data structures present and identifying gaps that could impede user discovery
Illustration: National finding aid

Impact to libraries

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

Making strategic sourcing decisions requires managing trade-offs

Libraries have a rich history of working together to meet mutual needs. Current advances in digital and network technologies have amplified the benefits and lowered the costs of cross-institutional collaboration, making it an inviting choice for academic libraries seeking to acquire new services, expertise, and infrastructure. As interest in library collaboration grows, it becomes more important for academic libraries to be purposeful and strategic in their use of this sourcing option.

These two thematically linked reports explore library collaboration from both theoretical and practical perspectives, and   will be of special interest to senior academic library leadership, library consortia/group leadership, and academic library staff responsible for managing collaborative relationships.

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.

Building Research Data Management Capacity: Case Studies in Strategic Library Collaboration provides actionable recommendations based on real-world case studies that libraries can apply to make their own collaborations successful and sustainable. The report shares experiences from the Texas Data Repository, Portage Network, and Data Curation Network to illuminate the challenges, opportunities, and considerations of building RDM service capacity through collaboration.

Cover for Building Research Data Management Capacity: Case Studies in Strategic Library Collaboration

Impact to libraries

The fast-paced, relentlessly dynamic environment faced by libraries presents both challenges and opportunities as libraries consider how to approach sourcing strategies. This set of reports offers a strategic framework for collaboration, plus practical resources, insights, and recommendations based on real-world case studies. The strategies and resources outlined in the reports can support academic libraries in making strategic decisions about collaboration. The framework can also help communicate decisions to staff and other stakeholders, improving transparency around sourcing decision-making and strengthening buy-in from those impacted by the outcomes..

Library collaboration

Libraries and open ecosystems

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:

Illustration: Global Council Area of Focus 2022, Libraries and Open Ecosystems

Impact to libraries

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.

Library collaboration

New Model Library: Pandemic Effects and Library Directions

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:

  • Agility—Taking quick and innovative action in response to changing circumstances and expectations
  • Collaboration—Working with stakeholders to lead change within libraries, institutions, and communities
  • Virtualization—Expanding online library experiences for staff and the community
  • Space—Finding new ways to engage within the physical library
Illustration: New Model Library report

This collective view provides context and guidance as library leaders and their staff navigate their own transformations toward a New Model Library.

More from this project

  • Watch a recording of OCLC researchers presenting summaries of the interview findings from this briefing at the 2022 IFLA Congress.
  • Read “In between virtual and physical spaces in Spain,” a blog post reflecting on virtual, in-person, and hybrid library spaces after a trip to the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes in Spain.

Impact to libraries

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.

Learn more and stay connected

Explore additional work from OCLC Research

Illustration: OCLC Research website

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

Illustration: Hanging Together blog

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.