Innovation Lab

Bridging the gap between Research and Development

The Innovation Lab is a technology-based incubator that infuses innovation into all aspects of the OCLC cooperative to help it become more agile and responsive to library needs. Our efforts include investigating ideas and developing systems to assure that libraries are well-equipped to extend the value of library services into the digital, networked environment. We do this by generating new services, testing existing services in new markets, and exploring new ways to deliver existing services to the OCLC cooperative.

Within OCLC Research and throughout the OCLC enterprise, the Innovation Lab provides an important source of expertise, development and consultation. We're essentially the "&" in "R&D"—we bridge the gap between Research and product groups and facilitate discussion across the enterprise to help jump-start shared initiatives and align technology and service options. We also provide advanced development and technical support that speeds the adoption of new ideas, new methods and new policies.

Beyond OCLC, the Innovation Lab provides opportunities for libraries and library developer communities to work directly with OCLC developers and OCLC data and services to collaborate to advance ideas for new services, service improvements or technology adoption.

Areas of focus

  • Analytics: Making library data work harder by understanding its usage and influence on purchasing workflows and the movement from print to electronic.

  • Mobile technology: Accelerating our mobile deployment, plus testing new mobile gadgets as they are introduced. We want to put libraries in all of the places users may be.

  • Data Innovations: Investigating policy and methods for speeding the path of data innovation in WorldCat and related data sets. As the cooperative needs move beyond simple record supply, the community must explore new ways to involve end users and domain experts, and include rapid integration of research work into a widely available platform.

Many of our experiments are "blue sky" ideas that embrace new and emerging technologies in order to discover ways to better enable data sharing, cooperative services and community growth within the profession. Others may influence existing OCLC products and services or even evolve into more formal services themselves. Or they may simply provide a fertile ground for learning. You can find several examples of these experiments at OCLC Experimental and more details below.

Current projects

  • OCLC Website for Small Libraries—Started in January 2011, WSSL was a complete self-serve library automation solution in the cloud for small libraries, including circulation, cataloging, online patron access catalog (OPAC), and library website. (This project is no longer available.)

  • Data Loading—Through the WSSL product we have developed some innovative data loading strategies using unconventional methods for field detection, matching and merging. Departing from dependence on high quality metadata input, these methods are being tested on a broad range of inputs. These methods have been undocked from the WSSL service and are being used within large community data projects.  

  • Linked Data—Continuing from completed projects below, we continue to look for innovative ways to deploy and consume linked data technologies.

  • WorldCat Live! API—The WorldCat Live! API provided an easy-to-consume real-time feed of newly added items to the WorldCat global catalog of library collections and published materials. The API allowed you to select between RSS, Atom Pub, JSON, and lightweight XML formats and filter on author, title, type, and other attributes of the newly added records. (This project is no longer active.)

Completed projects

  • Linked Data Subsets—We released a downloadable linked data file for the 1 million most widely held works in WorldCat on 14 August 2012. Read the news release to learn more.

  • Linked Data Markup in—We took the first step toward adding linked data to WorldCat by appending descriptive mark-up to pages in June 2012. now offers the largest set of linked bibliographic data on the web. With the addition of mark-up to all book, journal and other bibliographic resources in, the entire publicly available version of WorldCat is now available for use by intelligent Web crawlers like Google and Bing that can make use of this metadata in search indexes and other applications. Read the news release to learn more.

  • Article Exchange—We developed this document-sharing site that provides a single, secure location where lending libraries can place—and library users can retrieve—articles, book chapters and other electronic-format materials obtained via interlibrary loan. Article Exchange adds convenience, security and enhanced copyright compliance to online ILL sharing. It moved to full production in January 2012. Try it out here.

  • Ask4Stuff—Ask4Stuff was a Twitter-based service that gave people the ability to tweet a request for information on a particular subject to the service using the #Ask4Stuff hashtag. The service would then return a link to a set of resources based on a search of that subject. Later, we added a more complex multistep analysis of the request matching to various classification and ranking schemes. Ask4Stuff was an experiment in developing a more "social search." It was successful in developing some new search algorithms and infrastructure but proved less successful in consumer demand. Because of this, Ask4Stuff was discontinued in March 2012.

  • Worldcat Mobile—In 2010 we developed a mobile strategy and fast experimental implementations for mobile use in OCLC services through a series of experiments with iOS specific apps, iPad geo-location based apps, and pre- and post-html5 based technologies. This work leveraged existing research work and current product development. Try out one version here.