OCLC Research Quarterly Highlights
Issue 11: Second Quarter: October-December 2013
OCLC 754109685: ISSN 2163-8675

Interrogating the collective collection

A message from Lorcan Dempsey

Lorcan Dempsey

The realities of managing a print collection have been central to the design of library buildings and to library organization. In recent years we have seen a change. Library buildings are being designed around user experiences rather than around collections, and services have peeled away from collections. For many, the opportunity costs of managing large print collections are becoming apparent. At the same time, the importance of digital and licensed collections of various sorts has increased.

Of course, print books remain central to research, learning and personal development. But the way in which we manage them may change. And indeed, we are seeing print collections become the subject of shared attention as system-wide approaches emerge. Libraries are beginning to evolve arrangements that will facilitate long-term shared management of the print literature as individual libraries begin to manage down their local capacity. In this way, a collective responsibility can be exercised while more effectively sharing the task. This will be a complicated process as shared organizational arrangements develop and as libraries deal with user expectations that change at different rates.

Examples of initiatives here are the WEST Project and the print management activities of the HathiTrust. Initially, attention was focused on journal runs, but it is now spreading to monographs, as well. Of course, libraries have long worked with print repositories, individually or in shared settings. However, a more systemic perspective is now emerging and we have been using the phrase "collective collection" to evoke this more focused attention on collective development, management and disclosure of collections across groups of libraries at different levels.

In a major shift, a shared approach to print management is on the rise, and we anticipate that a large part of existing print collections, distributed across many libraries, will move into coordinated or shared management within a few years. This may involve physical consolidation, or a more distributed approach where individual libraries declare commitments around parts of their collections. In this way, some attention shifts from the institution to supra-institutional structures as the venue for print collection management. Policy, organizational and service arrangements are now emerging around this trend.

This development has been a major interest for OCLC Research. Given the availability of WorldCat and our interest in shared library activity, we have done quite a bit of work on analyzing the collective collection. We have three broad interests . . .

  1. Understanding the characteristics of the collective print collection: how it is distributed across libraries and regions; its composition in terms of age, subject, copyright status and so on; levels of overlap, rarity and distinctiveness.
  2. Supporting policy and service decision-making with good intelligence based on WorldCat and other data resources.
  3. Understanding patterns or trends within the scholarly and cultural record. This is akin to "culturomics" (Michel et al. 2011) or "distant reading" agendas (Moretti 2013), which apply data-mining techniques to large aggregations of digitized text and metadata. It is a relatively new interest, and is an area where we would like to encourage others to use WorldCat as a scholarly resource.

We were pleased to recently publish a report which pulls together much of our work under 1 and 2: Understanding the Collective Collection: Towards a System-wide Perspective on Library Print Collections. The work represented here has been influential in providing an evidence base for policy and service discussions around the collective collection, and we continue to work on this topic. For example, we are completing an analysis of patterns of holdings and inter-library lending in CIC libraries.

We also do work under 3, recognizing the usefulness of Worldcat. Two recent examples here. A small piece of work carried out by Roy Tennant on words in book titles was picked up by The Atlantic and other media outlets. And Brian Lavoie has developed an approach to characterizing the contribution to the scholarly record of a country—charting influential authors, books and patterns of publication. We have published a report on Scotland and have one on New Zealand in preparation.  

We believe that the value of Worldcat to support this type of work grows as it expands to include more library collections around the world. We are always interested in hearing about ways in which we might use this amazing resource to answer new questions.


Michel, Jean-Babtist, Yuan Kui Shen, Aviva Presser Aiden, Adrian Veres, Matthew K. Gray, The Google Books Team, Joseph P. Pickett, Dale Hoiberg, Dan Clancy, Peter Norvig, John Orwant, Steven Pinker, Martin A. Nowak, Erez Lieberman Aiden. 2011. Science. 331 (6014): 176-182. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/176.abstract#aff-10.

Moretti, Franco. 2013. Distant Reading. London: Verso.

Lorcan Dempsey is Vice President, OCLC Research, and Chief Strategist

Share Now

Prototypes and Services

WorldCat Cookbook Finder Cookbook Finder is an experimental, works-based application that provides access to thousands of cookbooks and other works about food and nutrition described in library records.

Kindred Works Kindred Works is an experimental recommender service that helps you discover books, movies and music similar to a sample work of your choice. You can begin using Kindred Works by entering a title or ISBN in the search box or by selecting one of the samples provided.


Lorcan Dempsey
Lorcan Dempsey, Brian Lavoie, Constance Malpas, Lynn Silipigini Connaway, Roger C. Schonfeld, JD Shipengrover, and Günter Waibel.
Understanding the Collective Collection: Towards a System-wide Perspective on Library Print Collections

This report brings together the important work that OCLC Research has done for the community in providing a quantitative, analytic, system-wide view of library collections.


Lynn Silipigni Connaway
Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Donna M. Lanclos and Erin M. Hood
I always stick with the first thing that comes up on Google...'Where People Go for Information, What They Use, and Why

This article in the 6 December issue of EDUCAUSE Review Online describes the framework and findings of the U.S.-U.K. collaborative longitudinal project, Visitors and Residents.


Ricky Erway
Ricky Erway
Starting the Conversation: University-wide Research Data Management Policy

This report is a call for action that summarizes the benefits of systemic data management planning and identifies the stakeholders and their concerns.


Ixchel Faniel
Adam Kriesberg, Rebecca D. Frank, Ixchel M. Faniel and Elizabeth Yakel
The Role of Data Reuse in the Apprenticeship Process

This paper describes how data reuse provides a pathway to internalizing disciplinary norms and methods of inquiry for novice quantitative social scientists, archaeologists and zoologists.


Maximilian Klein
Maximilian Klein and Alex Kyrios
VIAFbot and the Integration of Library Data on Wikipedia

This article in Code4Lib Journal (Issue 22) presents a case study of a project to integrate authority data from the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) with biographical Wikipedia articles.


Merrilee Proffitt
Marc Bron, Merrilee Proffitt and Bruce Washburn
Thresholds for Discovery: EAD Tag Analysis in ArchiveGrid, and Implications for Discovery Systems

This article in Code4Lib Journal (Issue 22) reported results from an OCLC Research analysis of 120,000 Encoded Archival Description (EAD) encoded finding aids and also highlighted issues with current encoding practices that would inhibit access and discovery.


Edward T. O'Neill
Edward T. O'Neill and Julia Gammon
Consortial Book Circulation Patterns: The OCLC-OhioLINK Study

This study provides an interpretation of the book circulation patterns from the OhioLINK consortium and OCLC Research study, the largest, most diverse compilation of academic book usage data ever collected.

A complete list of OCLC Research publications is available online at: http://www.oclc.org/research/publications.html.


New data and visualizations available on MARC Usage in WorldCat site
The MARC Usage in WorldCat website has been updated with October 2013 reports and with two new data visualizations.   More...
OCLC Research launches Scholars' Contributions to VIAF activity
This activity explores the benefits of collaborating with scholars to enrich the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF) with new names from scholarly communities and additional script forms.   More...
James Michalko's advice to libraries on getting involved with MOOCs featured in EDUCAUSE Review Online
In the article, "Libraries in the Time of MOOCs," OCLC Research Library Partnership Vice President James Michalko suggests ways libraries can support the development and delivery of MOOCs and renew their importance to their universities.   More...
Updates to ArchiveGrid index and interface improve user experience
The latest index update increased the number of archival material descriptions in ArchiveGrid to over two million, a new interface provides better mobile access, and collection pages now include more detailed contact information.   More...


Preservation Health Check: Work in Progress presentation now available
OCLC Research Senior Program Officer Titia van der Werf presented this overview of the Preservation Health Check Pilot at the PREMIS Implementation Fair (iPres2013) on 5 September 2013 in Lisbon, Portugal.   More...
Lynn Silipigni Connaway named Vice Chair of ACRL Value of Academic Libraries Initiative
This initiative from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), is charged with helping academic libraries demonstrate their alignment with and impact on institutional outcomes. Lynn has also been elected to the Executive Board of Directors of Beta-Phi-Mu, which is the International Library & Information Studies Honor Society.   More...
Video with Brian Lavoie summarizes methodology for identifying a country's national presence
Watch this video for a brief overview of the methodology for identifying a country’s national presence described in the report, Not Scotch But Rum: The Scope and Diffusion of the Scottish Presence in the Published Record.    More...
A complete list of OCLC Research news items is available online at: http://www.oclc.org/research/news.html.

Events, Webinars and Presentations

Ricky Erway presented at CNI Fall 2013 Membership Meeting
Ricky served on two panels at this meeting in Washington, D.C. on 9 December:  "Accuracy in Web Analytics Reporting on Digital Libraries" and "Institutional Research Data Management: Policies, Planning, Services and Surveys". OCLC Research Library Partnership Vice President Jim Michalko also attended.   More....
Karen Smith-Yoshimura presented "Registering Researchers in Authority Files" at UC Berkeley
Karen presented at a UC Berkeley School Information Access Seminar on 6 December that explored selected advanced topics relating to digital libraries.   More...
OCLC Research hosted "Achieving Thresholds for Discovery: Addressing Issues with EAD to Increase Discovery and Access" webinar
The recent Code4Lib Journal article "Thresholds for Discovery" reported results from an OCLC Research analysis of 120,000 Encoded Archival Description (EAD) encoded finding aids; the article also highlighted issues with current encoding practices that would inhibit access and discovery. This webinar on 5 December was a joint presentation of the OCLC Research and Princeton work, and discussion on steps that institutions can take both individually and collaboratively to improve their own thresholds for discovery.   More...
Lorcan Dempsey presented keynote at NISO virtual conference
Lorcan's slides from this 20 November keynote, "Library Discovery: Past, Present and Some Futures," are available for download or viewing on SlideShare.   More....
Lorcan Dempsey presented keynote at LIANZA Conference 2013
Lorcan presented the keynote “The network reshapes the library” on 22 October at the LIANZA Conference in Hamilton, New Zealand.   More...
Roy Tennant presented online keynote at Library 2.013 Conference
Roy's presentation on 18 October was a look both backwards and forward to describe the place where we currently stand in a broader context of where we have come from and where we are likely to be going.   More...
Lynn Silipigni Connaway and Erin Hood presented at EDUCAUSE Conference
At this 16 October session, OCLC Senior Research Scientist Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., and Research Support Specialist Erin Hood, along with Donna M. Lanclos, Associate Professor for Anthropological Research at UNC Charlotte, presented “Meeting the Needs of Digital Visitors and Residents: Developing Engagement with Institutional Services.” This presentation provided the framework and findings of the U.S.-U.K. collaborative three-year longitudinal Visitors and Residents project to identify how students and faculty engage with technology and information sources. Lynn and Erin also described the framework and findings of this project in the podcast, "The Behavior of Finding Information.   More...
Lynn Silipigni Connaway presented at Collective Insight event
Lynn was one of several presenters at “Getting off the Island: Collaborating to Create Boundless Collections,” a Collective Insight Event by OCLC, SCELC and Loyola Marymount University on 15 October which explored current and future opportunities to share our print and electronic collections at network-scale.   More...
OCLC Research at the ARL Fall Forum 2013
Lorcan Dempsey spoke at the ARL Fall Forum as a panelist during the “Facilitating new Forms of Discovery” session on 11 October. OCLC Research Library Partnership Vice President Jim Michalko and Program Officer Jackie Dooley also attended.   More...
OCLC Research posted "SHARES 101" webinar recording
Watch this webinar recording for an overview of how the international sharing partnership SHARES expands and enhances local collections with materials owned by OCLC Research Library Partners around the world.   More...
A complete list of OCLC Research events is available online at: http://www.oclc.org/research/events.html.

OCLC Researcher Spotlight—Bruce Washburn: Early Adoption and Continued Adaptation   

Bruce Washburn

As a student assistant in a state university library in the late 70’s, I helped install and level the raised floor in the computer room for that library’s first-of-its-kind library circulation system.  I’d like to think that’s part of a pattern . . . that I’ve continued to help build stable platforms for the real work of libraries, while understanding that those platforms sometimes need to be easily dismantled or moved.

My grandfather was an early adopter, working on automobiles and airplanes when they were new.  The technological advances in my lifetime seem, in retrospect, not nearly as profound . . . or at least not as noisy.  But I’ve followed his example, guiding students in the use of their new OPAC in the 80’s, helping RLG build its first website (and among the first 1,000 on earth) in the 90’s, learning “information architecture” on the fly while helping to design other RLG web applications around the turn of the last century, and diving into mobile and social web application development at OCLC.

Not much persists from that work, given the pace of change.  But one thread has continued . . . working on ways to bring the materials held in and described by archives to the surface of the web.  That started in earnest with RLG’s Archival Resources in ’98, and continued as that system morphed into ArchiveGrid, became an OCLC subscription service, and then was released by OCLC Research as a freely available discovery system a couple of years ago.  ArchiveGrid also serves as a Research “sandbox”, being the basis for data analysis and collaborative annotation experiments last year, and providing a place to test new interface frameworks, search and retrieval features, and more.

Another pattern that has persisted for me: the good fortune to work with energetic teams of exceptional people.  The small but mighty ArchiveGrid team is an example.  Working primarily with my colleagues Merrilee Proffitt and Ellen Eckert, we consult with our OCLC Research friends and with the archival community, with a focus on helping to make primary source materials, and the people and institutions that describe and provide them, discoverable and available.

Bruce Washburn is a Consulting Software Engineer in OCLC Research.