Widening access to information
OCLC is a global not-for-profit organisation dedicated to widening access to the world's information and to reducing library costs. It is home to OCLC Research, a centre of expertise focusing on the challenges facing libraries and archives in a rapidly changing information technology environment. OCLC is currently investing in a more prominent role for its research department in Europe.
Shared community research & development
OCLC Research is a great resource for the library and archive community worldwide, with over 50 staff members who have deep understanding of current trends and challenges facing research and cultural heritage institutions. They are experts in metadata standards, data modelling, semantic web technologies, econometrics and cost modelling, user behaviour analysis and digital preservation.
The shared work agenda is informed by the interests of the community. It addresses areas in which OCLC has historic expertise (for example metadata management and mobilising unique materials) and new areas the community tells us are of interest (research information management, user behaviour studies). Work done by OCLC Research often leads to prototypes. These are generally made available at http://experimental.worldcat.org and http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/researchworks.htm. Prototypes serve a number of purposes, from demonstrating the viability of a concept to providing a trial service to validate against sustained use or community expectations. OCLC Research has also produced open-source software.
VIAF, the Virtual International Authority File, is an example of a service being transferred from research to production. The aim of VIAF is to lower the cost and increase the utility of authority files by matching and linking widely-used authority files and making that information available on the Web.
Advanced technology development
OCLC Research is pioneering the use of linked data in the community as well as inside OCLC. This expertise is now being mobilised, as OCLC is exploring an enterprise Linked Data strategy. It has piloted the use of clusters and the Hadoop framework for efficiently processing large amounts of data. Carrying out analytics on large data collections, such as WorldCat, by use of the Hadoop infrastructure, makes it possible to provide rich management information that libraries would never be able to collect on their own.
OCLC Research Library Partnership
OCLC Research staff members are deeply interconnected through personal and formal engagement with the community. This network is enhanced by the OCLC Research Library Partnership, an energetic and influential alliance of research libraries and archives focusing on making operational processes more efficient, shaping new scholarly services and designing library futures, by directly engaging senior managers. Meetings are held to discuss environmental factors that impact the research and cultural heritage sector. Working groups are formed, with professionals from the Partnership, to carry out activities that result in establishing best practices, renovating traditional processes and community change. Cloud-sourcing shared research collections is an example of such a Partnership-sponsored activity. It is a study into the economic, policy and infrastructure requirements for interdependent collection management regimes in the cloud.