Keep libraries relevant!

An OCLC report uncovers the opportunities for librarians, researchers and educators of working at 'webscale'.

Libraries at webscale

Wherever they are in the world, libraries are facing similar issues.   The OCLC report, Libraries at Webscale, reports on the challenges and opportunities highlighted by member libraries and strategic thinkers in 20 countries.  The report also goes on to identify strategic solutions and responses that can help ensure that libraries have a role to play in a digital world.

The web has, of course, changed the way that we network, learn and communicate but has also impacted the way that organisations operate and are structured.  The web helps to deliver the benefits of scale to organisations. 

Webscale organisations bring together communities and help to match supply and demand.  They:

  • Create value based on massive aggregation of data (Google, Amazon)
  • Connect users to create large, engaged communities (Google; eBay)
  • Support the community and data through shared and scalable infrastructure

What key challenges are facing libraries and how can they start operating at webscale?

Ensuring relevance

Libraries are facing increased competition from mainstream alternatives.  At the same time, there is a declining demand for traditional library services while consumers are asking for new products and services.  How can libraries remain relevant in an increasingly digital and webscale world?         


Libraries around the world are reporting budgetary constraints, changes in operating models (including outsourcing) and funding problems.

Meeting users at point of need

For many information searchers, discovery starts outside the library, via search engines or social media sites.  A key issue, allied closely to the issue of relevance, is how can we ensure that libraries are exposed into user workflows?

Unified collections management

What can libraries do to break down resource silos, integrate their digital collections and manage the learning objects currently residing in learning management systems?

Enabling collaboration and innovation

How can libraries achieve economies of scale and accelerate innovation by effective collaboration?

Libraries working at webscale

Operating at webscale will give libraries the opportunity to increase visibility, deliver efficiencies and innovate on a scale that cannot be achieved by individual institutions.  OCLC's overarching strategic response to these issues and opportunities comes in the form of OCLC WorldShare which provides a shared infrastructure, web services, apps and data to help libraries innovate and streamline their activities. 

The report, available free of charge at the OCLC website, also includes essays by, or inspired by, such thought leaders as Seth Godin and Thomas Friedman.  The report goes beyond identifying issues and challenges and goes a long way to describing opportunities and ways forward for libraries in times of increased competition and information glut.

The report was outlined by Robin Murray, Vice President and Global Product Management at OCLC at OCLC's EMEA meeting (February 2012). OCLC is a co-operative, owned and governed by its membership.

Image courtesy of juhansonin via Flickr.