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UC/OCLC Pilot Project FAQ

Latest questions are at the bottom of list.

Q: I heard that the UC libraries and OCLC are doing something together.  What’s that about?

A: In discussions about the Bibliographic Services Task Force (BSTF) report in 2006, library experts and faculty affirmed that improvements to our systems are essential. The University Librarians decided to investigate partnership opportunities with OCLC to explore the next generation of the Melvyl union catalog based on a University of California pilot version of  Planning for this potential pilot began in March 2007.

Q: How did we get to this point?

A: The University of California Libraries have relied on resource discovery modules supplied by integrated library systems (i.e., ILS-based OPACs) for many years. These systems have been used successfully at the single library level, the UC-wide level, and the regional level (e.g., INNReach). Over the last few years these modules have lagged behind the functional expectations documented in the BSTF report. ILS vendors such as Innovative Interfaces, Inc. and Ex Libris are now developing products such as Encore and Primo that may provide many of the next generation search and navigation features called for in the report. Ex Libris, for example, actually quotes the BSTF report as evidence of the need for Primo.

Q: So, if effective search and navigation functionality is likely to be delivered by our ILS vendors in the near future, why should UC partner with OCLC? What are the differentiating factors that set OCLC apart from ILS vendors? Why is partnering with OCLC a good strategy?

A: Partnering with OCLC moves discovery beyond the local level to the network level. While limiting the scope of discovery to local catalogs made sense in the analog library in order to meet timely delivery expectations, this technique makes less sense in the digital library environment, where the delivery of information to users depends less on a user’s location than on her credentials.  Partnering with OCLC gives us the opportunity to take discovery out of the single library, UC union, or regional consortium “silo” environments and place it at the international network level, the level known to be where most information searches now begin. This partnership will allow our users to expand discovery beyond the resources available within our own consortium (which are considerable, yet limited on a world-scale) while at the same time giving users the ability to seamlessly scope down to the local level, be it at the single library level, the UC-wide level, or the regional level, when it makes sense.

Q: What are other advantages to collaborating with OCLC?

A: There are many reasons, including:    

1. Size of database
While poor functionality is one reason users by-pass library OPACs, another reason is size.  One of the key reasons Google is able to offer a valued service is due to the size of their database. OCLC can compete in this area, with more than 135 million records that represent more than 1 billion individual items held by participating institutions and growing at an amazing 10 million records per year. It is not hyperbole to say that OCLC is the “Google of Libraries.” More than 40 national catalogs including those of Poland, Australia and New Zealand are now or will soon be part of WorldCat.

2. Non-profit status
By partnering with a non-profit organization with member governance, we are less likely to be subject to a volatile ILS market.

3. Mass-digitization results integration
Partnering with OCLC positions us well to benefit from their mass-digitization registry which aims to keep track of mass-digitization efforts across the globe and provide integrated access to these resources within WorldCat, serving the full-text where possible depending on copyright and user credentials.

4. Leverage investment with peer institutions
Partnering with OCLC gives us the opportunity to leverage our investment with a very large number of potential partners, both in the US and abroad and vastly increase the potential for continuous system improvement.

5. Ongoing research agenda
Our partnership with OCLC is not limited to the creation of a next-generation discovery tool. It will also permit us to influence their research agenda and collaborate on a number of other important initiatives strategic to the UC Libraries. In collaborating with OCLC, we will have the opportunity to work on a discovery tool much larger than the Melvyl catalog on the OCLC network.  We do not want to only replicate what we have in Melvyl, but we want to meet future needs.  This will require ongoing development.

6. Improved cataloging workflow
Partnering with OCLC positions us well to rationalize cataloging workflows throughout the system (many, if not most, of which are based on OCLC services) and consider the adoption of more effective standards and processes. One of the key recommendations of the BSTF report was to re-architect cataloging workflows such that they behave more like a single integrated enterprise for the UC system. Doing even more to use OCLC as the single UC database for bibliographic records could yield efficiencies that might enable our staff to spend more time focusing on our unique collections and “hidden treasures.”

7. Digital assets integration
Partnering with OCLC positions us well to benefit from their proposed integration of the world’s digital assets through the harvesting of repositories and the harmonization of metadata. See

8. Journal article integration
Partnering with OCLC positions us well to benefit from their licensed-content metadata harvesting program ( which aims to harvest, store, and index the metadata (and full-text, where possible) held by library licensed-content vendors. This is the technique used by both Google Scholar and the Scholar’s Portal Project in Ontario. It is a technique which yields far better results than metasearch. For details see

Q: Who is the major audience for this tool?

A: The main audience for this tool is our end users.  Librarians are definitely heavy (and important) users of our catalogs; however, the same tool most likely will not meet the needs of librarians and end users. 

Librarians will continue to use other tools such as their local OPACs, FirstSearch WorldCat and OCLC Connexion for complex reference questions and for cataloging.

Q: Is there a continuing role for ILS-based OPACs?

A: It depends. While might meet both campus and systemwide general resource discovery needs, there may be reasons for campuses to keep their ILS-based OPACs, for staff use or for more specialized purposes. The local OPACs are outside of the scope of this project. The goal of the pilot is to explore a replacement system for Melvyl.

Q:  Do we have an obligation to consult with ILS vendors?

A: While we do not have a legal obligation to consult with our ILS vendors, our long-standing association with these vendors is such that we should, and no doubt will, do so. We certainly have done so in the past. 

Q: What is our Elevator Speechthat well planned, practiced, concise description of the project we give to colleagues, faculty and administrators?

A: The University of California libraries are considering partnering with OCLC to improve access to information for UC students, faculty, and staff by seamlessly integrating discovery of locally held library resources with resources held elsewhere across the international OCLC network.”

Q: Who made the decision to move in this direction?

A: You most likely had opportunities for input if you read the BSTF report, went to meetings about it, and submitted comments. An analysis of the feedback provided is available at
Armed with this input, the University Librarians decided to start discussions with OCLC.

Q:What are the next steps?

A: UC and OCLC have each created Executive and Implementation teams to work on this project. The UC Executive Team includes:

Karen Butter, UCSF (Chair)
Laine Farley, CDL
Terry Ryan (Chair of Implementation Team, below), UCLA
Brian Schottlaender, UCSD
Gary Strong, UCLA

The Implementation Team is composed of individuals who worked on the BSTF report with the addition of resource sharing, public services user experience, communications, and project management expertise. The implementation team members are:

Sara Davidson, UCM, Public Services/User Experience
Luc Declerck, UCSD, previously on BSTF
Amy Kautzman, UCD, previously on BSTF
Patti Martin, CDL, previously on BSTF
Ellen Meltzer, CDL, Communications
John Riemer, UCLA, previously on BSTF
Charlotte Rubens, UCB, Resource Sharing
Terry Ryan, UCLA, previously on BSTF
Joan Starr, CDL, Project Management

The Implementation team is meeting once a week for internal planning, and also meeting weekly with the OCLC Implementation Team. Subsets of the two implementation teams meet informally to plan these joint team meetings.

Q: Why were these particular people included on the UC Implementation team?

A: The Implementation Team is comprised of members of the original BSTF with a few additional members added because of their particular expertise. Sara Davidson brings a public services/user experience perspective; Ellen Meltzer brings communication expertise; Charlotte Rubens brings resource sharing experience; and Joan Starr, project management expertise.

Q: When will there likely be something for UC staff and users to look at?

A: We are still developing the timeline but a pilot should be available in early 2008.

Q: What will it be based on?

A: A new OCLC service called WorldCat Local can present WorldCat content branded to the University of California. Search and results display will give preference to UC holdings based on the presence of institutional holding symbols on the librarys bibliographic records. By leveraging, the new service allows users of the service to easily access the wider WorldCat holdings as well.

Q: How will the pilot be evaluated?

A: There will be an evaluation of the pilot project to determine whether to proceed beyond the pilot stage. We are still developing the evaluation criteria and evaluation process, but some of the functions of the pilot to be assessed include:

  • Enhanced discovery services
  • Access to all of the current OCLC records from all 10 campuses
  • Operability with UC-eLinks and Request
  • The ability to retrieve and display records with local locations, holdings, and status information drawn from local ILS systems
  • The ability to load, access and display sample non-traditional records such as on-order, brief and vendor records
  • The process for merging of records

Usability tests will be conducted with end users on the pilot service when it is ready for testing.

Following these evaluations, it will then be determined if the pilot has the potential to succeed as a discovery tool as expressed in the BSTF report. The University Librarians will consider the assessment data and the success of the OCLC partnership to determine whether to proceed beyond the pilot stage.

Q: What would a successful pilot take the place of, among the bibliographic services we currently offer?

A: The goal of this pilot is to explore a replacement for Melvyl. A successful pilot could be followed by a number of other choices for us, as OCLC adds features to the service and as we examine our other systems in light of those capabilities. OCLC development will be ongoing throughout 2007, both before and during the UC pilot.

Q: What will happen to the Melvyl Catalog during this process?

A: The Melvyl catalog will be maintained as usual throughout this exploratory and pilot program with OCLC.

Q: How will the pilot impact my local Integrated Library System (ILS)?

A: The pilot will be linked to the local ILS for circulation status, locations, and other dynamic information.

Q: What about the records that are not in OCLC?

A: This is a key issue to be addressed in the planning. Preliminary discussions with OCLC have covered possible strategies for record loading and adding missing records, including brief records, on order records, and vendor records, but no definitive plans have been decided.

Q: Will I be able to provide input along the way?

A: We need to develop a new nimble planning and communication process within UC to support this effort. Many experts in the Library system will be tapped to help with specific plans, with a rapid turn around. Though we will not be using the lengthy consultation process with all library staff that is traditional in UC, we intend to make the process as transparent as possible and to give all staff the chance to comment as we proceed. We also expect a more iterative release process than has been traditional.

Q: I read that the University of Washington Libraries released the first public beta version of its WorldCat Local catalog
< >.  Will the WorldCat Local Pilot UC is releasing later this year look and function substantially like the UW WorldCat Local demo just released?

A: The UC/OCLC Pilot will indeed be based on OCLC’s WorldCat Local project. Staff can consider the UW release as a “preview” of our pilot. Exactly how much our pilot will look and act like the UW pilot is hard to answer at this stage in our discussions with OCLC, but there will definitely be a lot of similarity. Our pilot will benefit from any improvements emerging from the first 3-4 months of the UW project.

The aspect of the new catalog that is probably most unlike our current catalogs is that UC records will be displayed in the larger context of all WorldCat records. UC records will be shown first, with other WorldCat worldwide records displaying after UC's. The union catalog aspect of  UC’s pilot, with ten university campus library collections, makes it particularly complex.

For more information about the University of Washington’s pilot, see

Q: What does OCLC have to say about WorldCat Local?

A: See OCLC’s FAQ to find what OCLC has to say about WCL.

Additional details will be revealed as the project unfolds.

Last updated: August 08, 2014