Muccino told me that this was thought through long and hard by OCLC, and that relational database management systems have advanced dramatically in the past decade. It was clear to OCLC that it was time to make a switch, since they wanted to move WorldCat to a relational database with "access [to] abstracts, full text, images and sound files as well as bibliographic and location information." [Jay Jordan, OCLC Newsletter, July/August 2001, p. 3]. Mr. Muccino stated that the text handling capability was the most important factor, and that Oracle excelled at this. This change will enable OCLC to reduce operating costs as well. Right now, there are four images of WorldCat maintained by OCLC (four copies each of 48,000,000 bibliographic records alone–try doing the math!). This will enable them to reduce that number while consolidating systems used for the different services. Also the new system will support UNICODE and IFLA standards, which will make it possible for OCLC to store records for all written languages in the vernacular. This means that, for example, a record in Russian will be stored in Cyrillic rather than having to be romanized.
My conversation with Don Muccino was an excellent opportunity to discuss OCLC services with the OCLC administration. In my column for the September issue of Technical Services Law Librarian, I said that we need to articulate our views as technical services users to OCLC. Mr. Muccino gave me that opportunity, and I am very thankful to him for his willingness to chat with me.
OCLC President's Luncheon - American Library Association Conference
In my discussion of the decision to adopt Oracle, I referred to Jay Jordan's announcement at the President's luncheon at the ALA conference in June. I viewed the videotape of this luncheon–OCLC has copies available through ILL. There were a number of significant points made during the presentation, and it had an interesting visual demonstration of what we will be seeing from OCLC in the near future. It was gratifying to hear William Crowe, chairman of the OCLC Board of Trustees, acknowledge the work catalogers have done to build the WorldCat database "keystroke by keystroke." This was one of the criticisms I had of the Users (now Members) Council meeting I attended last May–I felt that our work was not acknowledged and in fact was disparaged by different individuals. So it was gratifying to hear the chairman of the Board of Trustees recognize our contribution. Bill Crowe also discussed other issues the board has faced, including the new strategy and governance. He stated that OCLC will remain non-profit ("a .org, and not a .com"), and that OCLC will become more welcoming to all libraries worldwide. He reiterated OCLC's mission as furthering access to the world's information and reducing library costs.
After Bill Crowe spoke, Larry Alford took the podium as the outgoing president of the Users Council. He reported on the changes to the OCLC charter approved by the Users Council, and other activities of the Council. After Larry Alford, Jay Jordan was introduced with the theme music to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. He spoke about the highlights of the past year, including cataloging, CatExpress, CORC, interlibrary loan, and First Search. He then looked to the future, stating that in cataloging, there will be new automated tools available to capture data earlier and better. In three years, he said that WorldCat will contain links to digital objects in addition to bibliographic holdings. There were frequent demonstrations on a screen of what was envisioned. He also stated that there would be more cooperation between reference and resource sharing through portals and other methods, interweaving libraries and the web. There will also be digital collection management and preservation services. Close to the end of his talk, he announced the end of the proprietary software and the new database management system being purchased from Oracle.
The tape of the luncheon lasts less than one hour. If you are interested, I would recommend borrowing the tape from OCLC.
Interlibrary Loan Web Interface
OCLC has introduced a new web interface for the current ILL service. OCLC states that it "is designed to reduce training time for new and student staff and provide a resource for infrequent users." There are enhanced features of the new interface not available on the traditional system. However, there are certain functions that do not work on the new interface, including the referral function and editing Name Address Directory records.
New Interface for Cataloging and Metadata Services
OCLC's projected time line for conversion to the new Cataloging and Metadata interface has not changed since my last column. OCLC's website is the place to go for the most up-to-date information about the conversion: www.oclc.org/services/collections. The first major release of the new interface is scheduled to occur in July, 2002.
One thing that has struck me this autumn is that in spite of OCLC's enormous size and leadership in library automation, it really does view its mission as one of service to its members. According to OCLC's 1999/2000 annual report, on June 30, 2000, OCLC had $236.8 million in assets and a corporate equity of $125.9 million. Having seen the headquarters in Dublin, Ohio, I can testify to the fact that OCLC is a big organization. And yet, the chief operating officer took the time to talk to me about the change in the database management software. I think that we are fortunate to have a partner who is responsive to our questions and concerns. Now if we could just get a few technical services people on the Members Council...