|OBS OCLC COMMITTEE|
I hope that all of you who attended the annual meeting in Orlando had an enjoyable time. For me, it was a time of learning and socializing with my colleagues from around the country, and in fact from around the world: I met librarians from Australia, Canada, and the UK.
OCLC Committee Open Discussion – Orlando
The OCLC Committee met for its open discussion on Monday, July 22nd at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Twenty people got up early that morning to join the discussion. Our speaker was Mr. William Caine with the Solinet network out of Atlanta. The discussion centered on the release of Connexion (more on that later). Mr. Caine's talk was titled "Planning for Life after OCLC Passport for Cataloging & CatME, CJK, OCLC Arabic Software..." He discussed why OCLC was changing, the planning that has gone into this change, what future changes and enhancements will take place, and how libraries should plan for making the transition. The discussion was very relevant, since Connexion had just been released three weeks before the meeting. If you are interested in seeing the printout of Mr. Caine's presentation, contact me and I will be glad to send you a copy.
One item that I raised at the meeting was the name of the committee. We have referred to it for the past several years as the OCLC/WLN Committee (due to OCLC's purchase of WLN in 1998). However, according to the OBS bylaws, our official name is the OCLC Committee. WLN does not exist anymore—if you go to the old WLN website, it is now the OCLC Western Service Center website. I asked the committee if anyone objected to going back to OCLC Committee, which was acceptable to the attendees.
Thanks again for all those who attended the meeting. I will look forward to seeing you again next year in Seattle.
The hot topic with OCLC this summer has been the introduction of the new web interface with its new name—Connexion. It was released on June 30, 2002. The CORC name was retired; and the CORC list was replaced by the OCLC-CAT list. Almost immediately, the messages filled both OCLC-CAT and AUTOCAT about Connexion. If you have not seen it, I would suggest that you have a look: connexion.oclc.org . Your current user identification and password will work with Connexion.
What has been of particular interest to me has been the reaction by the cataloging community to Connexion. I examined Connexion that first week, but did not really try to do any work in it. Judging from the comments posted to AUTOCAT and OCLC-CAT, the reaction by the library community has been largely negative. The system is clearly a work in progress and is not capable of handling many functions that we now take for granted with Passport and CatME. Some posters felt that OCLC rushed it into production before it was ready. OCLC stated that they are working on a web client version of Connexion, which some people viewed as evidence that OCLC rushed it. Other people took OCLC to task for its "arrogance" in forcing us to change from proven products that work and work well (Passport and CatME), to one that forces libraries to use a web-based interface with all its mouse work, clicks, etc. As I write this (in mid-August), most of the negative comments have died down. I suspect that most libraries continue to use Passport and/or CatME, and are waiting for further developments and enhancements to Connexion before making the switch.
Speaking for my library, we will probably not make the switch until sometime next year (probably in the summer or fall of 2003). Libraries have until December 31, 2003 to make the transition. I am serving on the university-wide committee for the Indiana University Libraries that is examining this and other OCLC issues to make recommendations to the administration. My library has a separate account and symbol with OCLC from the university's Main Library, but our telecommunications with OCLC go through the Main Library. Thus, whatever they decide to do with this transition, we must go along. That is the reason I wanted to be on this committee. One critical issue for the Indiana University Libraries is Connexion's current extreme difficulty in handling diacritics and other special characters. That is an issue for us because we do collect some items in German, French, and other languages. However, for our Main Library, it is absolutely essential to handle this because they collect heavily in many different languages from around the world (they have catalogers who exclusive catalog items in Russian and the Slavic languages).
Much of what has developed and continues to come out concerning Connexion is not a surprise to me. Jay Jordan's presentation to ALA in June 2001, what I heard at the OCLC Users (now Members) Council meeting in Dublin, Ohio in May 2001, and what Don Muccino of OCLC said to me in October, 2001 clearly laid out the direction OCLC has gone and will continue to go with Connexion. Connexion is a just a part of OCLC's broader shift in direction and development for WorldCat. OCLC is listening to people like Sarah Thomas of Cornell who advocates that library catalogs should act as a portal to the Internet, knowledge, and information in general. Sarah Thomas spoke at the Users Council meeting I attended, and I could tell that Jay Jordan and OCLC were promoting her views to the group. Her article advocating this is on the Library of Congress website at www.loc.gov/catdir/bibcontrol/thomas_paper.html. Jay Jordan's address to ALA is available on video via ILL from OCLC, and it shows what he and OCLC feel will be the future of WorldCat with its links and enhancements.
My column in the June issue of the Technical Services Law Librarian was supposed to have been the final one— my two-year term as the chair of the OCLC Committee ended with the Orlando meeting. However, I was asked and agreed to serve another term as the chair of the committee. I appreciate the confidence that Ellen, Ismael, and Mary Jane have in me, and for their continued support. So I look forward to another two years of these columns and planning the open discussions at Seattle in 2003 and Boston in 2004.
Finally, as this column was in the works, we received the sad news of the passing of Susan Roach. Susan was a member of this committee, and a former chair of the Online Bibliographic Services SIS. She will be greatly missed.