Posted by : Joni L. Cassidy, Cassidy Cataloguing Services, Inc. 3/17/10

OCLC WorldCat – the union database of bibliographic and authority records contributed by member libraries, the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, the National Agriculture Library, the U.S. Government Printing Office and several other national libraries from around the globe. Records are accessible to all OCLC members. – the version of OCLC WorldCat that is mounted on the Internet and searchable for free.

WorldCat Local – OCLC’s service to replace the online public access catalog (OPAC). It is a direct competitor to the OPAC module of all the high-end integrated library systems, such as Innovative Interfaces’ Millenium, SIRSIDynix Symphony, and Ex Libris’ Aleph and Voyager.



On December 12, 2007, Steven Essig posted to the Criminal Law Library Blog about Cassidy Cataloguing’s MARC21 record sets. He noted:

“UCLA has contracted to receive Lexis and Westlaw [MARC record sets] but hasn’t taken possession of them because to move them to their new union catalog requires that all UC holdings be a part of OCLC. At this time, Cassidy [Cataloguing Services] has asked subscribers not to upload the Westlaw or Lexis MARC records to OCLC.”

The reason why was simple: Cassidy’s contractual agreement with its subscribers had to prohibit uploading of records to OCLC because of the transfer of intellectual property rights to OCLC as records enter WorldCat. To illustrate how it works, here is an excerpt from an OCLC agreement for the delivery of MARC records to WorldCat:

OCLC Agreement for the Delivery of Bibliographic Records, Section 2.3 –
“Vendor hereby grants to OCLC, OCLC participants and non-participant users, and OCLC designees, a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable right to copy, display, publish, prepare derivative works from, distribute and use (including, without limitation, use in forming new compilations of information and loading into WorldCat) Total Records, and any other bibliographic records, holdings and other information supplied to OCLC, during the term of this Agreement with Vendor…”

More than two years later, OCLC and Cassidy Cataloguing Services, Inc. may finally reach a compromise. OCLC may grant permission to allow a WorldCat Local institution that has purchased Cassidy MARC record sets to view the records as part of its WorldCat Local subscription. Another catalog record provider negotiated a deal whereby no other libraries are permitted to view the records, use them for cataloging, or attach holdings to them. Cassidy Cataloguing is trying to negotiate that deal. But, OCLC’s right to load and display these records in WorldCat is still a sticking point.


When OCLC issued the proposed “Policy on the Use and Transfer of WorldCat
Records” on November 4, 2008, they unleashed a perfect storm in their newly dubbed “Information ecosystem.”

In hopes of calming the storm, NYLINK (New York State regional OCLC service center) hosted “Policy for use and transfer of WorldCat records – A moderated discussion” at New York Public Library’s research branch on January 16, 2009. Karen Calhoun, VP for OCLC, was the featured speaker. Her prepared presentation and handouts emphasized that the focus of the new “Policy…” was to expand the rights and flexibility of non-commercial OCLC members while, at the same time, making every effort to curtail any commercial use of WorldCat records.

During Q&A, Ms. Calhoun explained that OCLC was victimized by a commercial cataloging company “somewhere in the world” that downloaded a large portion of the WorldCat database and then used it to support their business. She cited that incident as the reason for OCLC’s aggressive position against commercial use in the new “Policy…” Additional questions regarding legal action against the rogue company, instead of the writing of the new “Policy…,” did not lead to any satisfactory conclusion for the audience.

The final issue to be addressed at NYLINK’s moderated discussion was the creation by OCLC of It is the free, searchable version of the WorldCat database mounted on the Internet. As the spokesperson for OCLC, Ms. Calhoun insisted that overwhelming support from member libraries drove the decision to create this free-to-the-whole-world version of member records. But, several special collection librarians spoke out against having their collections revealed to the public without their explicit permission (i.e. no contract, no release form, no signature on any agreement releasing protected information).

All this negative feedback – the perfect storm in the “Information Ecosystem” – led to the creation of an OCLC Record Use Policy Council. Their recommendations included abandoning the “Policy for use and transfer of WorldCat records” and returning to the 1987 “Guidelines for the use and transfer of OCLC-derived records” while a new policy is being drafted.


How did we get here? Without much fanfare, OCLC strategically absorbed all the other bibliographic utilities in the western world. For the last several years, an institution wanting to be part of a bibliographic utility could join OCLC, or not.

That changed in October 2009, when a new company called SkyRiver launched a bibliographic utility to compete with OCLC. It is accessible at and is the creation of Jerry Kline, the owner and co-founder of Innovative Interfaces, also known as “Innovative” for short.

SkyRiver aims to:
1. Save institutions up to 40% off their costs for bibliographic utility services.
2. Maintain a database built entirely of high-quality MARC records, similar to RLIN.
3. Maintain a database free of duplicate records.
4. Be a focused resource for cataloging, not a “bibliographic superstore.”

SkyRiver is currently populated with bibliographic records from the Library of Congress and the British Library, and it does not intend to lay claim to any of the MARC records added to its database. Institutions contributing records will be free to use them any way they want. [FULL ARTICLE]

In theory, a library that joins SkyRiver for cataloging could continue to be an OCLC member for other services such as interlibrary loan (ILL). The first institution to test this arrangement was Michigan State University (MSU). As a new cataloging member of SkyRiver, MSU expected to drop their cataloging membership with OCLC but pay a fee to upload their holdings periodically for the purpose of ILL. A fee of $0.23 per record appears in OCLC’s current price list. Based on that, MSU expected their annual cost to be in the neighborhood of $6,000.00. Instead, a post on Karen Coyle’s InFormation blog reports that OCLC offered MSU a price of $2.85 per record, or $74,000.00 for an expected 26,000 record upload.

The following article includes the full explanation from OCLC of the charges invoiced to MSU.

MSU was not the only institution misled by the $0.23 per record quote. On her blog Karen Coyle quotes from a letter written by Roman Kochan, Dean and Director of Library Services at the California State University, Long Beach. Plans to accommodate their budget cuts included a switch from OCLC to Skyriver for cataloging, based on the $0.23 per record charge for batch upload posted on the OCLC website.

In the Library Journal article, “OCLC and Michigan State at impasse over SkyRiver cataloging, resource sharing costs,” 2/26/10, SkyRiver President Leslie Straus said, “We certainly expected some sort of nominal and reasonable fee. If we can’t assure potential customers there’s a nominal and published price, it’s problematic.”


Imagine for a moment the opportunity to contribute your institution’s bibliographic records to a spanking clean utility committed to high quality and little to no duplication. SkyRiver could offer that to the law library community, and the chance to be the foundation for a NEW interlibrary loan network based on our own subject specialty: Law. This approach would completely eliminate the need to upload holdings back into OCLC, thereby sidestepping their fee. Coincidentally, Innovative Interfaces already has an ILL service, Link+.
Just imagine the opportunity…

Any views or opinions presented in this posting are solely those of the author, except where specifically attributed to another source.


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