“In 1967, before most even knew what a computer was or how [The Ohio College Library Center organization, which eventually grew to become OCLC] might positively affect our lives, its team based in Dublin, Ohio was making great progress in the electronic management of bibliographic information. In August of 1971, the cooperative helped the Alden Library at Ohio University launch the first online catalog of any library in the world. OCLC continued to be a pioneer in many of the moves to digitize and interconnect library catalog data, all the while improving the services and making libraries more efficient. It also began to generate significant surpluses, with which it continued to expand the services it could provide to the library community and serve a worldwide network. What was once a regional network of libraries has today become a massive institution serving a global community of more than 30,000 libraries, while also becoming one of the leading employers in the state of Ohio….
Earlier this year, Clarivate quietly announced a new product, MetaDoor, which is described as an open platform for sharing cataloging records. Possibly building upon data gathered by a company earlier acquired by Innovative Interfaces (which eventually was folded into Clarivate), this new product is being positioned as an alternative, free structure to share catalog data in the community. In trying to recruit members to use the new service and be early adopters, Clarivate has caught the attention of OCLC, who views this new product as an obvious competitor to its flagship WorldCat service. Challenging both the source of the data in MetaDoor and its efforts to recruit participants in this data-sharing ecosystem — in breach of their agreements with OCLC — last week OCLC filed a lawsuit in Ohio courts against Clarivate and its operating units claiming predatory market behavior and tortious interference in OCLC’s contracts with its member organizations. Clarivate has strenuously objected to the claims….
last year, ICOLC produced an internal report that, among other things, criticized OCLC for the costs and interoperability concerns of the records WorldCat aggregates, including limitations on what libraries and other vendors in this space can do with that data. OCLC responded privately, but based on the FAQ that accompanied the legal filing, one can surmise what its response was.
OCLC’s position is that it is working in the best interests of all libraries and does a tremendous service through its aggregation, enhancements, dissemination, and distribution of bibliographic records. Furthermore, it takes the surpluses that this business generates and invests heavily in other library services, tools, and research projects. Many have argued that OCLC is a positive force for libraries and library technology. Others have been more critical, particularly commercial players in this space….
Clarivate might also argue that less interoperability would be needed in the world of library services if all of the technology was handled by a single provider. But this sole-source provision of all services, while appealing at first glance, would also put the community troublingly at the whims of that one provider….”