OCLC Strategy & Vision: Building Web-Scale for Libraries

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Robin Murray

Page
1


OCLC Strategy & Vision: Building Web
-
Scale for Libraries

Robin Murray
-

Vice
-
President, Global Product Management, OCLC

Robin.Murray@oclc.org

Introduction

This document presents a brief overview of the OCLC strategy & Vision for library services. This is
described within the context of ‘Web
-
Scale’ services and the implications
of such
for libraries. The
introductory sections provide a brief overview of what we mean by ‘Web
-
scale’ and how it relates to
libraries. This is followed by an overview of OCLC’s st
rategy and tactical activities for helping libraries
deliver a Web
-
scale presence


an objective we feel is critical for the future of library services.

Within this document, t
he specific questions raised in the invitation are covered implicitly rather tha
n
explicitly as follows:



How will data be gathered and how will data be aggregated?

-

is covered in the section on the
strategy for incrementally building Web
-
scale


the gravitational pull of the data aggregation
motivates greater aggregation (the data lo
ad graph gives some evidence to this).



What services will need to be built on top of the aggregation?



the services OCLC are building on
top of the aggregation is
summaris
ed in the section on the strategy for incrementally building Web
-
scale
.



What service
s will this enable for end users (librarians, information managers, researchers,
teachers and learners)?


is

covered very b
riefly in the strategy section.



How will the aggregation relate to the rest of the web?



is covered very briefly in the section on
‘Provide the most compelling web
-
scale presence for Libraries’
.



How will this work with existing services at the local and national level?



this is covered very
briefly in terms of linking to local systems for transactional support and national services a
s
‘metadata hubs’.



Will value

added services for local provision be provided?



is covered briefly in the strategy
section and in the description of web
-
services and APIs.



What are the business models and sustainability issues for data and services?



is
not covered
explicitly within this document.

In the interests of (almost!) meeting the page limit for this document all these sections are extremely
brief; far more detail can be provided on request if required.

Libraries and Web
-
Scale

What is Web
-
Scale?

S
cale matters in the Web environment. Think of the services we use most: Google, Amazon, eBay,
FaceBook. They are massive concentrations of data a
nd connections, and they mobilis
e large user
populations. They serve consumer needs (for search, connection, pu
rchase). They also serve provider
needs (through e
-
commerce, storefront facilities, advertising …). At the same time, we are seeing
businesses emerge

Salesforce.com is a good example

that use the Web to deliver infrastructure and
enterprise solutions on an

‘on
-
demand’ or ‘utility’ basis to businesses. In these examples, the Web
allows capacities to be concentrated to create scale, and to deliver the benefits of scale to many
users.

Successful organis
ations and communities on the web have created a virtuous

circle by aggregating
supply, and through that
,

aggregat
e

demand.
This is at the heart of Web scale. The principle is simple.
The Web allows organis
ations to create scale and to deliver the benefits of that scale to large
numbers of other users through th
e Web.

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Robin Murray

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Characteristics of Web
-
Scale Services

Web
-
Scale services operate at a “Network Level” (or on a Software
-
as
-
a
-
Services basis) and leverage
the typical benefits of cost savings
and greater efficiencies (by removing redundant local provision and
by cr
eating improved system
-
wide capacity). However, Web
-
Scale services go further than this and
should provide greater impact through:



Network effects
. These are a powerful driver for many services, producing a ‘rich get richer’
dynamic. The more buyers there
are on eBay the more attractive it is to sellers; the more sellers
there are on eBay the more attractive it is to buyers. The more people use Google, the more sites
want to be indexed by it and the more advertisers want to use it. The more people buy from
Amazon the better its recommendations become and the more people want to use it. This dynamic
will also increasingly be visible in Web
-
scale process/workflow providers as they share, build and
leverage integrated data and leverage integrated workflows.



Dat
a
-
driven
. Sites collect data about use behavio
u
rs and use this to improve the service. They use
shared purchasing patterns, navigation options, recommendations and so on, to develop a stronger
relationship with individual customers and to refine their offe
rings.



The long tail: efficient matching of supply and demand at the network level
. Web
-
scale services
make the matching of supply and demand more efficient. Consider an online bookstore compared
to a physical one. In a physical store, stock is limited by
available shelf space, and has to justify its
position on the shelves by sales. The potential customer base is limited by the demographics of a
geographically proximate population. An online bookstore can aggregate supply from many sources
and provide inte
grated search and delivery over a very large inventory. A
successful site can also
mobilis
e a large online population. In this way supply and demand are better matched: less
common materials have a better chance of finding a buyer, and specialist buyers ha
ve a better
chance of finding materials of interest. Sales and satisfaction increase. This is at the heart of the
long tail dynamic that finds audiences for niche materials.



Short
Install/refresh cycles.


software install and refresh cycles are very short

to ensure rapid
enhancement of the platform allowing the platform to stay current in the web environment. This
differs dramatically from the deployed software environment where users’ applications are
typically many years behind current technology.



Web se
rvices access



in order

to maximis
e use of, and value
-
added enhancements to, the
platform access is provided to Application Program/Web Service Interfaces alongside direct user
interfaces.

Web
-
Scale and Libraries

Whilst the descriptions above have used ex
amples of Web
-
Scale services from the general internet
environment, the applicability and benefits of Web
-
Scale concepts to libraries are clear. It is our
contention that libraries NEED to operate at Web
-
Scale to be successful and this is fundamental to
th
eir future in the internet age.

However, currently l
ibraries do not scale well in Web terms. They have a very fragmented presence on
the Web: their impact is low. Their cost of doing business is high as they have a complicated array of
systems across prin
t, licensed and digital materials workflows. Libraries need to invest time in putting
their systems to work, not in trying to get their systems to work. If libraries are to create a compelling
Web presence and system
-
wide management efficiencies they will
have to move to a Web
-
scale model.
They cannot do this individually.

OCLC Strategy: Building Web
-
Scale for Libraries

OCLC’s Unique Positioning

Given its reach, scale
,
capacities,
and mission,
OCLC is uniquely placed to help libraries create Web
-
scale.

Wo
rldCat (and associated services such as the Registry) aggregate data about libraries, about their
collections and about their services. WorldCat is distinctive in its scale: as an aggregate it is
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Robin Murray

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unsurpassed, and the bibliographic data it collects can be m
ined to improve the service and create new
knowledge. However, WorldCat is not simply a collection of data: WorldCat allows us to configure the
library network to support Web
-
scale services. It makes connections between bibliographic data and
libraries, an
d between libraries and the services they offer. This increasingly is its distinctive value. It
makes the library network work.

Given our belief that Web
-
Scale is fundamental to the future of libraries; that OCLC is uniquely
positioned to help libraries ac
hieve Web
-
Scale; and the historic mission, vision and values of OCLC,
building Web
-
Scale for libraries is at the heart of OCLC’s vision and strategy
.

Incremental Building Web
-
Scale for Libraries: The Fly
-
Wheel

Delivering Web
-
Scale for libraries is critica
l,
but far from simple; it cannot be achieved in
a
single step, by a single organis
ation, or with
a single product.

Our strategy for helping libraries to Web
-
Scale
aims to generate a ‘fly
-
wheel’ effect
(depicted here); a set of mutually reinforcing
initiat
ives that incrementally build Web scale.
These initiatives are:



Provide the most compelling web
-
scale
presence for Libraries



a large
-
scale,
compelling presence on the web that
drives traffic toward local librar
y services
.



Leverage the value of web
-
scale

into
end
-
user solutions for libraries



Provide
local library views of this web
-
scale
presence that surface and access local
services.



Syndicate Grid services through partner programs



Provide web
-
service access to t
he web
-
scale
platform to maximis
e usag
e and to encourage an eco
-
system of development partners and library
developers to provide value
-
added services.



Reduce the cost of Library Management with Grid
-
enabled systems and services



leverage the
economies of scale of network level services to dra
matically reduce costs for libraries.



Enrich the WorldCat Grid through greater service and data coverage



by demonstrating the
value of web
-
scale services generate gravitational pull for greater data and service aggregation,
thus adding momentum to the fl
y
-
wheel.

To execute this strategy we aim to continually drive each of these initiatives to increase momentum
toward the web
-
scale presence for libraries.

Executing the Strategy

The following section briefly describes some of the activities being undertaken

at each of these points
on the fly
-
wheel:



Provide the most compelling web
-
scale presence for Libraries



Our strategy is to continue to
enhance WorldCat.org as a web
-
scale destination for library services, but more critically as a global
switch

into local

library services. During 2009 we expect to deliver ~8M click
-
throughs to library
services from the open web. The vast majority of these originate from linking sites such as Google,
Yahoo!, Google Scholar and a myriad of partner sites as opposed to users d
irectly looking for library
services by entering the site
-

Search
-
Engine
-
Optimization and library
-
affiliate partnering and
linking are key features of the development strategy.

Through building momentum on the fly
-
wheel we aim to achieve 50%
-
100% p.a. gro
wth in traffic on
WorldCat.org.

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Robin Murray

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Leverage the value of web
-
scale into
Local & Regional
end
-
user solutions for libraries


efficiently delivering users from the open
-
web to local library services requires smooth transition of
user
-
experience; Local library O
PACs are typically not good at this and present barriers to the
transaction flow.

WorldCat Local is OCLC’s offering that aims to surface the full range of local library services on the
web, tightly linked to and leveraging the value of WorldCat.org. It aim
s to provide a smooth
transition over the ‘last mile’ from the open web to the local library service.

WorldCat Local can
be tailored and branded for Local and/or Regional/national service provision.

WorldCat Local provides a localized view of the library c
atalog
ue

links to the local circulation
system for real
-
time availability and transaction management. It leverages ‘Web
-
Scale’ by
providing contextualized access to the whole of WorldCat and benefiting from global aggregation
for services such as reviews,
ratings and community
-
building features.

2009 will see the inclusion of licensed database metadata within the WorldCat index along with
integrated meta
-
search in order to get closer to surfacing the full range of library services.

The launch of WorldCat Lo
cal ‘quick start’, freely available as part of the OCLC FirstSearch
subscription,

is a strategic drive to maximis
e uptake, building momentum in the fly
-
wheel in order
to incrementally achieve web
-
scale for libraries.



Syndicate Grid services through partner

programs


The strategy for OCLC services is that even
those libraries not using OCLC applications should be able to benefit from the benefits of the web
-
scale platform through the use of APIs and Web
-
Services. Those libraries that do use OCLC
application
s can also use these interfaces to derive value
-
added enhancements. The launch of the
WorldCat API and related services along with the OCLC Developer Network are the start of the
strategy to broaden the use of the platform beyond OCLC
-
derived applications.



Reduce the cost of Library Management with Grid
-
enabled systems and services


a full suite of
management applications is being developed that operate at the network level; leverage network
effects; and dramatically reduce costs. As above libraries will b
e able to use the native
applications or interface with a set of APIs.



Enrich WorldCat through greater service and data coverage


as the scale and richness of the
WorldCat services increase, the gravitational pull of the aggregation increases and thus m
ore
libraries wish to benefit from that scale. The
chart shows the annual volume of data
loading into WorldCat for the last 10 years.
The dramatic growth gives some evidence to
the fly
-
wheel effect of incrementally
building web
-
scale.

As data volumes incre
a
se, logistics in data
loading,
data qualit
y control and ongoing
synchronis
ation become an ever growi
ng
challenge. The technological capabilities of
libraries vary

so dramatically that many
different tools and techniques are used

for
data loading and synch
ronis
ation.

Increasingly regional

and national
union
catalog
ue
s are playing the role of
‘metadata hubs’ which synchronis
e with local catalog
ue
s, and
perform regional
/national

quality co
ntrol. These are then synchronis
ed (either periodically or in
real
-
time
) upstream to WorldCat. The WorldCat database is then indexed directly by the Internet
search engines.