Sweden Ends Negotiations with OCLC

The following guest post is by Maria Kadesjö who works at the Libris-department at the National Library of Sweden.

The national library of Sweden has ended negotiations with OCLC on participation in WorldCat, as the parties could not come to an agreement. The negotiations go back to 2006 and the key obstacle for the national library has been the record use policy. Some time into the negotiations OCLC presented certain conditions for how records taken from WorldCat for cataloguing were to be used in Libris.

A No to WorldCat Rights and Responsibilites

The question has its base in the “WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative” where you as an OCLC member have to accept certain conditions and the aim is to support the ongoing and long-term viability and utility of WorldCat (and its services). The National Library cannot accept the conditions as they are today since WorldCat is not the only arena in which The National Library wants and needs to be active. Accepting the conditions would mean that we would forever have to relate to OCLC’s policy.

Libris an open database

Libris is the Swedish union catalogue with (with some 170 libraries, primarily academic libraries) and is built quite similar to WorldCat but on a smaller scale. Member libraries catalogue their records in Libris and the records are then exported to their local library systems. The Libris-cooperative is built on voluntarily participation. Any Libris-library should be able to, whenever they want, take out all their bibliographic records from Libris and use them in another library system. The National library makes no claim to the records and do not control how the libraries chose to use their bibliographic records.

The National Library has taken the decision to release the national bibliography and authority data as open data. The reason for this is to acknowledge the importance of open data and the importance of libraries’ control of their data when it comes to the long term sustainability and competition of the services needed by libraries and their users.

In the Agreement on Participation in the Libris joint catalogue signed by the National Library and cataloguing libraries, Point 3.3 specifies that “the content in Libris is owned by the National Library and is freely accessible in accordance with the precepts and methods reported by the National Library, both for Participating Libraries and for external partners.” This paragraph is needed so that the National library can sign agreements for Libris with other partners (OCLC for example) but also so that the National Library can abstain from claims of ownership of bibliographic records taken from Libris. Libris can therefore be an open database, both for the libraries that use Libris for cataloguing and for others.

Not consistent with Libris principles

The consequences of signing with OCLC would be that the National Library would have to supervise how records originating in WorldCat were used. And a library that took a bibliographic record from WorldCat for cataloguing in Libris and exported it to its own system would have to accept OCLC´s term of use.

A library that wished to leave Libris would not obviously be able to do this, since it is not self-evident that the bibliographic records could be integrated into other systems. This would be an infringement in the voluntarily participation that characterizes Libris. In practice, the National Library has no mandate that restricts the freedom of action of Libris’ libraries in this way, since the National Library has no possibility of influencing how the Libris libraries themselves choose to use their catalogues.

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