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Content and Collections

March 17, 2010

Dear OCLC Member:

I am writing to provide an update about an important development in our cooperative service offerings, and to share information about OCLC’s direction and plans for our future.

I am pleased to report that the OCLC cooperative is serving more libraries in the U.S. and around the globe with services, research and library advocacy programs than at any time in our 40-year history. Our public purpose to further access to the world’s information is truly becoming a worldwide mission.

Through cooperation and contribution, WorldCat now serves scholars, students and searchers on every continent, across 170 countries. Member organizations have contributed more than 1.8 billion holdings to WorldCat and the world is using this vital resource at steadily increasing rates. To date, more than 600 million searches have led users to and access to library collections and this year, another 40 million new records will be added to WorldCat.

This progress has been made possible by libraries’ active participation and contributions, and by the cooperative’s increased focus and financial investment in WorldCat and library management solutions for libraries. Still, more focus and investment are needed to deliver the full potential of our new and evolving cooperative services. Therefore, in the months ahead, we will make a significant shift in the scope of services we deliver to members. Specifically, we will increase our focus on WorldCat, metadata services and Web-scale management services, and transition out of the role of reseller of eBooks, eAudiobooks and other eContent provided by vendors.

A change in OCLC service offerings—NetLibrary and FirstSearch

Today, we will announce that EBSCO Publishing (EBSCO) and OCLC have signed an agreement for EBSCO to acquire the assets of the NetLibrary division. The NetLibrary purchase includes the NetLibrary eBook and eAudiobook platform as well as operations and infrastructure in Boulder, Colorado. Libraries that have purchased NetLibrary eBooks will continue to have access to their collections via the NetLibrary platform. These collections will continue to be discoverable through In the future, as EBSCO integrates eBook content with its database content, libraries will also have access to their NetLibrary content through EBSCOhost, a leading search platform for online research in institutions worldwide.

Securing libraries’ investments in NetLibrary eBook collections is a critical element of the agreement. All NetLibrary eBooks purchased by libraries will be placed in a dark archive, the OCLC eBook Archive. EBSCO will continue to place all new NetLibrary eBooks purchased by libraries into the OCLC archive at least through March 2013.

Discoverability of your eBook collections through will continue with your future NetLibrary eBook purchases. Today, records for more than 2.2 million eBooks are available through and EBSCO will continue to offer OCLC MARC records free of charge to libraries for NetLibrary eBooks.

Many libraries also subscribe to NetLibrary eAudiobooks from Recorded Books and other publishers. All current NetLibrary eAudiobook subscriptions will continue through the term of your subscription. eAudiobook services will continue as EBSCO and Recorded Books partner to provide access and new eAudiobook content on the NetLibrary platform. More information is available in an FAQ at

EBSCO has also acquired the rights to license a number of vendor-owned databases currently available through the OCLC FirstSearch service. As such, users of these databases will be able to make a smooth transition to the EBSCOhost platform to continue to access these resources beyond the current subscription period.
OCLC will maintain and enhance FirstSearch and we will continue our work to provide access to all FirstSearch databases through The WorldCat database, the FirstSearch base package, and other valuable database content, such as OAIster, the Heritage of the Printed Book Database and SCIPIO: Art and Rare Book Sales Catalogs, will continue to be offered through FirstSearch.

OCLC and H.W. Wilson will also announce today that they will work together to transition library subscriptions for H.W. Wilson databases provided on the FirstSearch service to the WilsonWeb platform over the next 16 months. Transition programs are in place to ensure continuity of subscriptions and a smooth transition for libraries. More information on the transition is available in an FAQ at

Two press releases will be posted to the OCLC Web site later today announcing this news:

Pioneering together is a cooperative imperative

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the thousands of libraries and hundreds of publishers who have partnered with us to pioneer the creation of FirstSearch and the advancement of eBooks over the past two decades. 
On October 1, 1991, OCLC released the first version of FirstSearch. It was OCLC’s first service designed to “turn the terminal around,” to provide access to electronic information directly to library patrons rather than solely to library staff. FirstSearch allowed library patrons to search WorldCat—all 24 million records then—along with a variety of reference databases, including Consumers Index, Dissertation Abstracts, GPO Monthly Catalog and H.W. Wilson databases.

FirstSearch continues to evolve as technologies and access possibilities expand. Today, FirstSearch databases are searchable through Moving ahead, we will continue to extend the role of FirstSearch to enhance discoverability of libraries’ entire collections, whether a search begins in WorldCat Local, Google Book Search, Microsoft’s Bing or another discovery engine.

In 2002, OCLC purchased the assets of NetLibrary from bankruptcy to protect libraries’ investments in eBook purchases. We were also interested in exploring the potential of eBooks during the early days of eContent and the Web. Together with libraries, we pioneered new eBook platforms and new purchase and licensing models, and built a global eBook service for thousands of libraries worldwide. It has been a great example of the benefits of cooperative investments in new technologies and approaches. As eBooks become increasingly standard among eContent services, NetLibrary eBook services will transition into mainstream content acquisition systems that can provide even more access and increased visibility to users. The significant reach of the EBSCOhost solution will make it possible to connect eBooks and eContent in exciting new ways.  

Innovation in 2010

Our cooperative initiatives continue. We are working with libraries, publishers and other information providers to expand as a comprehensive platform for eContent. Rather than reselling content, OCLC will connect people to the vast resources libraries hold. 

We are improving the ability of WorldCat to point to new types of collections. Through innovative partnerships with exciting digital repositories such as HathiTrust, we are finding new ways to maximize the visibility and value of libraries’ full collections—their print, electronic and digital collections—through the Web. Soon, the first HathiTrust Digital Library collection records will begin to surface in OCLC’s partnership with Google will also add millions of new records to WorldCat from the Google Books Library Project.

In a few months, we will be releasing the first module of our cooperative Web-scale library management services, now in pilot with four library groups. Cloud computing and the ability to fully interoperate with thousands of Web information services will significantly advance library management solutions in the years ahead. And as we work together to combine the potential of cloud computing capabilities with the library ethos of sharing and collaboration, we know we will be able to achieve unprecedented information sharing and cost-saving opportunities for libraries. For many of you, this work is already under way. Hundreds of OCLC members have taken the first step to bringing Web-scale services to their users by implementing WorldCat Local, the service that combines local library catalog holdings with the full WorldCat database to provide library patrons the full range of what their library can deliver. 

Investing in the cooperative for today and tomorrow

Just as we must focus future investments of the cooperative in the most strategic service areas for members, we must also focus our energies on reducing costs for our members in these challenging economic times. We will invest both in the future of the cooperative and in the present membership. Therefore, proceeds from the sale of the NetLibrary assets will be invested both in advancing future member services and in current operations so that we can hold the line on prices. OCLC will hold prices flat in the U.S. on all WorldCat and WorldCat platform services for a second consecutive year—through June 2011

Moving forward, OCLC will concentrate on developing integrated platforms, cooperative services, and streamlined collection management tools and services that will advance the discovery and sharing of libraries’ full collections. We will increase our investment in, metadata management, and delivering new ways for users to discover and access library collections in the library, through the Web and with partner organizations.

The members of the OCLC cooperative revolutionized cataloging and resource sharing when WorldCat was launched some 40 years ago, and together we continue to pioneer new ways to further access to the world’s information. I look forward to working with you to realize the potential of our ambitious and important mission—to promote the evolution of library use, of libraries and of librarianship.


Jay Jordan
OCLC President and Chief Executive Officer