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OCLC, the Online Computer Library Center, is a US-based "nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing information costs". Founded in 1967, OCLC is a worldwide library cooperative, owned, governed and sustained by its members. OCLC serves 72,000 institutions, archives and museums in 170 countries. OCLC provides economical services to libraries to help manage their collections and services in a cost-effective way that scales.
OCLC's mission is to "work together to improve access to the information held in libraries around the globe and find ways to reduce costs for libraries through collaboration..." Towards that end, OCLC aims to "establish, maintain and operate a computerized library network and to promote the evolution of library use, of libraries themselves and of librarianship, and to provide processes and products for the benefit of library users and libraries, including such objectives as increasing availability of library resources to individual library patrons and reducing the rate-of-rise of library per-unit costs, all for the fundamental public purpose of furthering ease of access to and use of the ever-expanding body of worldwide scientific, literary and educational knowledge and information."
OCLC also conducts research for the library community, and makes its research outcomes known through various publications. The organization advocates for “advancing research, scholarship, education, community development, information access, and global cooperation.”
The OCLC network links members to its online infrastructure providing intelligent databases and a cooperative platform to collectively innovate and drive efficiency in metadata creation, interlibrary loan, digitization, discovery and delivery. OCLC provides bibliographic, abstract and full-text information to anyone. The Open WorldCat program makes records of library-owned materials in OCLC's WorldCat database available to Web users on popular Internet search, bibliographic, and bookselling sites.
OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat—the OCLC Online Union Catalog, the largest online public access catalog (OPAC) in the world. WorldCat has holding records from public and private libraries worldwide; there are 300 million bibliographic records in the catalog and 2 billion holdings from around the globe. Over half of the items in that catalog are non-English and over half are non-book.
OCLC will publish an API in fall 2013 to connect editors to electronic full text available online through affiliated libraries.[needs update] This fulfillment service sends a query via the API to OCLC, which processes the query, affiliates the editor with a library, and checks WorldCat to see if the requested citation is available within the library's collection. If there is a match, the API returns a link to Wikipedia that either connects directly to the requested full text or to the library's OpenURL resolver. Simply put, OCLC can deliver full text sources directly to editors, but only if their IP address already gives them access to the source under existing contracts. For open access full-text sources, these can be displayed for anyone who finds them on the Web.
The WorldCat Search API can help editors to 1) check to see is a book cited in an article is available in a local library, and 2) conduct broader research within WorldCat to locate further resources from nearby institutions. This production service is currently used within Wikipedia's Book sources page among other resources. Simply put, OCLC can allow editors to search the library catalogues of nearby institutions without leaving their computer or even logging into a separate website.
The WorldCat Search API can also be used for editors to discover collections that libraries have digitized and registered in WorldCat. These e-collections can be searched to find and access original records which may be useful as primary or secondary sources, and also to identify materials such as images that may be copyright compatible to add to an article or image collection.
WorldCat already serves several institutions that are active in the Wikipedia Loves Libraries (WLL) program. By working with OCLC, we can reach out to these institutions to provide greater access for Wikipedia editors and also try to bring in many more OCLC members as WLL partners.
OCLC provides support to Wikimedia projects for looking up ISBNs in citations.
OCLC and Wikipedia are both non-profit organizations that seek the distribution of knowledge to humanity. Wikipedia targets individuals through articles, while OCLC targets libraries and those who would benefit from better research. As an encyclopedia bedrocked on reliable sources, access to the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on articles, books, and digital collections would be a powerful tool. Meanwhile, OCLC seeks to bring as many library institutions on board into its services and community, and sharing those institutions' collections with Wikipedia editors or readers amplifies the reach of each member library. Libraries have the mission of sharing their collections with as many people as possible; Wikipedia is where the majority of the world's readers are getting their information.
OCLC has numerous relationships with publishers. These publishers are exploring access models which are more open and which we have leveraged in The Wikipedia Library's account donations several times previously. OCLC may be able to introduce us to a magnitude more such partners and help us to form relationships with them.
We also already have some nice connections with OCLC through their Wikipedian-in-Residence Max Klein, who has been working with Merrilee Proffitt at OCLC.
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