Careers at OCLC
OCLC’s mission is to make breakthroughs possible.
The presidents of various colleges and universities in Ohio wanted to create a computerized system that would combine the catalogs of their libraries. The system’s purpose would be to share resources and streamline operations, which would in turn increase efficiency and reduce costs. The ultimate goal was to improve service for researchers and scholars through better information tracking.
In July 1967 the group met on the campus of the Ohio State University to form an organization that would develop the system. They signed articles of incorporation for a nonprofit called the Ohio College Library Center, or OCLC. They then hired Frederick Kilgour, a former Yale University medical school librarian, to act as President and design and develop the product.
Kilgour created the system, which merged the catalogs electronically through a computer network and database. In 1971 Ohio University’s Alden Library became the first to use it and the first-ever library to engage in online cataloging. Over time more Ohio libraries joined as members, contributing their data. In 1977 OCLC changed its policies so that U.S. libraries outside of the state could join.
In 1981, the organization’s name was changed to Online Computer Library Center, still being called “OCLC“ for short. In 1988, it acquired the copyrights and trademark for the Dewey Decimal Classification System. In 2002, its policies changed again when it began admitting libraries based outside the U.S. In 2003 it launched WorldCat, an online library catalog open to the general public.
In 2009 OCLC launched a centralized support center. In 2015 it stopped printing catalog cards, which it had produced alongside its online catalog since 1971 in an effort to be more eco-friendly. OCLC now provides a wide range of bibliographic, full-text, and abstract library information, maintains the OCLC Research unit, and sells CONTENTdm, a software product for managing digital collections.
Business model of OCLC
OCLC has a mass market business model, with no significant differentiation between customer segments. The company targets its offerings at anyone who wants library information.
OCLC offers three primary value propositions: accessibility, performance, and brand/status.
The company creates accessibility by providing a wide variety of options. It has acquired many organizations since its founding, including NetLibrary, the Research Libraries Group, EZproxy, OAIster, Sustainable Collection Services, Amlib, BOND, and Relais International. This strategy has enabled it to significantly expand its capabilities and diversify its portfolio. Consequently, it offers a broad range of services, including cataloging, digital archiving, virtual reference, and inter-library loan.
The company demonstrates strong performance through tangible results. Specific positive outcomes for clients include the following:
- The Douglas County History Research Center (DCHRC) used OCLC’s CONTENTdm solution to expand its database from 3,000 photos to over 6,000 within a few years
- University of Nebraska Omaha used OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services platform to save $150,000 within its first year and change record-updating time from three days to automatically
- National Academy of Sciences Research Center used OCLC’s WorldShare Management Services platform to increase catalog usage by 58% and electronic resource usage by 33%
The company has established a strong brand due to its success. It bills itself as the world's largest nonprofit cooperative of libraries, with over 27,000 members from over 65 countries and territories. It hosts WorldCat, the world's largest union catalog of library bibliographic data. WorldCat has 380 million records and 2.4 billion holdings.
Its WorldShare Management Services platform is used by over 500 libraries in 17 countries and six continents, which OCLC claims makes it the fastest-growing library services platform in history. Lastly, it has won a number of honors, including recognition as one of the "Healthiest Employers in Central Ohio" four years in a row by the Healthiest Employers Awards Program.
OCLC’s main channels are its direct sales and business development teams. The company promotes its offerings through its website, social media pages, and participation in webinars, seminars, podcasts, member forums, and conferences.
OCLC’s customer relationship is primarily of a self-service nature. Customers utilize the service through the main platform while having limited interaction with employees. The company’s website includes a “Librarian’s Toolbox” with useful resources such as system alerts, a compatibility chart, glossaries, bibliographic formats/standards, technical bulletins, and a directory of OCLC libraries. It also provides access to a weekly e-mail newsletter called “OCLC Abstracts“.
Despite this orientation, there is a personal assistance component. The company provides phone and e-mail support. It also offers training on the use of its services in the form of Web-based tutorials/ demonstrations and live online webinars. Training is conducted by OCLC-certified training partners.
OCLC’s business model entails maintaining and updating a robust platform for its customers.
OCLC maintains the OCLC Research Library Partnership, a program whose members include research libraries and nonprofit organizations with educational, cultural, or research missions.
They share resources and expertise as they work to design programs and services that increase the impact and efficiency of research libraries.
Members come from 12 countries; specific ones include the American Philosophical Society Library, the British Library, and the California Digital Library.
OCLC’s main resource is its proprietary software platform.
It depends on human resources such as technology employees to maintain and update its platform, sales employees to promote it, training employees to provide instruction, and customer service employees to provide support.
OCLC has a cost-driven structure, aiming to minimize expenses through significant automation. Its biggest cost driver is employee salaries/benefits. Other major drivers are in the areas of library services, sales/marketing, and administration.
OCLC has three revenue streams:
- Subscription revenues
- Software license revenues
- Consulting revenues
info: Skip earned a Bachelor of Science degree at Towson State University and a JD at the University of Baltimore School of Law. He previously served as President and CEO of Ingram Content Group and as President and CEO of ProQuest Information and Learning.
info: Bill earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting at the University of Michigan. He previously served as Chief Financial Officer of a number of organizations, including the Mars Agency and ProQuest Information and Learning.
info: Jeff earned an undergraduate degree at Youngstown State University. He previously served as Chief Technology Officer for the digital consumer businesses at JPMorgan Chase and held technology leadership roles at WellPoint, Intellitech, and Cardinal Health.
info: Mary earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics at Kalamazoo College and an MBA at University of Michigan–Dearborn. She previously served as Senior Director of the American Psychological Association.
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