Roger C. Schonfeld
Coordinator of Research
Senior Research Scientist
Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)
To understand, evaluate, and act on many recent developments in the library community, members of the CNI community increasingly require a broad system-wide perspective. Google’s recently-announced partnerships with academic libraries constitute further evidence that the era of mass digitization of library collections may be imminently at hand; will all holdings become readily available across the system? The first repositories of the print versions of digitized materials are coming into existence; how might individual paper repositories be crafted into a system that offers reasonable levels of assurance and efficiency? And heretofore unimaginable scenarios about the effects of “losing” a given major research library due to disaster are being considered; does our existing distributed system have sufficient redundancy to cope with such a loss? These are but some of the issues facing the library community today that push us to think somewhat less about individual collections but instead about the system as a whole. To help, we need a bridge between the institutional perspective based in the day-to-day reality of local collections and holdings and the system-wide perspective that is driving many current initiatives.
Navigating the rapidly changing environment at the institutional level will require innovative policymaking, which can be effective only if it is well-informed about the nature of the broader system of library collections and holdings. Using data from OCLC’s WorldCat, we have begun to analyze library holdings from a system-wide perspective. Our presentation will cover some preliminary findings from this research study, which we hope will provide further context about the shape of the system. How many individual book titles are held across the library system? How are they distributed, in terms of rareness and overlap? How do the holdings of some of the largest research libraries relate to one another? We hope that our preliminary findings will be of interest to attendees, and we hope that the discussion will reveal future directions for such research into a system-wide analysis of library collections that would be valuable to the CNI community.