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OCLC celebrates 50 years of innovation and collaboration with libraries worldwide

DUBLIN, Ohio, 23 June 2017—OCLC, the library technology and research organization that changed the way libraries work, is celebrating 50 years of innovation and collaboration with libraries around the world.

On July 6, 1967, the nonprofit Ohio College Library Center was established to create a shared electronic library for Ohio colleges and universities. Frederick Kilgour, founder and first President, had a plan to build a shared, online cataloging system that would effectively merge library catalogs through a computer network and database so that libraries could work collaboratively, save time and share resources.

What began 50 years ago as a regional computer system for 54 Ohio colleges has become OCLC, a global library cooperative that provides shared technology services, original research and community programs to over 16,000 libraries in 120 countries.

“OCLC started with a vision to build a central database to share library catalog records and resources across a network,” said Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO. “That kind of online collaboration continues today with our web-based services.

“From those early days, OCLC has continued to progress and innovate along with the latest information technologies. Yet our focus and vision has always remained the same: to provide the best services possible to libraries so they can serve the needs of their users, and make breakthroughs possible.”

Thousands of libraries around the world use OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend, preserve and manage library materials and collections. Researchers, students, faculty, scholars, professional librarians and other information seekers use OCLC services to obtain bibliographic, abstract and full-text information.

The OCLC Online Union Catalog began operation in 1971. Catalogers at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, were first to catalog a book using the online cataloging system. That database, now known as WorldCat, is the world’s most comprehensive database of information about library collections. Today, WorldCat comprises more than 396 million records representing more than 2.5 billion titles in libraries worldwide
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Libraries cooperatively contribute, enhance and share bibliographic data through WorldCat, connecting people to cultural and scholarly resources in libraries worldwide. OCLC’s technology and team of expert catalogers and data quality specialists constantly enrich WorldCat records with new and corrected information to ensure that WorldCat contains the highest quality records possible. Data shared through WorldCat supports a variety of network services and spurs innovation.

OCLC also shares original research with the library world. OCLC Research is one of the world’s leading centers devoted exclusively to the challenges facing libraries and archives in a rapidly changing information technology environment. Its WebJunction program is an online community where library staff gather to build the knowledge, skills and support needed to help libraries thrive.

Governance of the cooperative is unique. OCLC Regional Councils—Americas; Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA); and Asia Pacific—determine their own leadership structures, programs and priorities. Regional Councils elect representatives to serve on the OCLC Global Council, which is responsible to elect members to the OCLC Board of Trustees. Of OCLC’s current board of 14 trustees, 10 are librarians.

Together with libraries, OCLC continues to innovate and grow.

“In the last year, our dedicated staff around the world implemented the largest technology investment in the cooperative’s history to advance the delivery of cloud-based services,” said Prichard. “We added capacity, strengthened security and advanced recovery capabilities. This investment will allow OCLC to scale services that can support more libraries, more upgrades, more applications and more end users for many years to come.”

A brief timeline of highlights during OCLC’s 50 years of service to libraries:

• 1967: OCLC is founded
• 1971: Ohio University is first to catalog a book online using the online shared cataloging system
• 1979: OCLC introduces the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) system
• 1988: OCLC begins publishing the Dewey Decimal classification system
• 1991: FirstSearch is introduced as the first end-user interface for library reference services
• 2003: WebJunction launches as an online professional resource for public libraries, librarians
• 2006: WorldCat.org launches to provide online access to library collections over the internet
• 2011: WorldShare Management Services debuts as the first cloud-based library management system
• 2015: OCLC prints its last library catalog card after a multi-decade run of 1.9 billion
• 2017: Tipasa launches as first cloud-based interlibrary loan management service

See more about OCLC’s 50 years of service at oc.lc/fifty on the website. Follow memories at #OCLC50 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

About OCLC
OCLC is a nonprofit global library cooperative providing shared technology services, original research and community programs so that libraries can better fuel learning, research and innovation. Through OCLC, member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the most comprehensive global network of data about library collections and services. Libraries gain efficiencies through OCLC’s WorldShare, a complete set of library management applications and services built on an open, cloud-based platform. It is through collaboration and sharing of the world’s collected knowledge that libraries can help people find answers they need to solve problems. Together as OCLC, member libraries, staff and partners make breakthroughs possible.

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