Globalisation and Information Access. The Role and Influence of OCLC


It's a truism that the information world is getting smaller. We are linked in an information society in a way probably only realised by some science fiction writers. Arthur C. Clarke in The Coming of the Space Age (1967) portrayed a future vision of information access which he believed would benefit the underdeveloped areas of the world. He wrote in a chapter in that book 'Everybody in Instant Touch' that satellites will bring "above all, education into the heart of Africa, the endless steppes of Central Asia, the jungles of South America". The physical embodiment of this global information world which Clarke envisaged may come about through the Microsoft/Intel/Boeing alliance of low level satellite blanket provision in the early years of the next century. This may put in effect what Bill Gates has called the global digital nervous system. Let's hope there are no digital nervous breakdowns! The first year of operation of Papua New Guinea's Internet operations has seen many power failures due to the worst drought in recent times affecting power supply and "outages" for 50% of the last six months - an Internet breakdown.

However what if the end result of this globalisation is trivialisation of media and information access. Compare the global media coverage of the death of Princess Diana to that of Mother Theresa? Clarke also envisaged what he called the "Electronic Blackboard" but global soap has so far out blacked out Shakespeare. Sociological studies have revealed the decline of local ethnic rites by indigenous populations around the world and the counter prevailing influence/impact of American T.V. soaps. The Non Western world yearns for Coca-Cola, Satellite TV, McDonald's, the Internet and Hollywood visions (as cited in The Dictionary of Global Culture by K. Appiah and H.L. Gates. Allan Lane, 1997). Professor R.M.W. Dixon of the Australian National University has identified in his latest book The Rise and Fall of Languages (CUP, 1997) the rapid decline of aboriginal languages in Australia in the twentieth century.

The Web site for the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano registered a record 646:3 million hits. If this can be achieved for such relatively unpopular games (although it could be linked to non prime time America access), and for sports such as curling, then the future Net trends could be dramatic. The World Wide Web is dominated by American useage - 84% in the March OCLC Research Institute figures. According to The Financial Times no more then 10% of the world's population use English to communicate.

Internet addresses are limited to the twenty six characters of the English alphabet which is clearly a problem for countries with different alphabets. On March 31 the Australian Minister for Communications Richard Alston called an urgent meeting, co-ordinated by the National Office of the Information Economy, to express Australia's concern to the US Green Paper 'Domain Name Subscription Management', which aims to centralise management of Internet domains within US borders making them subject to US law. This despite the fact that the Internet will become increasingly international in useage. Australia is ranked sixth in the world in Net useage and fifth in the world for the number of Internet hosts. The reaction of European community will have significant impact here.

Globalisation or Americanisation?

Thus we're seeing, in general terms, an English language dominance (and largely Americanisation) of the global information world, not only of content but also of the distribution mechanisms. Cees Nooteboom, the distinguished Dutch author, stated in March this year at the Adelaide Writers Festival that foreign language writers increasingly need English translations of their works if they are to impact upon a global readership. Does it matter that American information dominates many of the electronic services Australian libraries offers? I think it does - local content is just as important whether it be Korea, France or New Zealand in information as it is in television and the movies. IBM's Internet supremo John Patrick regaled listeners at the Brisbane WW3 meeting in April with a story from an earlier World Wide Web conference held in Paris several years ago where the hosts insisted on a quota of papers delivered in French. Patrick recalled how he told the organisers: "I can speak two languages, English and HTML (hypertext mark-up language)".

Samuel P. Huntington in his best selling book The Clash of Civilisations (1996) argued global politics are both multipolar and multicivilizational and that modernisation is distinct from Westernisation. His arguments on like societies bonding together and the continuing rise of Islamic forces still holds true, but his words "the survival of the West depends on Americans reaffirming their Western identity" is clearly happening on the Net. This book was also written in the context of the Asian tigers boom, and while Asia will re-emerge, it does emphasise the dangers of general predictions of cyclical trends.

In that context of prediction, 1998 US Congress Report on Electronic Commerce reports and predicts that

  • $6 billion in goods and services were sold on the Internet last year
  • Trade is forecast to boom to $300 billion by the year 2002
  • 7 per cent of all airline tickets in the US are expected to be bought over the Internet next year
  • 20 per cent of all books sold in the US will be sold over the Internet by 2000
  • Internet usage in general is doubling every 100 days
  • 1 billion people expected to be on the Internet by 2005

In this process, the movement to increasingly large and dominant global providers will continue to emerge. E-commerce already surmounts national boundaries as major Internet providers have found. "An external force is now starting to impose constraints upon Australian society that we haven't agreed to and haven't sought," (Martin Feil CEO Firmstore & Feil in an interview in the Australian Financial Review (March 28-29).

Feil continued "we have to decide whether we just sit back and see where the chips fall or struggle against it." The globalisation of business has already undermined the prerogatives of the nation state. Trans-national corporations are increasingly paying tax in the jurisdiction of their choice and directing investments to countries offering special assistance. The Internet accelerates the trend by bypassing established distribution channels which governments tax as goods and service move from producer to consumer." Local VAT taxes on electronic publishing could be overcome by global distribution. If the UK introduces a 17 1/2% VAT on electronic publishing in 1999 this could have a devastating impact on library budgets, as could a first ever GST in Australia after the forthcoming election in 1998.

Societal Changes

Globalisation will be accelerated by the development of virtual organisations which might also become virtual feudalisms. Manuel Castells in his stimulating book The Rise of the Network Society (1996) urges us to address the cultural and institutional effects of such rapid changes in the access to and exchange of information. The segmentation of knowledge encapsulated in the Net may be reflected, Castells argues, in an extreme flexibility of work patterns and the individualisation of labour. Will societal structures be fragmented in consequence? Castells writes "the struggle between diverse capitalists and the miscellaneous working classes is subsumed into the more fundamental opposition between the bare logic of capital flows and the cultural values of human experience".

Local providers will have to provide niche markets in either service or content, which, of course, in turn can be global. The corner store will be replaced by the hypermall, the local bank by on-line commerce, the local bookshop by the Internet super bookstores, while the local library could be challenged by the future super information providers. Will librarians facilitate communication in the new cyber communities or be left on the side of the Information Superhighway?

As keepers of the information "prison" the age old social responsibilities of libraries may reimerge in the Internet Society. Not for profit organisations like OCLC have perhaps an increased societal role to play - another burden maybe for the new CEO! If cost control and portfolio gains were the underpinning of OCLC growth in 1997, not revenue sales, how does OCLC "balance" future service provision? The Net world of social obligation may grow smaller but the social implications and responsibilities will be more and more apparent. As Ursula Le Guin has written: "but need alone is not enough to set power free - there must be knowledge". Where does global responsibility come in? Where are the Ten Commandments for the Millennium? What are the belief systems of the twenty first century information society? Is all that remains the quick sand of cultural relativism and rampant consumerism? Is the Net to provide the wider curriculum of information/education?

Generational Changes

Future generations will reflect in Net use their current use of computer games, multimedia habits of accessing information. Don Tapscott, who coined the term "paradigm shift" to describe the impact of the information society, has indicated in The Rise of the Net Generation - Growing up Digital (1997) that as the current generation has grown up "bolted in bits", they will not only be familiar with the Net environment of non sequential access, but they will also demand highly customised products.

Bill Clinton's Internet adviser Ira Magaziner, in a speech in Australia in mid April, cited his daughter's experience who was asked recently to do a primary school assignment on an American Wild West hero:-

"Immediately she went to the Internet, whereas we would have gone to the library. Within an hour, she had found a museum in Montana that was devoted to him; she had found another kid who had done a project somewhere in California; she had found five or six or seven different sources that she had already downloaded. She was starting to write her paper an hour later, something that would have taken us a couple of days going to the library. She was just naturally doing things we wouldn't think of".

Virtual medicine or Internet medical web pages are now troubling some doctors as users can get expert information on the Net. Why wait for ages in a doctor's surgery and then pay a lot for a basic diagnosis if the Net doctor can help you? British Telecom's prototype of a cardiac monitoring wristwatch is just one example of medical technology to come. Why do we need a local library, except in physical terms like a surrogate creche or meeting place for pensioners, if it becomes virtual? Local, indeed national providers, will have to compete with the providers in the global marketplace.

The buying of goods over the Internet via encryption, smart cards, etc. is going to explode in the twenty first century via one stop cheap digital boxes for TV and Net access and mobile Web telephony. The UK Financial Times reported last December that the profits from Lexis-Nexis a decade ago would scarcely have bought an executive home in Surrey. They now wryly comment how that Lexis-Nexis could probably buy a significant number of homes each year.

As Alberto Manguel has written in his seminal work The History of Reading (1997) the cyber generation returns from the book centered Hebrew traditions of Augustine to the bookless Greek tradition. OCLC may wish to foster the potential of the current video server research projects to deliver an integrated video, sound and text environment to users. If virtual three dimensional super market shops are inevitable on the Net allied to home delivery what will be the future consequences for the virtual information profession?

In terms of such geography what will be the consequences of the explosion of interactive Net working? Will workers continue to travel into high cost city centres when all the costs of commuting in time and money are weighed up. It seems to me that science fiction writers like David Brin, Greg Bear and Greg Egan have contributed more to effective Net future visions than many of the so-called highly paid think tank futurologists.

As David Brin wrote as far back as 1990 in his novel Earth "And to think, some idiots predicted that we'd someday found our economy or information. That we'd base money on it! On information? The problem isn't scarcity. There's too damned much of it. The problem usually wasn't getting access to information. It was to stave off drowning in it. People bought personalized filter programs to skim a few droplets from that sea and keep the rest out".

Will we, or can we, adopt what might be called calming or restraining technology, ie, personal filters which block out the world rather than allowing 'push' types of information. Netscape's Aurora, billed as the next generation browsing interface, allows integration of websites, bookmarks, e-mail, local desktop files etc. "Push and pull" becomes integrated. Voice interfacing with A1 agents will become inevitable.

OCLC and Global Staffing

In this context does it matter where OCLC staff are located in a global Net environment providing appropriate communication and managerial mechanisms are in place? I note from Dr K. Wayne Smith's OCLC Research Libraries Forum speech that staff are increasingly difficult to find (100 vacancies) and retain for OCLC. This issue was also raised at RMG's ALA 98 Midwinter Presidents Forum. Rather then increase costs by paying more locally, could one suggest that a distributed OCLC network of staffing be considered globally rather than having nearly all staff located in Dublin, Ohio. They could just as easily be in Dublin, Ireland? The virtual "Dublin Core" of OCLC may have a place in the twenty first century.

John Chambers, President of Cisco Systems, who recently addressed audiences in Australia stated that the Internet "will combine people and information in truly virtual companies... it doesn't matter whether you're located in Sydney, Tokyo or Europe... people are realising the Internet is a huge competitive advantage if they learn how to leverage it". Geography will not be the controlling variable although the delivery will depend on global economics. The 'iceberg' of input has to come globally, perhaps from the vast array of information thinkers, currently hidden by the massive American "tip".

Amitav Ghosh's 1996 novel, The Calcutta Chromosome, which won the Arthur C. Clarke award for best Science Fiction Novel in the UK, links an Internet society and provides an alternate view of the development and dissemination of Western scientific advances and cultures. Given the ubiquity of Indian programmers and sub-contracting, where is the Indian sub-continent in the predictions of the information future? Will India's population leap from vast non-literacy to a visual post literate Net and TV future in an expansion of their information "Bollywood"? If so what will be the division between entertainment and what infotainment?

Predicting the Future

Martin Dillon in his 'Research Library Briefing' to the March 1998 OCLC Research Directors meeting outlined the stunning pace of technological change and revealed how earlier predictions are now hopelessly outdated. Retrovision is a useful perspective but the ability to predict the future is notoriously difficult. In an article in 1985 "Managing catalogues without cataloguers" I wrote "the cataloguer and the librarian are no longer the somewhat remote and static recorders of information but the guides and pathfinders to the proliferation of electronic information data", but I based this on C.D. Roms and not the Net.

Science fiction writers of the 1950's like Isaac Asimov predicted information would be delivered via punched cards and inter library loans in the far future would be via fax output. Sooner rather than later CD-Roms will be seen as an interim technology like microfilm. Only twenty years ago Digital's former CEO predicted there would be no use for home computers. In 1982 Bill Gates was predicting that 640K of main memory would be sufficient power for user workspaces in operating systems and Microsoft failed to recognise the importance of the Internet in the early 1990's.

If the future is access then John Patrick's vision expounded at the Seventh International World Wide Web Conference in April in Brisbane, Australia will be awesome and awful. Patrick, IBM's V.P. for Internet Technology, believes in the relatively near future telephones, pagers, churches (Dial a God?) and vending machines will be all web connected. Patrick cites the 3 'C's as most important - Content, Commerce and Collaboration. (Compare Dr Smith's Four I's for OCLC).

In contrast to that future vision I think back to 1960 when Oxford University Bodley's Librarian J.N.L. Myres was still using the ink quill pen of his nineteenth century predecessors to write letters to users. Now the Bodleian well and truly is linked by the Net to the world. Yet less then four decades have passed. How does one predict accurately the future when the pace of change is accelerating so fast in technological and societal change? What will be the pace of change in the next four decades?

Robert J. Denning and Robert Metcalfe in their book Beyond Calculation. The Next Fifty Years of Computing (Copernicus, 1997) provides some significant pointers to possible future realities.

  • by 2047 almost all information will be in cyberspace (cf Michael Lesk's 2010 digital and library/museum comparisons in Practical Digital Libraries (1997))
  • one-chip fully networked systems will be ubiquitous at very low cost. The issue will be to define the interface between physical and cyber space. Will we have a body network - the mobile phone/watch communicator?
  • speech (English?) recognition will do away with keyboards and allow universal access by all ages and nationalities
  • Visions can be achieved - the underlying technologies may be different (cf Babbage and Vannevar Bush analogies)
  • Those in work work harder and longer while those out of work increase?
  • Work will be independent of location - outsourcing allied to individual life styles. Piecework on the Net. Globalisation will be by interest not location.

OCLC, Past, Present and Future

What is this to do with OCLC's future and "Death Star" scenarios, the term for the global communication and business dominance of the twenty first century? A great deal one would argue. OCLC will need to recognise regional diversity and cultural attitudes but also be aware of the global economies of scale. Some concern has been expressed in Europe as to the nature of the American content in OCLC references services. Major American ILMS providers often shape their deals and practices in the US and then trying to impose them on to other global environments. US historical rigidity or practices may not be "best practice" and comprise more flexible approaches internationally.

Most Australian libraries now accept US standards eg. US MARC simply for convenience and economic throughput. Will having local MARC standards in the future mean no standards at all? MARC records are also clearly linked to the book. OCLC may also wish to expand its 'think tanks' like Dublin Core in various sections of the globe. Bodies like OCLC need to both recognise and ignore national boundaries.

Having said that regions are not always homogenous as mentioned earlier. Are Australia and New Zealand part of Asia is an issue that has been much debated not least by Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia? Incidentally is the cultural background of Malaysia a detraction to the success of the much vaunted Malaysian hi-tech corridor, now in relative decline. Why has Ireland or rather Dublin succeeded in I.T. development and Kuala Lumpur not? Has culture got something to do with it in terms of entrepreneuralism and failure? Did the structure of Japanese society and language inhibit the Silicon Valley type of invention and entrepreneuralism? Will Japan's face to face business method fail on the Net? What might work in France might not in UK, eg. in terms of copyright and privacy rules.

In looking at my OCLC file, which began when I was in the Bodleian in the late 1960's and early 1970's, one sees some surprising and obvious trends. Obviously OCLC card production - a staple of the early days will continue to fall, although I was surprised to see that 19.1 million cards were still produced in 1997. The OCLC retrovision provides some interesting comments. Thus Richard de Gennaro wrote in Library Journal of April 1 1984 in an article "Will success spoil OCLC": "it appears that OCLC's management believes that what is good for OCLC must be good for the library world". This has clearly not been a dominant stream in recent years, (although it has for some US ILMS providers as mentioned earlier), as OCLC's interface has deepened with its users and the nature of libraries and their information resources has changed.

One of the flavours of that early period and throughout the 1980's was the "competition" between OCLC and RLG which was largely based on a general utilities provision. If one looks at where the two groups are positioned in 1998 it is evident how different the two organisations look (at least from a down under perspective). OCLC has positioned itself to become the springboard for global information provision across a wide system of activities, while RLG has focussed itself, as a specific resource in the context of research collections. These are simple generalisations and obviously there are many cross nuances eg; OCLC's image archiving of the NYPL Schomberg Collection and RLG's European Library Data Initiative. At the end of the day I doubt we will ever return to that hostility of the 1970's and early 1980's. UK CURL members are active participants in OCLC and RLG.

Irene Hoadley stated, as chair of the OCLC Users Council in 1985, that most OCLC users would be amenable to new ventures as long as OCLC continued still to provide the basics, which she called cataloguing and ILL. Thirteen years later these are important service but no longer, I would suggest, the core for the end user, who increasingly will not be a library, even though libraries may be a conduit for some users. Steve Silberstein of Innovative Interfaces commented at RMG's Midwinter 1998 ALA presentation of the impact of Z39.50 on OCLC's cataloguing revenue. Content is the future key in addition to technical infrastructure provision.

K. Wayne Smith in his 1992 statement OCLC's Linking Strategy foreshadowed the impact of the Internet and the aim of OCLC to "become the easiest and most cost-effective way to integrate libraries into the emerging digital, global community". He didn't predict the move to Internet ubiquity nor the move to include content rather then what might be generally called "technical services" provision.

Fred Kilgour's vision in 1966 of taking the library to the people rather the reverse is now embodied in desktop strategies. At the 1966 Brasenose Conference in Oxford, a pioneering UK automation conference, he stated in a question and answer session the following prophetic words:-

"Furthermore, in the new systems approach we are going to have to be concerned with the users' costs as well as the cataloguers' costs. I certainly anticipate that by the 1990's consoles will be as widely available in laboratories and offices and elsewhere, as telephones are today, and that it will be possible for a user to go into a national or international pool of information to obtain that information directly. It may be that he will use a library in a kind of converse of the way that he uses his own private collection today...We must assume, I think, that the time is coming when there will be national and international pools of bibliographic information and textual information...Another assumption is that in order to get to the 1990's we should have as clear a picture as possible as to where we are going to go, in order to move in the right direction in faltering steps. Mechanization of existing procedures is in my opinion not desirable as an end in itself, for it is just kind of speeding up and not going in any particular direction. We do have to mechanize present procedures, but this should be done as a deliberate and planned step in a more sophisticated way, toward a more sophisticated goal. Librarians are going to have to be increasingly more concerned with information."

In Kilgour's context above we must not simply "Internet" existing processes but rather move to new paradigms of information access as Professor Peter Lyman of the University of California at Berkeley has pointed out in several seminal articles. Reproduction of the card catalogue entry on OPAC terminals continued for some time, as has the replication of a printed page on the screen in the e-journal environment.

Resource Discovery and Intelligent Agents

In an era of increased co-ordination the constituent elements will include electronic library facilities, multimedia interactive classrooms, virtual reality laboratories, design and innovation centres which sit within or by the side of traditional print libraries. The Abilene Internet Protocol Network expected to be fully completed by the end of 1999 should provide the US platform for the development of such applications as the research and education network and provide the basis for the "next generation Internet".

Resource discovery will increasingly be a global activity with the focus of information access being in ever expanding circles rather then focussing back to a local print library, as has been the situation in the past. My colleague Tony Barry at ANU has indicated that the net will empower centralised services such as OCLC and the search engine facilitators and that small groups will be effective globally in niche markets. (I note incidentally that the Net selling of meteorites is a booming niche market!) It will be the middle ground, Barry argues, which will be weakened and libraries fall into that space!

Who provides the "intelligence" in the searching is the key factor in the future digital library environment. Should OCLC be linking or promoting accredited (ie ranked) information resources in the style of the World Wide Web Virtual Library as part of its overall information resource? The recent study "Searching the World Wide Web" by Steve Lawrence and Lee Giles published in Science indicates that there are 320 million pages on the Web that are accessible to search engines. They estimate that of the search engines studied, the best engine HotBot only covers one third of the Web. They suggest that tools such as the Metacrawler and software robots that can use multiple search engines and then combine the results into a single list will provide the best result.

In future indexing services will be less and less popular unless they are linked to full text sources, either of the original creator direct, or by document access. Traditional catalogues are equally endangered unless seen as multi-source entry points to full texts and/or include metadata resources. Why spend funds in the future to simply document the outside physical characteristics of a book item when it is the "inside" text which is important. Is it more important to provide access to the material on-line then in a physical repository where use is restricted.

Twenty four hour electronic reference "intelligence" services could be available from our libraries but how many currently offer them? They could be funded on a fee for service basis. In other areas of electronic access services, where funds are tight, there has been established definition between 'core' and "value added services". Intelligent agents or "data miners" in many areas will replace some services by librarians. As users can delineate their requirements in terms of access to 'x' or 'y' topics in their specialities then commercial and non-commercial providers will increasingly provide customised access profiles. Material inside that profile delivered by the agents will either be free, available under an institutional site license, or at a price as the user pays to open a particular envelope of information.

What is going to be the information environment with the network as the desktop? We have moved on from the identification and listing of the outside of books (cf OCLC activities of the 1970's) to the manipulation of the "deconstructed" text into chunks of electronic information which is increasingly to be surrounded by subject value added services. Thus electronic journals cannot simply be the replication, both in cost and structure, of the print originals. ECO (Electronic Collections Online) provides an excellent one stop shop eg. for Australian libraries which have consortia deals. Pricing models however will be crucial for future subscriptions as budget cuts dig deeper and some major publishers continue to maximise profits over delivery of services to their academic providers.

Global Information Access Necessities (The Digital Full Monty?)

Features which will exist in a global electronic information market will include (in no particular order):

  • ubiquitous desktop access (cf the future "wristwatch" access)
  • tailored and flexible gateways to information
  • ease of access to information with location no barrier
  • interchangeability, interoperability and compatibility
  • 24 hour access to information ie. when the user wants it
  • public library gateways to the Net provide citizens "rights" to information
  • inclusion of local content alongside global material
  • Slices of information eg. chapters, contributions to symposia, articles will be the norm for electronic access rather then the simple replication of books or journals
  • value added databases and features in the academic arena such as multimedia hot links (ie. sound, images etc.)
  • Increasing ease of economic network print delivery with authentication, copyright protection, electronic payment facilities
  • Customised personal information filters both for data screening and quality ratings
  • An increasing jungle of complexity of electronic licensing in the short term
  • The academic community reclaiming the copyright and their distribution of their research output to combat rise in costs of much "essential" electronic information eg. in law, medical and engineering

If the above factors emerge in the early twenty first century what will be the impact upon

  • libraries
  • library subscription agents (The British Bookseller has recently predicted that one of the four major serials supplier vendors in the UK will disappear in the next decade)
  • document supply agencies
  • traditional and electronic publishers
  • users of information both individually and institutionally
  • global organisations such as OCLC

OCLC will continue to need to evaluate the linkages of international information infrastructure and to develop increasingly sustainable partnerships of global alliances with content and telecommunication providers. Much of the relevant Web developments in information are coming from outside the "traditional" library and information spectrum. There will be increased need for OCLC links with "intelligent administration", ie. infrastructures which manage everything from user authentication, content distribution and billing. At the end of the day there will only be a few global big players/conglomerates, while recognising that the Net allows any individual a voice - it's just how does that voice get recognised, authenticated and distributed in a global framework?

Joe Kasputy's, CEO of Primark Corporation, has provided his insights into how an information company stays near the top of the "food chain" of the information industry. He predicts:

"that computing technology and communications technology - the information pipelines - would be virtually free. The value was in content, but there was a distinct danger of users drowning in data, so the real value was in content with 'relevance'. In the technology jungle, therefore, to really add value the information provider had to meet user needs, and to do this they had to deliver four things: quality, relevance, integration, and application. Quality in terms of comprehensive, timely, and accurate data. Relevance in terms of providing the tools for the user to filter and access only the relevant data. Integration so that different types of data could be accessed at the same time. And applications that allow the user to access this data easily and in a format that they need. In providing the greatest value through meeting user needs, information companies needed to recognise that their clients are global and want to negotiate global deals; that they re looking for fewer vendors providing access to more information; they expect vendors to understand their needs; and they expect vendors to be their technology partners. These demands will result in consolidation and in the formation of partnerships."

Relevant bodies will be:-

  • content organisations - the creators and providers
  • distribution organisations
  • technology organisations - both hardware and software
  • the "organisation" organisations - who filter, analyse and collect. Lists are important in this area of linking content.

Systems will have to be robust. The recent lengthy power blackouts in central Auckland, New Zealand, which lasted a number of weeks, were partly attributable to outsourcing and to a reduction in maintenance costs in favour of annual shareholder profits. Australia's recent partial Telstra telecommunications share float has seen shareholders more interested in a share bonanza then responsibilities to future servicing of rural Australia. Recent riots and suicides in a major Melbourne Australian jail have been attributed to the outsourcing of prison services to a multinational private security/prison firm whose standards were allegedly more Robocop than custodial. Outsourcing may bring problems as well as economic savings.

Academic User Access Requirements

Users don't want system obsolescence in software (cf Microsoft) and will need efficient migratory pathways. Seamless accessibility is clearly another message coming from academic users. Analysis of the PSLI (Pilot Site Licence Initiative) in the UK affirms that users prefer subject gateways and one stop shops (outside of Webpac links in OPACS) to access data rather than having to remember which publisher produces which journal title. What is required for future access in institutional terms, in no particular order, are customised slices of information at lower prices, individual customisation of services, fair use provision, co-operative mechanisms and less monopolistic "fait accomplis". The issue whether to collect or to access data is an increasingly important and contentious one. In the research academic community the general dependence on print bears little relevance to useage but generations of scholars brought up before the Net have been reluctant to move to on demand access.

It is well understood that monographs at the present time are unwieldy on the Net yet increasingly expensive for university presses to produce. Scholarly communication patterns will need to implement developments whereby books and chapters are available on line (eg. Columbia's International Affairs Online) but with an easily available network print access outlet at reasonable cost and with appropriate copyright protection. The subsequent movement to organic Net production will then follow.

Article access is relatively easy but the costs of monographic loans are expensive on staffing and insurance costs. The average surface mail from UK to Australia for a book in 1998 is 3 months and is a worse delivery time than the late nineteenth century when the 'clippers' sailed with the Indian Ocean winds. US to Australia surface mail has deteriorated in the last few years from 45 days to 75 days on average. The cost of airmail postage of monographs is often prohibitively high for return postage. The cost of a large folio volume of runic inscriptions requested from a Scandinavian library to ANU for example ran into over a hundred dollars.

In the context of future book production and attention spans it is relevant that many of the conglomerates are multimedia providers. Dr Peter Cochrane, Head of BT Research in his 1997 publication Tips for Time Travellers writes "Thirty years ago I could have found time to read "War and Peace" or any other tomb (sic). Even 10 years ago I might have attempted such a laborious process, but not any more. I just cannot find the time to work through 10, 30-page (or more) chapters, let alone 2 or 3 chapters in one go. So this book is written and organised in subject bytes of about 600 words. These 24kbyte monologues can be read in less than 5 minutes while you wait for a cab, have lunch, a coffee, an Internet download, or perhaps more likely while you journey by car, train or plane."

We need to move to a digital database of monographic material available globally - perhaps the UMI model of digital theses globally could be advanced by OCLC with appropriate partners. UMI is sitting on a huge microform monograph base, which is fine if you want to buy a microfilm, but now users will increasingly want electronic text manipulation rather then peering into a microfilm reader. OCLC could be a innovater in facilitating full text content provision? In the future an archive of digital monographs with copyright royalty payments might be a feature.

Dr K. Wayne Smith in his 1998 Report to the OCLC Research Libraries Forum indicated bandwidth access and delivery issue. He also indicated at the February 1998 Users Council the increase in Internet capacity by OCLC and the reliance on two Internet service providers - MCI and Sprint - rather than one. Clearly each country or area will have different access issues. In Australia with $142 per gigabyte for overseas data and $22 for internal, then mirror sites and caching are important issues. The dramatic fluctuations in service from the overseas Academic Press sites to Australia have impacted badly on the academic users perception of the Australian universities consortia deal and Academic Press "offerings".

OCLC have argued that the OCLC database is too huge as a single object to mirror overseas and too uneconomic to replicate with possibly historic design topology, but OCLC may be able to split access, particularly in the context of particular databases. The local, national and global components of information architecture have to be identified and assessed to enable the most effective and economic information access delivery.

Virtual Universities and Global Learning Access

Who will provide the content or global rights in the flexible learning environment? Is there an increasing role for OCLC in this area? Physical universities will not die because of the need for social interaction but the mode of mass learning and research will. Already discipline boundaries are breaking down on the Net. Groups of connected scholars globally have more in common with each other than their increasingly managerial university environments, where there is an emphasis on performance and delivery rather than the historical collegiality. The Net web of intellectual "anarchy" replaces campus "anarchy" - the wheel barrow of academic frogs analogy!

The Gartner Group estimate that by the year 2000 more then 75% of traditional colleges and universities will use distributed learning technologies in one or more traditional academic programmes. The research undertaken by OCLC into distance and web based learning could lead to partnerships with organisations like the Open University. Lifelong learning, or lifelong retraining, will become the norm so the underpinning of such needs for structural information will be required. In the UK 70% of jobs now require cerebral skills and less than 30% manual skills. Fifty years ago the reverse was true.

Will OCLC want to go into the virtual education market - and become a sort of "Infobarn"? The virtual universities will need virtual delivery of content. Mass physical lectures are clearly outmoded in the future. Students should be able, particularly as many have part-time jobs, to access to their lectures, plus associated material, whenever they want and increasingly it may be (given global accreditation facilities) from whomever they want. I liked Bernard Naylor, the Librarian of Southampton University's, reuse of RBL (Resource Based Learning) as Relocate the Beggars (Buggers?!) in the Library in a recent UK Dearing Conference Proceedings.

In a higher education market research collections will have to be linked at a global co-operative level. There will be an associated growth of specialists in organising knowledge and the development of niche markets. Can OCLC harness or employ the "cybergurus" who will wander the Web dispensing information like the medieval scholar or minstrel.

Sir David Puttnam at the Singapore Virtual University Conference in August 1996 compared the development of the video industry with that of global virtual education and called for visions to be held now for the twenty first century. Puttnam cited his desire circa 1970 to gain venture capital to buy up the Rank movie stock and was asked by British bankers for what purpose. His response of arguing for control of movies for future video dissemination was treated with disdain, yet by 1980 film rights were major bargaining video chips. He was a decade too early for the British funding agencies whose vision was limited.

Picking the right trends a decade ahead is the key. The availability for entrepreneurial capital is limited in Australia and comes back again to the balance of risk capital and vision in the Net world. If, as Puttnam now states, the British film industry is an oxymoron then what is the case in the virtual university and global information arena? If OCLC can add the curriculum content, via alliances to its technical infrastructure, will it be well placed for the next century's home education market?

Copyright and Archiving

Professor Paul Goldstein of Stanford University Law School titled his 1997 book Copyright's Highway: From Gutenberg to the Celestial Jukebox. He uses the term "celestial jukebox" to incorporate a console/terminal which allows access to online text, music and video. In such a multimedia environment the nature of copyright, eg, in interactive visual images becomes more complicated but the concept of 'fair use' in a university environment is one which is in need of universal protection. Electronic access rights could actually inhibit free flow of information in a number of cases as witness the quagmire the Australian Copyright Agency (CAL) has got itself into an Electronic reserve. The lobbying of librarians at the WIPO Geneva Copyright Summit was important as has been the continuing work of ECUP, the European Copyright Users Platform.

Global copyright of material is important. Academics will have to retain their intellectual property particularly the electronic rights. One published it was noted many publishers initially did not allow electronic retention of an archive. In the current Australian round of negotiations with Academic Press, the firm was unwilling to allow retention of their electronic archive. Even if electronic archives are available does each university need to retain an archive or can they rely on national or international servers to hold relevant files for them? OCLC's electronic archiving role will be an increasingly important one and may be also a link in global sub-partnerships in terms of mirror sites?

As Esther Dyson has indicated in Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age the Information Age may see a return to the pre-industrial Revolution values. As individual themselves become producers and distributors of information, the dichotomy between gigagiant conglomerates and cottage industries will be evident and be mixed.

In this context one could cite the example of Brewster Kahle, who incidentally has termed himself a "digital anthropologist". When Kahle came to the April 1993 Canberra Conference on Scholarly Communication he could be excited by his first cross Pacific United economy flight! In 1998 he sold his Internet Wide Area Information server to America Online for $15 million US. US pioneering individual efforts are merging into the conglomerate in rapidly diminishing time frames. Can or should OCLC liaise with Kahle's Alexa Internet and similar ventures in its forming electronic archival links?

Specific vendors such as Reuters and Dow Jones have moved away from dedicated static interfaces to open Web access. The need to reevaluate and restructure is clear. When ANU Library began pioneering electronic newspapers in 1993/4 with Reuters data, Reuters management, at least in Australia couldn't grasp the potential of the Net, nor that a system which could deliver newspapers to e-mail addresses just as easily in Taiwan or Scandinavia as in Australia. Their regional office monopolises prevented globalisation possibilities but information flow can no longer can be tied to a country or region. The dissemination profile has to be global. Chadwyck-Healey's PCI initiatives in 1998 recognise both the need for global access and the need to sell 'regional' bits.

The rise of ICOLC (The International Coalition of Library Consortia), currently comprising about sixty library consortia, shows how the building bricks of library organisation might be erected vis a vis the well known multinational information providers. Thus the Australian and New Zealand university library community carries relatively little weight on their own but allied to the European and American groups it can provide increased leverage. Partnerships and strategic alliances may well be the way of the future. If CIC in the USA is multi-state, can librarians broker multi-national deals? There is relatively little interaction between the various Innovative world wide user groups but what if they banded together for consortia deals? What is the power of the user community?

An Asian Dimension

In October 1997 more then 10,000 libraries in fifty three countries were using OCLC First Search (a rise from 6,000 and forty six respectively in March 1996). Andrew Wang and others at OCLC more directly liaising with the Asian market may predict better the duration of the current Asian downturn on those countries and thus the educational/academic market. The global economy obviously impacts on global information access where costs of international information are often priced in US dollars. Can institutions like OCLC act like the IMF in terms of forward purchase commitment and roll overs. Innovative Interfaces Inc has had to roll over Thai Library ILMS budgets..

A number of university librarians have been invited to give papers to the conference commemorating the centenary of Peking University Library in late October this year. As one peruses the guest speakers, the domination of American speakers is overwhelming, while those from Asia are relatively few and far between. What sort of message does this give? Will the talks, judging by their titles, be removed from the reality of Chinese librarianship today or is this programme meant to reflect a "Jewel in the Crown" scenario?

OCLC's automation initiatives with the National Library of China in the early 1980's met with some hurdles and probably reflected the gap then between Chinese optimism for technology and the lack of necessary infrastructure to underpin it. In many Asia countries infrastructure support has to be evaluated for the long haul. For several years the ANU Library was able to support the Sino-Australian Electronic Centre in the National Library of China and also "kick start" Internet Chinese and Indonesian article indexing on the Net, but this has now virtually ceased because of significant budget cuts to the ANU Library (as part of the Australian higher education downturn). The OCLC Tsinghua University office in Beijing is one example of another long term support mechanism. The work OCLC has done in Hong Kong with JULAC (the Joint Universities Library Advisory Committee) may well provide a showpiece for China which has the second largest market for PC's in Asia.

OCLC and Global Partnerships

The Latin American ambassadors in Canberra report they are often seen as one block on the diplomatic scene, yet they are quick to point out the differing natures of say Mexico and Argentina or Chile and Venezuela let alone Brazil. It is interesting to see in this context the recent initiatives of OCLC in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates. The Middle East is again an area whose countries could be regarded as one. So on the one hand we get, as mentioned earlier, a significant joining of interests in a mass globalisation and then in other sectors the need for recognition of local diversity.

As global sharing of resources is greatly accelerated by a more global use of the OCLC databases. The University of Queensland Library, which has uploaded its records into the OCLC database, has seen a decided increase in ILL requests which transforms into credits on the OCLC operations. The inter library loan mechanisms described in K. Wayne's Smith March 1998 speech, eg, between Japan and USA, will facilitate the physical infrastructure of the lending process. Provider links with companies such as Chadwyck-Healey and Super PCI (Periodicals Contents Index) with ILL facilities will be increasingly pursued. With nearly 80 million ILL requests by January 1 1998 document access and supply will increasingly be on a massive scale. What will be the future impact of OCLC on markets such the UK which has been dominated by the British Library Document Supply Centre?

The linking of libraries from their catalogues and/or web sites to the major providers of new books like or Barnes and, or to the antiquarian book providers like ABE, Antiquarian Arcade and Interloc, opens up new dimensions to material which transcends the traditional library networks. It may be cheaper in the future to buy a volume from the Antiquarian Net than borrow and return on a one off basis the item from an overseas library. The US Net is far more advanced in this context than the UK where secondhand booksellers seem less organised and more idiosyncratic despite the richness of the collections there. Global traffic will follow the best value, irrespective of country loyalties, and this pattern will be reflected in content access and dissemination. It is easier to buy British second hand imprints from America rather than UK because Net co-ordination is better in the former country.

The OCLC Institutes have contributed to the global discussion of research and development activities such as metadata issues. As we move into voice recognition, natural language communication and expert information systems the need to recognise developments and invest accordingly (no easy matter, or course), will be assisted by the development of global think tanks for OCLC and others which generate the best ideas without grace or favour. Testing of new products globally, has occurred as with version 4.0 of Site Search spread over three continents. Economies of scale are possible on a wider distribution level. Making OCLC functional software available free like Netscape might be an interesting thought! Give a man or woman a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach him or her to fish and you could feed them for a lifetime!

OCLC can provide "coherence", the glue that sticks pieces of the Internet information jigsaw together. The 'eyes' or the 'I's' of Wayne's World in that the OCLC goals of "Integration, Innovation, Internationalisation and Information" will be brought together.


If OCLC's mission is to further access to information and reduce or stabilise costs of information provision then the global trends briefly outlined in this paper fits that brief succinctly. The 'bulkinisation' of information, in contrast to global "balkanisation", allows costs to be spread across the globe via organisations such as OCLC. H.G. Wells's 'World Brain' might be too hyperbolic at the moment to describe OCLC's role, but it has the potential in the twenty first century to become an even wider global source of information content and as a facilitator of information from creators to publishers to libraries and end users.

As foreshadowed earlier the size and variety of OCLC global stakeholders may provide both a challenge and a hindrance. The diversity of visions will need to be carefully balanced especially re economic and cultural sensitivities. OCLC can't become a one vote one country institution like the United Nations, nor the understandably loose global amalgamation which is IFLA. The words used by Leo Voogt, Secretary General of IFLA, at the October 1997 Users Council that OCLC acronym could stand for "Opportunity driven, communications based, learning based and coalition building" was nicely put.

Wasn't it Joseph Heller who wrote "He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt!" In a similar vein OCLC needs a Gatesian drive without the monopolistic ethos which seems to be symbolised by Microsoft. Jay Jordan as the successor to Dr Smith will have no easy task. We were aware of Wayne's prediction that his successor had to be a combination of Einstein, Houdini and Mother Theresa. While this now can't be achieved, ie. a caring woman leader, whose thought processes are faster than the speed of light, and who can escape at one bound from the constraints of the rising costs of monopolistic electronic information, I'm sure Mr Jordan will be able to achieve all the other activities except the gender focus!

The global mindset, so clearly articulated by Dr Smith in the Proceedings of the 1997 March OCLC Research Library Directors, is definitely attainable. I should like to congratulate OCLC on its international expansion during the period of Dr Smith's Executive Directorship and acknowledge here the vigorous interaction with librarians at a global level which OCLC have pursued in recent years. I believe this User Council deliberation will add to our mutual understanding and that future partnerships on a global basis, not simply with librarians, will strengthen and develop as a result of OCLC's leadership.

Thank you.

Updated:  20 March 2013/ Responsible Officer:  University Librarian/ Page Contact:  Library Systems & Web Coordinator