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OCLC Helps the Library Industry Operate in the Time of COVID

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman OCLC Helps the Library Industry Operate in the Time of COVIDOCLC's facility in Dublin, Ohio. Photo via OCLC.
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Nonprofit library technology and research organization OCLC has been around since the late ’60s, providing a variety of services and applications to help libraries locate, acquire, catalog, share, preserve and manage their materials and collections.

OCLC, formerly known as the Online Computer Library Center, was established in 1967 in the main library at The Ohio State University out of a desire for several dozen Ohio colleges and universities to share their library resources. Their cataloging system effectively merged library catalogs through a pre-internet computer network and database so libraries could work collaboratively and cooperatively.

“We’re a technology organization with a public purpose,” said Tammi Spayde, Vice President for Marketing and Human Resources at OCLC.

What was once a regional computer system is now a global organization providing a variety of services to libraries on an open, cloud-based platform. This includes The WorldCat database, a resource many students and library patrons may recognize, which features the collections of more than 16,000 libraries from 120 countries.

One of the big challenges the library industry faced early on in the pandemic was moving library materials and collections to digital access.

Though many university libraries, national archives, public libraries, and museums had already started building their digital collections, OCLC was able to respond quickly and provide a number of services to facilitate the transition to remote materials.

“We were able to quickly put into place some services that made that transition easier or gave access to patrons and to libraries that they might not have had otherwise,” said Spayde.

OCLC also does a fair amount of original research and advocacy work on behalf of libraries, including last spring when the organization partnered with the federal organization Institute of Museum and Library Services and Central Ohio-based Battelle to support reopening practices. The REALM Project — REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums — produced scientific information about how materials can be handled to mitigate COVID-19 exposure to library staff and visitors.

OCLC curated the research and provided guidance to libraries around what they should do with circulating materials, how long they should quarantine those materials, and how staff should safely handle those materials.

“And keep in mind when this project started, we knew very, very little about this virus,” said Spayde. “We’ve learned a lot more since then, but there’s still a lot to learn. And so we’re gathering all of that information for libraries, archives, and museums.”

OCLC’s apps and services, such as CapiraCurbside and CapiraMobile, have also made libraries safer for visitors. CapiraCurbside, which enables curbside delivery, and CapiraMobile, a public library mobile app, were both created to allow customers to use their own mobile devices for self-service of simple requests.

OCLC is one of many Central Ohio companies making use of the State of Ohio’s TechCred program. As a technology company, the organization’s employees regularly seek to enhance their technology skills, either for exposure or because a certain position calls for certain certifications.

OCLC leadership says the program is great for everyone involved, for the employee receiving a marketable certification and for OCLC, which is retaining talented employees and saving money on training costs and certifications.

“We have used TechCred almost exclusively with technology staff and underrepresented groups,” said Spayde. “People who are in our organization that have high potential and interest to continue to grow in their careers, and that we want to continue to dedicate and develop them and invest in them.”

OCLC moved its world headquarters to Dublin in 1981, making 2021 the organization’s 40th year in the city.

As one of Dublin’s longstanding major employers, Spayde says OCLC has seen Dublin grow significantly, especially with the development of Bridge Park. Current and past employees have been active in Dublin government, and the organization itself has lent resources to city programming, including offering their property for festival staging and other events.

“So we’re really people who love the Dublin community, dedicated to that partnership and really have appreciated the opportunity to see Dublin grow and and partner in that growth,” said Spayde.

For more information on OCLC, visit oclc.org.

Our technology series is presented by our partners in the City of Dublin.

Dublin is a city of more than 47,000 residents located just northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The City of Dublin Economic Development team has a vision to make Dublin a Midwest IT Magnet through business leadership and sustainable workforce development. This commitment goes beyond short-term skills training to include long-term strategic and cultural support for the entire Dublin business community. Dublin is one of America’s Top 20 Creative Class Cities and is home to more than 20 corporate headquarters, an entrepreneurial center, 3,000+ businesses, world-class events and the urban, walkable Bridge Street District.

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