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Bibliosphere interview with Katie Birch, Portfolio Director, Delivery Services, OCLC


Katie Birch is Portfolio Director for Delivery Services at OCLC. In this capacity, Katie oversees WorldCat Resource Sharing, including the WorldCat policies directory and IFM, as well as ILLiad, VDX, WorldCat Navigator and WorldCat Link Manager. Katie is a librarian with 10 years experience in resource sharing and document delivery. Before joining OCLC in 2005, Katie was project manager and business development manager at Talis.


Bibliosphere: What do you feel are the main benefits of being part of OCLC’s resource sharing network?

Katie Birch: A library makes its community stronger by providing shared resources for its users. For decades OCLC has provided similar value to the libraries it serves. In fact for the last 35 years OCLC have provided the tools that facilitate resource sharing among more than 9000 libraries worldwide.
Access to our global network of library content combined with the services we offer not only dramatically extends the resource sharing capabilities of participating libraries; it also helps members streamline ILL processes by working together.
Regardless of whether a library operates as a small public or part of a national consortium, OCLC provides the means to share resources more efficiently.

Bibliosphere: How does OCLC play a role in stimulating global ILL exchanges and to what extent does OCLC support ILL initiatives at the national level?

Katie Birch: OCLC provides the only real global network of libraries participating in resource sharing – granted that is mostly focused on US activity currently, but international activity is growing year on year. For instance; recently following a successful six month trial, the Bavarian State Library (BSB) confirmed its continued participation in OCLC’s WorldCat Resource Sharing network. In only six months the number of requests submitted via WorldCat to the BSB averaged 2,000 per month, 50% of which were positively filled. The majority of enquiries (around two thirds) were for copies of articles, with the remainder coming from book loans. While the bulk of inquiries originated from the U.S., in all a total of requests were received by the BSB from libraries in 25 countries.
In total more than 35 national libraries and union catalogues now contribute their data to WorldCat, including the European national libraries of the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Israel, Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland, France, many of which also participate in OCLC’s resource network.

Bibliosphere: Is it true to say that being an OCLC member provides better access to the worldwide library community? How does this relationship help to optimize the collections and services of participating libraries?

Katie Birch: If an OCLC member library fully participates in resource sharing – both borrowing and lending – it offers the end user access to more resources which the library knows can be delivered because of its relationship with other member libraries through the co-operative.
This momentum built from participation and cooperation helps more libraries provide value, make more connections and become more relevant. It’s a circular process.

Bibliosphere: Cooperation between library groups is crucial if they are to become global access points to information. Tell us more on how OCLC supports library consortia in this endeavor; providing the opportunity to expand functionality through network and technological solutions?

Katie Birch: OCLC have a large number of consortia that use WorldCat Resource Sharing to satisfy requests within their consortia and outside of the consortia through a single interface/workflow. Other vendors provide consortial systems, but cannot provide that global network which is increasingly important to libraries and their users in today’s environment. OCLC provide functionality enabling libraries to work within their consortia first, so where possible requests are satisfied within the group where a library maybe has reciprocal arrangements in place.

Bibliosphere: Can you recommend ways for Bulgaria to fully utilize its participation in OCLC initiatives? Is it possible to share some ideas on how to develop mutual cooperation between Bulgarian libraries and OCLC, taking into account local specialties?

Katie Birch: The most important issue is for libraries (regardless of geography) to have a willingness to collaborate and share materials and resources. If this willingness exists, OCLC can provide the means to maximize this spirit of collaboration.

Bibliosphere: How do you see the “future world” that OCLC is trying to bring libraries and information centers to?

Katie Birch: OCLC’s vision is to bring the power of cloud computing to library management activities. These network-level services for managing library collections through circulation and delivery, print and licensed acquisitions, and license management are being built with new technologies and platforms that allow libraries to customise workflows based on the changing nature of their collections, their users and their business processes.
Forty years of cooperation and the breadth and depth of the WorldCat database uniquely positions the OCLC cooperative to provide this unparalleled set of services for library automation and management; and it gives members unprecedented opportunity to share data and workflows that they have never been able to share before.