No deal with OCLC

The National Library has ended negotiations with OCLC, as the parties could not successfully come to terms on a contract.

The decision was made by the National Librarian after discussion in the National Reference Group and the Expert Group for the Libris national system


Since 2006, the National Library has been negotiating with the OCLC on participation in WorldCat. A test contract was concluded in 2007 between the National Library and OCLC, which was to extend over the period that contract negotiations were under way. The contract was continually extended, and the National Library has paid a monthly fee to OCLC since 2009.

The negotiations primarily dealt with two issues: on the one hand, the conditions for uploading the Swedish union catalogue Libris database into OCLC’s WorldCat;the question of license/ownership for copying bibliographic records from WorldCat for use in Libris.

Disagreement on use of records

Some time into the negotiations, OCLC presented certain conditions for how bibliographic records taken from WorldCat for cataloguing were to be used in Libris. These conditions could not be accepted by the National Library. A fundamental condition for the entire Libris collaboration is voluntary participation. Libraries that catalogue in Libris can take out all their bibliographic records and incorporate them instead into another system, or use them in anyway the library finds suitable. The National Library makes no claim of controlling how bibliographic records taken from Libris are used.

Libris an open database

In the Agreement on Participation in the Libris joint catalogue signed by the National Library and registering libraries, Point 3.3 specifies that “the content in LIBRIS is owned by the National Library and is freely accessible in accordance with the precepts and methods reported by the National Library, both for Participating Libraries and for external partners.” Such a paragraph is necessary, both so that the National Library can sign agreements for Libris with other partners (OCLC, for example) but chiefly so that the National Library can abstain from claims of ownership of bibliographic records that were taken from Libris regardless of method. Libris could therefore be an open database, both for the libraries that use Libris for cataloguing, and for other partners.

Restrictions on use of OCLC records

Bibliographic records exported from WorldCat cannot be used and further exported in just any way, according to the OCLC agreement. The National Library would need to supervise how bibliographic records originating in WorldCat were used. And a library that took a bibliographic record from WorldCat for cataloguing in Libris and transferred it to its own system would have to accept OCLC’s terms of use.

Not consistent with Libris principles

A library that wished to leave Libris would not obviously be able to do this, since it is not self-evident that the bibliographic records could be integrated to other systems. This would be an infringement on the voluntary participation that characterizes Libris. In practice, the National Library has no mandate that restricts the freedom of action of Libris libraries in this way, since the National Library has no possibility of influencing how the Libris libraries themselves choose to use their catalogues.

...Or those of Europeana

Nor would the National Library be able to deliver bibliographic data to Europeana and the European Library if it were to become part of WorldCat. Europeana aims at only obtaining data that can be made available under open license. The issue has been discussed with OCLC; they argue that making bibliographic records originating in WorldCat available in Europeana under open license conflicts with the WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities Statement as it is not consistent with the responsibility of WorldCat members to ensure the long-term viability and utility of WorldCat.

Improving routines

Libris is working on improving the routine for catalogue imports within the Libris cataloguing client. The number of databases available immediately in the post-import interface has grown drastically; during 2012 the provider of the system will work alongside Libris to further improve the routines.

Contact person: Maria Hedenström, e-mail: firstname.lastname@kb.se

National Library