OCLC-SkyRiver Dust Up

December 16, 2010

In the excitement of the i2 Ltd. legal action against Palantir, I put the OCLCSkyRiver legal hassle aside. I was reminded of the library wrestling match when I read “SkyRiver Challenges OCLC as Newest LC Authority Records Node.” I don’t do too much in libraries at this time. But OCLC is a familiar name to me; SkyRiver not so much. The original article about the legal issue appeared in Library Journal in July 29, 2010, “SkyRiver and Innovative Interfaces File Major Antitrust Lawsuit against OCLC.” Libraries are mostly about information access. Search would not have become the core function if it had not been for libraries’ early adoption of online services and their making online access available to patrons. In the days before the wild and wooly Web, libraries were harbingers of the revolution in research.

Legal battles are not unknown in the staid world of research, library services, and traditional indexing and content processing activities. But a fight between a household name and OCLC and a company with which I had modest familiarity is news.

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Here’s the key passage from the Library Journal write up:

Bibliographic services company SkyRiver Technology Solutions recently announced that it had become an official node of the Name Authority Cooperative Program (NACO), part of the Library of Congress’s (LC) Program for Cooperative Cataloging. It’s the first private company to provide this service, which was already provided by the nonprofit OCLC—SkyRiver’s much larger competitor in the bibliographic services field—and the British Library. Previously, many institutions have submitted their name authority records via OCLC. But SkyRiver’s new status as a NACO node allows it to provide the service, once exclusive to OCLC in the United States, to its users directly.

For me, this is a poke in the eye for OCLC, an outfit that used me on a couple of project when General K. Wayne Smith was running a very tight operation. I don’t know how management works at OCLC, but I think any action by the Library of Congress is going to trigger some meetings.

SkyRiver sees OCLC as acting in a non-competitive way. Now the Library of Congress has blown a kiss at SkyRiver. Looks like the library landscape, already ravaged by budget bulldozers, may be undergoing another change. I think outline of the mountain range where the work is underway appears to spell out the word “Monopoly.” Nah, probably my imagination.

Stephen E Arnold, December 16, 2010

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