OCLC: The World's Libraries. Connected - A Strategic Globalization Process



Founded in 1967, OCLC Inc. is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world's information and reducing information costs. More than 60,000 libraries in 112 countries have used OCLC services for cataloging, reference, resource sharing, eContent, preservation, library management and Web services. OCLC and its worldwide member libraries (11,000 outside of the U.S.) cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, making it the world's largest and richest database of bibliographic information. OCLC is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, USA and has over 1200 employees worldwide.

OCLC's governance structure consists of Members and Governing Members, the Members Council and the Board of Trustees. Governing Members of OCLC elect representatives to the Members Council. The Members Council is comprised of 70 delegates who reflect and articulate the interests of member institutions that participate in OCLC through qualifying regional service providers. There is also a 15-member Board of Trustees, which has the fiduciary responsibility for the organization.

In its first three decades, OCLC's international presence was fairly small. Over time, use of its products, and the number of members began to grow In 2001, responding to this growth, six new delegates were added to the Members Council from outside of the U.S. to broaden the dialogue about OCLC's international potential. The additional non-U.S. delegates on the Council brought in a range of issues that had not previously received as much focus, such as OCLC's potential to help smaller and public libraries throughout the world.

In 2004-2005 OCLC's Members Council and Board asked management for a wider understanding of OCLC's international potential. The resources that OCLC used during this period included Bonnie Koenig's book Going Global for the Greater Good and the different stages of international engagement outlined. Internationalization Spectrum Graphic A presentation by OCLC's marketing vice president and a simple graphic showing how products were used and valued differently in different parts of the world was also what George Needham, Vice President of Member Services called an "Ah-ha moment" for the group.

These discussions led to a report entitled "Toward Globalization - OCLC Strategic Activities 2006 and Beyond" http://www.oclc.org/memberscouncil/meetings/2005/may/11617globalstrategyreportweb.pdf Presenting this information to the Members Council resulted in a dialogue that allowed its non-U.S members to engage more fully and all of OCLC's stakeholders to be vested in a global trajectory.

Some of the steps OCLC took as a response to this internal educational process, and an additional governance review it conducted in 2007, included:

(1)   Changing its logo and name (to OCLC Inc.) to make them more global friendly.

(2)   Reorganized its management structure.

(3)   Some geographic decentralization of operational functions. For example, new product development now reports through an office in the UK, rather than from the U.S.

(4)   Addition of staff based in the UK and the Netherlands to the Strategic Leadership Team, the top management group within the organization.

George Needham cites a few factors in OCLC's successful globalization process. These include:

(1)   The inspiration, drive and commitment of OCLC's CEO.

(2)   An understanding that "You can't eat the elephant in one bite" - that it takes time to sensitize an organization to international issues and what is going on in different parts of the world.

(3)   A strong communication process for sharing information with all key stakeholders.


Bonnie Koenig, April 9, 2008