December 19, 2014

OCLC Unveils Website for Small Libraries Beta Project

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On February 14, OCLC announced a new beta cloud-based service, Website for Small Libraries (WSSL), with which libraries with fewer than 20,000 items in their collections may construct a low-cost, simple but dynamic website. Features include basic patron and inventory management, including checkouts, returns, holds, and renewals, among other functions.

The project, while having some features of an integrated library system (ILS), is not meant to replace an ILS. “We are focused on having Web availability first, and basic inventory loaning functions second,” OCLC VP of innovation Mike Teets told LJ. One site, for example, does not currently work for multiple branches or consortia. It also does not handle acquisitions, license management, or interlibrary loans, he said.

A demo site of WSSL, for the fictional Loremville Public Library, TN (a play on the “lorem ipsum” filler text often used when designing websites), showcases the features of the website design. It includes staff and location information (using Google Maps); a news and events tab, including a calendar; and additional tabs listings services and policies. It even includes a sidebar featuring the latest New York Times bestsellers.

The site also includes a catalog search, which requires libraries to load in their catalog data. OCLC makes use of WorldCat data for batch ingest of inventories, instead of requiring MARC-based cataloging and matching. “[W]e allow nearly any text-based input and use statistical models to determine record boundaries and field types, discovering on-the-fly fields like authors, titles, and control numbers,” said Teets. Some 36,000 public-domain ebooks, via Project Gutenberg, can also be made available to patrons through the site.

Twenty institutions, including state libraries, consortia organizations, city governments, religious institutions, and individual public libraries, took part in the pilot phase of the project, which was first announced as an OCLC Innovation Lab experiment in January 2011. Though individual institutions have not yet been announced (except the South Dakota State Library), the pilot included institutions in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington state, and Wisconsin, as well as sites outside the United States. Participation in the beta project currently costs $500 per year, with a 90-day trial period.

The pilot sites are not yet live for public use, but once they are, said Teets, OCLC “will syndicate their site availability and collections to partners just as we do their larger library cousins.” The project will remain in beta throughout 2012, and feedback from users will help determine next steps for the project, he said.

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David Rapp About David Rapp

Associate editor David Rapp previously covered technology for Library Journal.

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