No, It’s the Network, Stupid

Posted On May 29 2008 by

My friend and colleague Chrystie Hill reminded me the other day that I was wrong about something.  This was no revelation, this happens quite frequently.  In a conversation about OCLC’s various assets, I was going on again about leveraging the vast amounts of data in the WorldCat bibliographic database and all the potential of the WorldCat Registry.

Chrystie reminded me, as anyone working in the WebJunction group should, that it is the network of people that matters.  They create the data in WorldCat.  They arethe institutions in the Registry.

This truism was made all the more poignant by a really great Members’ Council meeting in Dublin last week.  This was my second one, and this time, there was a lot about “the network.”  Having been heavily involved in several professional and personal groups where I have interacted with boards and members’ groups, I can say that this board and members’ group is among the best I’ve seen.  And I’m not just saying that because the truth of it is seen in their determination to make difficult yet important decisions, like the one they made last week about OCLC Governance.  Decisions like these are the teeth behind catch phrases like “Local, Group, Global.”  The network of members provides the focus for a vision statement like “The world’s libraries.  Connected.”

Some people have teased me about my new title, Executive Director of Networked Library Services.  And I’m the first to admit now that I was mistakenly approaching the “network” as piles of hardware and software–sitting there at my disposal to build something great, increase efficiency, and reduce costs for libraries.  I’m still gonna try to do all that, but in the meantime, my colleagues and the membership reminded me to stay focused on the real network.

Last Updated on: January 19th, 2024 at 12:22 am, by Andrew K. Pace

Written by Andrew K. Pace

5 responses to “No, It’s the Network, Stupid

  1. Nice post (and I mean that, which I have to emphasize, because of the questions I’m about to ask…)

    So what happened with the proposal to reduce member-elected positions on the Trustees? Was it done? Is there a press release about that I can link to? And how does this relate to leveraging OCLC’s as a true member-controlled membership organization? Because that’s the reason that ‘the network’, who does not work for OCLC, is willing to do work that results in OCLC information assets–becuase they believe OCLC is an organization controlled by them in their interests.

  2. Nicely put, r.e. “the network” being people. One of the things that gets lost when we look at major, recent Web services is that many of them owe their success to doing exactly that — building networks based on people and participation.

    The Alexa Top 10 Global list shows these sites as being the busiest at this point:

    1. Yahoo!
    2. Google
    3. YouTube
    4. Windows Live
    5. Microsoft Network (MSN)
    6. Myspace
    7. Wikipedia
    8. Facebook
    10. Yahoo! Japan

    Of those, fully half (YouTube, Myspace, Wikipedia, Facebook and Blogger) rely explicitly on “people networks” to create the content and value. In the case of Google, the networks of people are somewhat less evident, but the revenue that makes Google possible comes from a network of advertisers who are, of course, people. None of them are without a significant does of “people networks” in the mix. If you scroll down the Alexa Top 100 list, you really have to get to number 46, the BBC News Ticker, before you hit a site that doesn’t rely heavily on user participation.

    Maybe the one suggestion I’d make to your post is to say, “We’re the network, stupid.”

    Again… a point that needs to be made more often. Thanks.

  3. Jonathan,

    Andrew asked me to respond to your post, and I’m happy to do so.

    After the February Members Council meeting, the Board went back and retooled a lot of the ideas that had been discussed. They voted to continue the practice of having six trustees elected by the Global Council, and this was the proposal that the Council approved two weeks ago.

    The press release that describes the changes is available at

    In my opinion, the changes will help reenforce the concept of OCLC as a member-driven organization. During the deliberations of the governance study committee, someone used the phrase, “We want to improve the conversation,” and by regionalizing the structure and decentralizing some of the bureaucracy, we are attempting to do that. But only time (and the membership) will tell us if we have succeeded.

  4. Hi Andrew,

    I often benefit from the reminder myself. Happy to return the favor! 🙂


  5. Interesting. It’s the network in more ways than we might think.

    When the CLASS project was started at Cornell, back around 1989, I remember, a a member of the team from Xerox, musing that the conversion of scholarly works (in this case deteriorating books) to on-line digital form would allow new opportunities with regard to annotation, metadata, and criticism. In particular, it struck me that there was no particular need to require extensive cataloging of these materials if one could enroll scholars who happened to make use of the material at any time in the future. They could leave their remarks, annotations, and commentaries as adjuncts to the preserved digital form.

    The archivists did not take to this notion and I didn’t think any more of it until last year when I happened to sit down at a public research terminal at the University of Washington campus library.

    And WorldCat popped up!

    Bless you all.