I just got back from the first ever OCLC EMEA Regional Council meeting in The Netherlands. Much has been written and discussed regarding OCLC’s governance changes, but that is not really what I wanted to address. This meeting was the best I have ever seen for non-US participants and members for OCLC. And I’m not just saying that because OCLC’s Web-scale strategy was a central part of the discussion. OK, that is why I’m saying it.
“EMEA”–Europe, Middle East, and Africa–is completely an American invention, used to simplify business dealings across an entire region. OCLC certainly didn’t invent it, but I think one must get past the over-simplification and conflation quickly in order to take a productive approach to such a large and diverse region. The same could be said for that other conflation–Asia-Pacific (APAC).
Even I am guilty of trying to simplify the diversity of the area, thinking primarily of the three places in the OCLC family I have visited–the UK, Germany, and The Netherlands. But the meeting I just returned from had representatives from 24 countries. Talk about scale! This whole meeting was adroitly managed my EMEA’s Regional Council Chair, Berndt Dugall. He deserves a great deal of credit for cajoling, inspiring, and amusing the diverse attendees of the meeting.
I had the good fortune to present a workshop before the general meeting started, focusing on Web-scale Management Services and our plans to make it a global management solution for libraries. My good friend and colleague, Norbert Weinberger, co-presented with me, helping to put the strategy into an EMEA context, primarily focusing on the fact that so many European libraries are already consumers of OCLC management system application, such as OLIB, LBS, Sunrise, and CBS. It was a fun presentation and created a lot of interesting discussion among a group of about 70 participants.
Later that evening, I got to see my good friends from the Shanachie Tour give an entertaining presentation to the crowd. This was satisfactorily punctuated by an impromptu on-camera interview of my boss, Robin Murray and several others in the audience.
The following day, we got to see a keyote from Jan Alerman, CEO of Servoy, a cloud computing company. Alerman talked about the benefits and risks of cloud computing solutions. OCLC’s Matt Goldner gave a presentation on the general OCLC Web-scale strategy, and Jay Jordan addressed the crowd before I had one last chance to address the gathered EMEA members.
My colleagues George Needham and Karen Calhoun joined me and had much more interesting things to address regarding the OCLC Social Contract and Record Use Policy (I was happy to cede the balance of my time to their weighty topics). But I had one last chance to summarize the impact of the previous few days. Here is a rehash of what I called my EMEA Regional Council take-aways:
Cloud Computing is here to stay. We can refine it’s definitions, place it in historical context, and argue of libraries’ place in the Cloud, but there is no stopping it.
Web Scale is vital in order for libraries to sustain their relevance and to create value for their staff and users.
We are technically, politically, legally, and emotionally ready to move management and end-user services to Web Scale.
The paradoxical challenge of Web-scale Management is how to effectively establish a platform on which libraries can do everything they’re used to doing, while simultaneously building that platform so that libraries can change the way they do things, continually innovating to address the changing nature of their collections and the shifting expectations of their users.
This last part brings me to my biggest take-away, which we heard loud and clear from Erik and Jaap, the Shanachies. In the end, our greatest strength is people.
I am sincere in my belief that OCLC is uniquely positioned to provide Web-scale services to its members and their end users, but more than that, we are obliged to do so. But as Berndt pointed out so poignantly, OCLC needs libraries as much as libraries need OCLC. It’s through this symbiotic relationship that we can harness the collective innovation necessary to make library management and end-user platforms more than the sum of their parts.
Well, there you have it. A great meeting, a great step forward for OCLC’s members outside of the Americas, and a meeting which increased my convictions ten-fold. Not a bad way to spend the week.