Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

U of Michigan will transfer OAIster to OCLC

University of Michigan and OCLC form partnership to ensure long-term access to OAIster database, a press release from OCLC, January 21, 2009.  Excerpt:

The University of Michigan and OCLC today announced that they have formed a partnership that will ensure continued public access to open-archive collections through the OAIster database, and will expand the visibility of these collections to millions of information seekers through OCLC services.

Launched in 2002 with grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, OAIster was developed to test the feasibility of building a portal to open archive collections using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). OAIster has since grown to become one of the largest aggregations of records pointing to open archive collections in the world with over 19 million records contributed by over 1,000 organizations worldwide.

Under the partnership, will continue to function as the public interface to OAIster collections, through funding provided by OCLC to the University of Michigan. Later in 2009, metadata harvesting operations will transfer from the University of Michigan to OCLC.

"The University of Michigan approached OCLC about managing future operations for the OAIster project to ensure its long-term viability," said John Wilkin, Associate University Librarian, University of Michigan Library. "OCLC plays a pivotal role in the business of metadata creation and distribution. Situating OAIster with OCLC helps to create an increasingly comprehensive discovery resource for users." ...

OCLC recognizes that open archive collections are critical for scholarly research, communications and scholarship. To that end, OCLC commits to building on the success of OAIster by identifying open archive collections of interest to libraries and researchers, and ensuring that open archive collections will be freely discoverable and accessible to information seekers worldwide.

Starting in late January 2009, while OAIster continues to be freely available at the Web site, OCLC will host a version of OAIster on OCLC's FirstSearch platform and make it available through subscriptions to the FirstSearch Base Package at no additional charge.


  • Although OCLC will create a TA version of OAIster in FirstSearch, it's committed to maintain an OA version as well.  So far, so good.  But then, many people thought OCLC was committed to OA for WorldCat bibliographic data.  OCLC is taking steps to resolve the WorldCat data controversy, but the tacking raises questions about the future of OAIster.
  • I do want to see OAIster survive, and if OCLC can "ensure its long-term viability" and Michigan can't, then that's a ground for hope.
  • I'm not yet clear on how the move to OCLC will "create an increasingly comprehensive discovery resource for users."  Is OCLC thinking about some kind of OAIster-WorldCat hybrid?  Most resources indexed in OAIster are OA, and most resources indexed in WorldCat are not.  That creates some interesting possibilities for synergy, but also some risks.  Right now OAIster is the most comprehensive of all the cross-archive search engines for OA repositories.  Part of its utility is that it covers so many repositories and part is that it covers essentially nothing else.  If it survives this acquisition as a component of a larger service, and users can't filter searches for OA resources or identify OA resources from the hit list, then we will have lost something valuable.  There will be a niche for another OAIster.
  • Also see our past posts on OAIster and OCLC.

Update (1/22/09).  Also see Dorothea Salo's comments.

Update (1/23/09).  Dorothea Salo has posted (1) an interview with OSIster's Kat Hagedorn about the OCLC deal and (2) some further comments on the deal.

Update (1/28/09). Dorothea Salo has posted some clarifications from OCLC about the OAIster deal.