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I couldn’t resist the drama of this title of an article published on insidehighered.com. The “maelstrom” in this case refers to a possible conflict of interest between a new OCLC policy that sets to place a notice of WorldCat terms and conditions in each record and the libraries that created said records in the first place. The contention is that such conditions could potentially threaten the free use of records for purposes such as print-on-demand services and individual library revenue sources.
The online bibliographic world is turning increasingly open source with entities such as OpenLibrary. The idea of metadata ownership is therefore increasingly anathema to a community that believes that information wants to be free. For OCLC to place stipulations on the use of WorldCat records is to claim a sort of ownership to the records themselves. The indignation expressed in comments to the article highlight the conflict of OCLC’s business model and the mission of libraries to disseminate information openly and freely – as well as the fact that it was individual libraries that created the records in the first place. As Glenn Bunton, Head of Systems Development at Old Dominion University Libraries notes, “In the end, the heart of the issue lies in the conflict between a commercial, economically driven organization (OCLC) and non-commercial, service driven organizations (libraries).” Though we tend to think of OCLC as an indispensable and altruistic partner in our noble information dissemination efforts, issues such as these make it clear that’s not quite the case.