- RLG and OCLC: Combining for the Future
On July 1, 2006, RLG and OCLC combined their organizations and resources. RLG's products and services are being integrated with OCLC's, and RLG's program initiatives are going forward in a new division of OCLC Programs and Research. In this article, the authors offer their views on the coming together of the two organizations and the prospects for the future.
The View from the Boards—Lizabeth Wilson and James Neal
In April 2005, we (James Neal, chair of the RLG Board of Directors, and Lizabeth Wilson, chair of the OCLC Board of Trustees) had a conversation. Our two organizations had been cooperating in several areas—preservation standards, CJK record exchange, and sharing of bibliographic information—for some time, but we both believed that we could do more. Was there a way for us to deepen our collaboration? Were we ready to do something bold?
Those questions set in motion a year-long exploration of issues that culminated in our recommendation in May 2006 that OCLC and RLG be brought together. Driving our discussions was a sense of urgency. We believed that we needed to create a collaborative organization for the research community that would benefit the larger information community and society. We wanted to eliminate redundancy and create more value for more institutions. Acting separately, neither of us had been as effective as we would have liked. Working together, we could better meet the needs of research libraries, museums, and archives on a global basis.
Although both boards agreed early on that we should take urgent and united action, it was not clear how we would do so. We had much in common, but there were also significant differences. There were legal, financial, membership, programmatic, and— not least—cultural issues that we had to resolve as we moved forward in our [End Page 395] negotiations. Indeed, at times we faced what Walt Kelly's comic-strip character Pogohas described as "insurmountable opportunities."
Nonetheless, we pressed on. A small group of trustees from both organizations met in person or by phone or e-mail on a regular basis over those 12 months:
• James Neal, vice president for information services, Columbia University
• David Cohen, former vice president for arts and sciences and dean of the faculty, Columbia University
• David Ferriero, Andrew W. Mellon Director and chief executive, The Research Libraries at The New York Public Library
• Carol Mandel, dean, Division of Libraries, New York University
• Lizabeth Wilson, dean of University Libraries, University of Washington
• Larry Alford, vice provost for libraries and university librarian, Temple University
• Edward W. Barry, president emeritus, Oxford University Press
• William Crowe, Spencer Librarian, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
They were skilled diplomats and negotiators. Most of all, they were really good at keeping a secret!
Of course, the presidents and chief executive officers of RLG, James Michalko, and OCLC, Jay Jordan, and a small cadre of senior leaders of both organizations were closely involved from the onset. Their attention to detail and willingness to work together helped us overcome our "insurmountable opportunities" and were absolutely critical to our success.
On June 9, the RLG membership approved the proposal of the RLG and OCLC boards that the two organizations be combined. On July 1, 2006, our two organizations came together. There are two key components in this combination. First, RLG's online products and services are being integrated with OCLC's. Second, RLG's program initiatives are being continued as RLG-Programs. RLG-Programs will operate as a new division of OCLC Programs and Research.
Let us say a few words about RLG-Programs as it relates to the board and governance. RLG-Programs will remain a membership organization, whose participants will be referred to as partners. Partner dues will support the agenda of RLG-Programs. Partnership will be separate from OCLC membership, but we hope and anticipate that partners will already be OCLC members or see the benefits of being members in both. RLG programs will be advised by a 12-person program council comprised of the following people from the RLG...