OCLC Receives Mellon Grant to Expand Library Researching

Article ImageThe Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) was awarded a grant in February from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to further develop standards for museum data exchange. The OCLC, a library service and research organization, received a $145,000 grant to fund projects involving the OCLC Programs and Research and seven RLG Programs. "We are grateful to The Mellon Foundation for their generous support of our efforts to empower museums in their desire to exchange digital records and images," said James Michalk, OCLC VP, RLG Programs.

The Mellon grant will be used to fund OCLC Programs and Research projects to build information architecture and model behaviors that museums can use to routinely exchange data. This initiative will result in the creation of a low-barrier/no-cost batch export capability out of the collections management system used by the participating museums (Gallery Systems TMS), as well as a test of data exchange processes using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). The test will create a large research aggregation of museum records, which will be analyzed to determine the areas in which it is most appropriate for museums to invest in upgrading their records, and how automated processes can be utilized to harmonize descriptions for retrieval. A few participating museums include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Yale University Art Gallery. The museums involved will now be able to discuss the evidence about the relative utility of the aggregation with stakeholders from the museum, vendor, and aggregator communities.

To facilitate the OCLC’s research cataloging, WorldCat, a global network of library content created by OCLC and its member libraries, is being used. WorldCat holds tens of millions of bibliographical records representing more than 1 billion items that are accessible in different languages.

"Once museums can share their digital images and descriptions in a predictable and economic fashion, a number of things that were hard all of a sudden become eminently possible, such as making digital content available in new contexts to new audiences, creating large databases of museum content for teaching and learning, or integrating museum information with library and archival descriptions," says Günter Waibel, program officer of RLG Programs. "Museums could also use this mechanism to more effectively share data with each other, for example around exhibition loans. In short, we’re trying to standardize a process which, so far, had to be invented and reinvented on a case-by-case basis in any of these scenarios."

The Mellon Foundation’s grant-making philosophy is "to build, strengthen, and sustain institutions and their core capacities, rather than be a source for narrowly defined projects."  The Mellon Foundation is a nonprofit corporation that provides library management and web services to 60,000 libraries in 112 countries and territories.  It formed in 1967 after the merging of The Avalon Foundation and The Old Dominion Foundation, which were established by Mellon’s children. When the two foundations were consolidated, it was renamed The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to honor their father. At the end of 1969, the assets of the foundation totaled $220 million. By the end of 2005, assets totaled $5.6 billion, with annual grant-making appropriations of approximately $210 million.

The OCLC’s digital researching aggregation project is expected to be completed by March 2009.

(www.mellon.org; www.gallerysystems.com; www.oclc.org)