November 20, 2017

OCLC/OCLC Pica Merge

By Michael Rogers

OCLC October 22 announced that it and its European for-profit OCLC PICA division have merged into a single "global organization" under the OCLC brand. The company said that by "bringing together all offices under one name and identity, libraries worldwide can benefit from OCLC membership, research, and an expanded portfolio around a comprehensive set of products and services." [updated November 1]

While that may be true, the move has raised questions in the library community as to the new operation’s true nature: Is it a nonprofit body or a for-profit vendor like any other providing products and services to libraries? 

"They should be challenged on their nonprofit tax status," said library systems industry veteran Carl Grant. "They are clearly competing and getting a major competitive advantage." 

Grant, now president of CARE Affiliates, Inc., contends that OCLC is "trying to reinvent [itself] in the face of likely declining cataloging and [interlibrary loan] revenues," with a possible goal of being "the Google of the library world" by becoming "the primary, if not sole, source for automation products (through services) for libraries." 

Regarding concerns raised by Grant and others, Cathy De Rosa, OCLC’s VP of the Americas and Global Marketing, told LJ, "We’re still a nonprofit." 

"Our public purpose is to further access to the world’s information, and we’re going to do that by delivering products and research and services," she said. "We won’t be unique in those individual services—there’s going to be alternatives to those—but the collective ability to help libraries share resources, do more, and extend their reach, that’s our mission and that has not changed." 

Nonprofit organizations, she said, "can acquire for-profit entities as we have done with Pica, provided they report the income and pay the appropriate taxes due as a result of those operations within the local jurisdiction."

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