April 19, 2018

Chip Nilges | Movers & Shakers 2005

Making Change


Chip Nilges has been creating change at OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) since he arrived in 1994. Every innovation OCLC has introduced in the past few years – like QuestionPoint 24/7 reference service and Open WorldCat – has his fingerprints all over it.

Bob Murphy, OCLC’s senior PR specialist, says, “For each of these projects, Chip and his team developed the concept, conducted research, developed business plans, recruited partners, and worked with development and marketing staff at OCLC.”

At first Nilges was somewhat embarrassed about not being a librarian (though he now feels like he’s earned an honorary MLS). But he felt very good bringing business acumen and an entrepreneurial drive to an organization that needed both.

Watching people flock to search engines for information, he realized libraries had to offer equally seamless, convenient access to their specialized information. One of his first projects at OCLC was linking FirstSearch databases with full-text articles in its Electronic Collections Online.

Nilges understood that if libraries were to compete, they needed to be available wherever people were. That led to QuestionPoint, which took librarians to the researchers. But library content also needed to be searchable. Nilges knew that one library couldn’t go to Google and make the case. “But libraries, with a capital L, could.” He convinced Google and Yahoo!, which feed on content, that OCLC offered a wealth of it. In return, Yahoo! and Google offered its users a way to find that content in libraries near them.

Nilges has learned a lot in working with librarians. What he’d like them to learn from MBAs like him is to achieve visibility and continued relevance: “We must always begin with what the user wants and work backward from there.”



Current Position Executive Director, WorldCat Content and Global Access, OCLC

Degree MBA, Ohio State University, 1994

Surprise He also has an M.A. in medieval literature