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Group Catalog and OCLC’s Navigator: Burden or Blessing?

by on August 16, 2016

A group catalog can be a wonderful thing for library users. Your local library may not have the book you need, but—guess what—a library somewhere in the state or country has the book, and they may send it to your library for you! Sounds amazing, right? A library opening up their catalog to patrons outside their service population signifies progress in librarianship. But stop to consider the postage price for libraries with small budgets. Consider the price of sending a book from southern Texas to northern Texas. Many libraries are willing to forgo the risk of receiving books back from a borrowing library.

A director I spoke to who wishes to remain private stated, “Why should I have to open up our library’s catalog to the state when we are the ones who have invested our time and budget in building our collection? It does not seem fair that it is state mandated and [that] accreditation may be lost if we do not comply.”[1],[2] The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has made it mandatory for accredited public libraries in Texas to “batchload” their records to WorldCat to implement Navigator, “the statewide interlibrary loan program [that] embodies several grant programs that work together to enable library users access to materials not available at their local library. It also works with other programs in Texas, the Southwest, and the country to promote resource sharing and provide greater access to information for all Texans.”[3]

Transitioning to a group catalog is a lengthy process and a bit of a hassle to complete. Staff must watch eight Kickoff Webinars, sign and submit agreement forms to the state (or else lose accreditation as a library), batchload every collection—and then Navigator training begins. Only when all of this is completed can your library finally go live![4] If you do not have a seasoned cataloger or knowledgeable IT staff on hand, the whole process can be very difficult. Constant communication with OCLC and the state library is a must if you are in this situation.

But should a library with a small service population and a budget not even an eighth the size of a metropolitan library’s have to open up its collection to avoid being red-flagged or risk losing their E-Rate? The whole process is dependent on budget and, ultimately, biased towards more generously funded libraries. I do not blame the director I spoke with for being territorial about his collection, which is funded by taxpayers. Which begs another question: Why weren’t the taxpayers asked whether they wished to open up their collection to the entire state? I also understand, however, the progress the state library is implementing. A group catalog means more options for library users, which can lead to better research. Having Navigator as a tool has its pros and cons, like most other things in life. So depending on which side you are on, Navigator can be a good thing or not such a good thing.

Has your library dealt with a transition to OCLC’s Navigator? Where do you side on this issue?

[1] Unnamed library director in discussion with the author, July 19, 2016.
[2] “Update on statewide interlibrary loan program status,” minutes of the Texas Library Systems Act Advisory Board (MS Word document), March 19, 2015: §6.
[3]Interlibrary Loan,” Texas State Library and Archives Commission, April 7, 2016.
[4]Implementation Process,” Texas Resource Sharing, August 2, 2012.

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