Development of Library Resource Sharing Network
The development of library networks is the result of computerisation of catalogues and bibliographic databases and the development of various MARC data standards for record exchange between libraries and other library agencies. The addition of the telecommunications element to this work proliferated online search services and resource sharing library networks. During the 1980s major bibliographic utilities came into existence. These bibliographic utilities were initially based on specific geographical areas or particular sectoral needs and often supported by a particular institution. It may be mentioned that major bibliographic utilities first emerged from North America, though in the later period networks came into being in UK and other countries. The significant bibliographic utilities in North America are: OCLC, WLN, UTLAS and RLN of these the OCLC (Online Computer Library Centre), is the largest of the bibliographic networks. Ever since its establishment originally as Ohio college Library Centre, it has been playing a significant role as a resource sharing network in U.S.A. Though OCLC is based in the United States, it has a world wide library membership including Europe and the Far East.
OCLC possesses the largest database of MARC format data records and services a large number of libraries in the production of bibliographic data bases and also-in inter library loan and reference service. To aid these activities, OCLC developed a dedicated US-wide network to link the participating libraries to its central databases. The network is structured on a regional basis with an individual library making a local link to the regional network and through it to the central network to avail the range of services provided by the OCLC. This arrangement prevented the direct communication between the participating libraries without going through the OCLC. In fact, this was a limitation and many libraries desired the facility to directly interact with one another. During the 1980s the OCLC responded to the changed requirements by a gradual opening of access to the existing systems obviating limitation. This change resulted in the establishment of a new X.25 network, using capacity from the US Sprint Commercial value-added network in 1991. This facilitated the introduction of network to network links, and standardisation on X.25 rather than proprietary protocols permitted the building up of direct links. This arrangement naturally increases the connectivity to the user by allowing more flexible connections. The OCLC network service now provides gateway access to other reference services such as The Easy Net Information Service as well as its own reference services from the local network of an institution. The Gateway project allows local network terminals to connect to OCLC Inter library Loan and Reference Services so that any user may retrieve bibliographic information and also the available location and make arrangement for a local reservation or request for an inter library loan.
Like OCLC, a number of important networks emerged in other countries like U.K. Two long standing organisations in this regard are BLCMP and LASER. BLCMP, formerly known as Birmingham Libraries Cooperative Mechanisation Project is a cooperative effort which embraces a range of services that are used by a large number of libraries. BLCMP maintains extensive MARC databases. LASER (London and South Eastern Region) has a focus on interlending and resource sharing. A significant recent development in LASER is the EARL (Electronic Access to Resources in Libraries). The EARL consortium was established in 1995 to develop the role of public libraries in providing library and information services over the network. Its membership includes more than 50% of the public libraries in U.K. The significant contribution of EARL Web, a network of public library information resources and also a purchase deal to OCLC's First Search Service. It is not our intention to enumerate here all the networking developments taking place through out the world but only to give you a few examples of important resource sharing networks.