Library Networks in USA and UK
The United States has definitely taken a lead in library networking. Among the prominent agencies in this regard, are the Library of Congress, and private agencies like Bibliographic Retrieval Services (BRS), National Medical Library (NLM), Systems Development Corporation (SDC), networks like OCLC (founded in 1971 as Ohio College Library Centre but now known as Online Computer Library Centre), WLN (originally Washington, but now Western Library Network), UTLAS (The University of Toronto Library Automation System) and RLIN (The Research Libraries Information Network) have played a major role in the development of library networking.
Of the networks mentioned above, the OCLC (Online Computer Library Centre) is one of the largest of the bibliographic networks. Though, it is based in the USA, it has world wide library membership including Europe and Far East. OCLC possesses a very large database of MARC format data records and services a large number of libraries for production of their bibliographic Y databases and for reference and interlibrary loan purposes.
Through the late 1980s, OCLC responded to the changing conditions by a gradual opening of access to the existing systems by providing PC-based access rather than by specialised terminal only and by making access links from the Internet research network,; which many US academic libraries were beginning to use. This resulted in the establishment of _a new X.25 based network using capacity from the Sprint Commercial value-added network since 1991.
The above development facilitated the introduction of network-to-network links, and the standardisation on X.25 rather than proprietary protocols permitted the building of direct links from local area networks thus increasing the connectivity for the user by allowing more flexible mode of connections.' Another development that has taken place during this period is that the need for any specialised OCLC hardware,-and the development of relevant software to suit it is obviated. In other words, the user now need not use any OCLC specialised hardware or software in order to avail OCLC services. Also, the OCLC network service has now taken on a more value added flavour in providing gateway access to other reference services such as the Easynet Information Service, as well as to its own reference network. For instance, the Gateway project allows local network terminals to connect to OCLC ILL and Reference services so that a user may retrieve bibliographic information and locations, and can make a local reservation or request for an interlibrary loan. 33 Library and Information Networks
As in the United States, the first networking activities in the United Kingdom (UK) were associated with centralised cataloguing service. The British National Bibliography (BNB), which is now published by the British Library Bibliographic Services Division has played a very significant role in this respect. A MARC distribution service started in 1969 based on the machine-readable versions of the records in BNB known as the BNB MARC database. At present, it is referred to as BLMARC database. It now includes many other records generated by other sections of the British Library in addition to BNB records. BLAISE (The British Library Automated Information Service) is the major avenue through which BLMARC records can be accessed. Along with these developments, the British Library Document Supply Centre (BLDSQ has established itself as one of the leading document delivery services. The BLDSC also contributed to the Electronic Document Interchange (EDIL) between libraries with partners in other countries. In UK, there are also a number of library networks. Some of the major ones are: the BLCMP (formerly known as the Birmingham Libraries Cooperative Mechanisation Project) is a cooperative venture which provides a range of services that are utilised by a large number of libraries. The BLCMP maintains extensive MARC databases,
The LASER (The London and South Eastern Region) is another network effort with an emphasis on resource sharing and interlending apart from cataloguing service. A significant development in LASER in recent years -is the starting of the project Electronic Access to Resources in Libraries (EARL) in the year 1995. This project is intended to develop the role of public libraries in providing library and information services over the network. Mote than 50% of public libraries are its members. EARL's contributions include EARL Web, which is a network of public library information services, and a consortium purchase deal to OCLC's First Search Service. JANET (me Joint Academic Network) is another important functioning network in U.K.
JANET is not a library network, but 4 telecommunications network that provides communication links between users of computing facilities in more than 100 universities, research establishments and other institutions. JANET has been widely used by libraries for mutual access to library OPACs and for file transfer and electronic mail. It provides gateway approaches to other data networks and Internet.
Another important networking service is BIDS offered by the UK office for Library Networking with funding from British Library. BIDS has played a very important role in making electronic databases available at competitive rates within UK academic, community. Similar efforts in networking have been going on in other countries also. But, it is not our intention to review all such efforts in this Unit. Hence, they are not discussed.