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OCLC’s presidents

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OCLC has had five presidents since its inception. Frederick G. Kilgour was President and Chief Executive Officer from 1967 to 1980 and retired from the OCLC Board of Trustees in February 1995 after having served as Permanent Founder Trustee since 1980. Rowland C. W. Brown was President and CEO of OCLC from 1980 to 1989. Dr. K. Wayne Smith served as President and CEO of OCLC from 1989 through April 1998. Jay Jordan was President and CEO from May 1998 to 2013. Skip Prichard became President and CEO in July 2013.

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1967-1980

Frederick G. Kilgour

Frederick Gridley Kilgour (1914-2006) founded OCLC as the Ohio College Library Center in 1967 and served as its first president and chief executive officer from 1967 to 1980.

A librarian, educator, historian and entrepreneur, Kilgour is widely recognized as one of the leading figures in 20th-century librarianship for using computer networks to increase access to information in libraries around the world.

Kilgour was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Jan. 6, 1914. Upon graduating from Harvard College in 1935, he became Assistant to the Director of the Harvard University Library, where he began experimenting in automating library procedures, primarily the use of punched cards for a circulation system. At the same time he undertook graduate study under George Sarton, a pioneer in the new discipline of the history of science, and began publishing scholarly papers.

From 1942 to 1945, Kilgour, with a commission as a Lieutenant in the U. S. Naval Reserve, was Executive Secretary and Acting Chairman of the U.S. government’s Interdepartmental Committee for the Acquisition of Foreign Publications (IDC), which developed a system for obtaining publications from enemy and enemy-occupied areas. Kilgour received the Legion of Merit for his intelligence work in 1945.

From 1946 to 1948, Kilgour served as Deputy Director in the Office of Intelligence Collection and Dissemination in the Department of State.

In 1948, he was named Librarian of the Yale Medical Library. At Yale he was also a Lecturer in the history of science and technology and published many scholarly articles on those topics.

In 1961, he was one of the leaders in the development of a prototype computerized library catalog system for the medical libraries at Columbia, Harvard and Yale Universities that was funded by the National Science Foundation. In 1965, Kilgour was also named Associate Librarian for Research and Development at Yale University, continuing experiments in library automation and promoting their potential benefits.

In his professional writings at the time, Kilgour pointed out that the explosion of research information was placing new demands on libraries to furnish information completely and rapidly. He advocated the use of the computer to eliminate human repetitive tasks from library procedures.

In 1967, the Ohio College Association (a group comprising the presidents of Ohio’s colleges and universities) hired Kilgour to lead a nonprofit corporation, the Ohio College Library Center (OCLC), in the development of a computerized library system for the academic libraries in the state.

At the time, most libraries maintained card catalogs as guides to their collections, and librarians had to type individual cards for each item, a labor-intensive and expensive procedure. The shared cataloging system and database that Kilgour devised made it unnecessary for more than one library to originally catalog an item. A library could use the cataloging information already in the database, and add items not already entered. Of equal importance, the shared catalog enabled interlibrary lending, sparing libraries the expense of adding material to their own collections.

In 1971, after four years of development, OCLC introduced its online shared cataloging system, which would achieve dramatic cost savings for libraries. For example, in the first year of system use, the Alden Library at Ohio University was able to increase the number of books it cataloged by a third, while reducing its staff by 17 positions. Word of this new idea spread on campuses across the country.

The database devised by Kilgour was originally called the OCLC Online Union Catalog. Known today as WorldCat, it contains more than 319 million entries for books and other materials and more than 2 billion location listings for these materials in libraries around the world.

Kilgour presided over OCLC’s rapid growth from an intrastate network to an international network. In addition to creating the WorldCat database, he developed an online interlibrary loan system in 1979 that in 2006 libraries used to arrange nearly 10 million loans. Today, OCLC has a staff of 1,283 and offices in 10 countries.

In 1981 he stepped down from management but continued to serve on the OCLC Board of Trustees until 1995.

In 1990, he was named Distinguished Research Professor at the School of Information and Library Science, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served on the faculty until his retirement in 2004. He died in Chapel Hill in 2006.

Kilgour was the author of 205 scholarly papers. He was the founder and first editor of the journal, Information Technology and Libraries. In 1998, Oxford University Press published his The Evolution of the Book. His other works include: Engineering in History; The Library of the Medical Institution of Yale College and its Catalogue of 1865; and The Library and Information Science CumIndex.

Kilgour received numerous awards and five honorary doctorates. In 1982, in presenting him with Honorary Life Membership, the American Library Association described him as a “scholar, entrepreneur, innovator, and interpreter of technology steadfastly committed to the preservation of humanistic values.”

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1980-1989

Rowland C. W. Brown

Rowland C. W. Brown (1923-2013) served as OCLC President from December 1980 through January 1989.

Brown received the A.B. (cum laude) from Harvard University and the J.D. from Harvard Law School. He also attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management.

Brown was President and Chief Executive Officer of Buckeye International, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, from 1970 until it was acquired by Worthington Industries in 1980. Buckeye International manufactured plastic products, steel castings and precision machine parts for the railroad and automotive industries.

From 1967 to 1970, Brown was president of Dorr-Oliver, Inc., Stamford, Connecticut, a worldwide diversified engineering and manufacturing firm. Brown previously served in a variety of executive positions at Dorr-Oliver, including Director–International Administration, Corporate Secretary, General Counsel and Treasurer, Vice President–International Operations, and Vice President–Domestic Operations.

From 1954 to 1959, Brown was Counsel and Staff Director, International Operations, for Machinery and Allied Products Institute in Washington, D.C. From 1950 to 1952, he was Industrial Materials Counsel in the Office of Economic Stabilization.

Brown served as a fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps in the South Pacific from 1942 to 1946, and in Korea from 1952 to 1953.

During Brown's tenure, OCLC expanded its product and service line to some 60 offerings that helped librarians run their libraries. OCLC opened its first office outside the U.S. in Birmingham, England, and started to look at ways that it could move beyond bibliographic information and provide the information itself—the book or the article. The number of participating libraries grew from 2,300 in the U.S. and Canada to 9,400 in 27 countries. The number of WorldCat records grew from 5 million to 18 million.

OCLC is saddened to hear of Mr. Brown’s passing. Read his obituary from the Columbus Dispatch.

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1989-1998

Dr. K. Wayne Smith

Dr. K. Wayne Smith served as OCLC President from January 1989 through April 1998.

Smith graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in political science from Wake Forest University, where he was a Hankins Fellow and Phi Beta Kappa. He received the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in economics and political science from Princeton University, where he was a Danforth and Woodrow Wilson Fellow. He did post-graduate work in economics at the University of Southern California. His career has included posts in business, government and higher education.

From 1986 to 1989, Smith was President and CEO of K. Wayne Smith and Associates, a management consulting and holding company, and was a University Professor at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

From 1983 to 1986, Smith was Chairman and CEO of World Book, Inc., publisher of the World Book Encyclopedia.

From 1977 to 1983, he was Group Managing Partner, Washington (D.C.) Operations, of Coopers and Lybrand, an international auditing, accounting, tax and management consulting firm.

Smith was an executive with Dart Industries, Inc., Los Angeles, California, from 1972 to 1976, serving initially as Group Vice President for Planning and later as President and CEO of the Dart Properties Group

From 1970 to 1972, Smith was Director of Program Analysis, the National Security Council, Washington, D.C., where he was a senior staff member reporting to Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, then Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. He also served on the faculty of the U.S. Military Academy and as a program director at the RAND Corporation.

In 1969-70, while at the RAND Corporation, Smith co-authored a book with Alain Enthoven, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Analysis, entitled: How Much Is Enough? Shaping the Defense Program 1961-1969. He has written numerous articles and lectured frequently on systems analysis, national security affairs and management systems.

During Smith’s tenure, the scope of service of the OCLC computer network increased to 26,000 institutions in 64 countries around the world. The number of records in WorldCat grew to 38 million, with 331 million location listings. OCLC introduced the first online end-user reference service (FirstSearch). OCLC began making its services available on the Internet and also did pioneering work in electronic journals with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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1998-2013

Jay Jordan

Jay Jordan became OCLC’s fourth President and Chief Executive Officer in May 1998. He retired in June 2013, after serving 15 years, the longest tenure of any president in OCLC’s 46-year history

Jordan graduated from Colgate University in 1965 with a B.A. in English literature and served as a U.S. Army officer in Germany. He spent more than seven years living and working outside the United States. He came to OCLC after a 24-year career with Information Handling Services, an international publisher of databases, where he held a series of key positions in top management, including president of IHS Engineering.

Under Jordan's leadership, OCLC built a new technological platform, introduced new services, created a library advocacy program, and introduced new initiatives to make library holdings and libraries more visible to people everywhere on the Internet through agreements with Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft. The number of institutions participating in OCLC increased from 30,000 in 64 countries to 74,000 in 170 countries. OCLC's WorldCat database grew to 2 billion library holding symbols and more than 300 million bibliographic records. Non-English records found in WorldCat increased to 60 percent, nearly doubling since 1998.

Over the past 15 years, OCLC invested more than $284 million in research and development for new services. OCLC now has engineering centers in Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. OCLC also operates data centers in Dublin and Westerville, Ohio, USA; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Leiden, the Netherlands; London, United Kingdom; and Sydney, Australia.

Through mergers and acquisitions, OCLC created a community of some 5,000 institutions, mainly in Europe and Australia, that use OCLC-developed, stand-alone library management systems.

In 2011, OCLC introduced a new generation of cloud-based services for libraries on the WorldShare Platform.

During Jordan’s presidency, OCLC received numerous awards for its workplace environment, including ComputerWorld's "Best Places to Work in Information Technology" (2006–2013); the Ohio Society for Human Resources Management State Council's "Best Employers in Ohio" (2009–2013); and the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility (2011–2012).

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2013-Present

Skip Prichard

Skip Prichard became OCLC’s fifth President and Chief Executive Officer in July 2013.

He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Towson State University and his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Before joining OCLC, Prichard was President and CEO of Ingram Content Group Inc., a leading global content and services provider. During his time at Ingram, he expanded Ingram’s international locations to continental Europe and Australia, strengthened its digital offerings, and repositioned the company as a services provider. Prior to his leadership at Ingram, he was President and CEO of ProQuest Information and Learning, a respected global publisher and information provider serving library, education, government and corporate markets with offices around the world. Prichard led a successful transformation at ProQuest. Earlier in his career, he held a number of executive positions with LexisNexis.

Among Prichard’s many passions is his Leadership Insights blog where he interviews authors and thought leaders, and shares his views on a number of topics. His views on the future of books, publishing, and libraries have been featured in various national and international media. He is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences around the world.

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