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Skip Prichard Named OCLC President and CEO
Posted On May 20, 2013
Following a nearly yearlong search, David “Skip” Prichard, a well-known and experienced senior executive in the information services market, was named the next OCLC president and CEO. He will succeed Jay Jordan, who will retire June 30 after 15 years as OCLC president and CEO. Prichard will serve as OCLC president-elect effective June 3, and will officially become president and CEO on July 1.

Prichard came most recently from the Ingram Content Group. He joined Ingram Content Group in 2007 as chief operating officer and served as president and CEO from January 2008 through June 2012. Prichard took a year to decide on his next position. He explains on his blog, “This last year, I have had the privilege of exploring many opportunities and consulting with different organizations. I’ve enjoyed the chance to study various teams and learn from a variety of leaders. At the same time, I most enjoy operational roles where I’m responsible for driving results. As I surveyed the landscape, I was privileged and fortunate to have multiple career opportunities. OCLC is the best fit.”

Previously, Prichard held executive positions at ProQuest and LexisNexis. He has a B.S. from Towson State University and his J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. He says his past experiences line up pretty well with what OCLC was looking for; Jordan and the company are very well respected and have a solid strategy. He feels they are in tune with librarians and where they are headed. Prichard will spend the month of June with Jordan and the OCLC Strategic Leadership Team during the transition. At this time, he feels that no revamping is needed. “It’s a story of continuity and building on momentum.” But, he wants to do a lot of listening and let members decide what they want.

In the press release, Prichard says, “OCLC and member libraries are using the newest technologies available to move library services to the cloud where they continue to collaboratively build resources and infrastructure to share. I look forward to working with the talented OCLC staff and membership to ensure that we build on that momentum, and provide the resources necessary for libraries and librarians around the world to meet and exceed the increasing expectations of their users.”

He also writes on his blog, “I enjoy industries in transition or undergoing change. Libraries have been at the cutting edge of technology for years and face challenges due to budget constraints. I’m excited to help in any way possible and know that the variety of technological and economic changes will provide new challenges.”

In a letter to OCLC membership, Sandy Yee, chair, OCLC Board of Trustees (and dean, Wayne State University Libraries and School of Library and Information Science), writes, “Skip has the leadership skills, the experience, commitment and energy to guide the cooperative during this particularly exciting time for libraries. He has guided global organizations through eras of significant innovation and growth. These experiences and his commitment to libraries will help us continue our work to move library services forward—in the cloud, on mobile devices and through the collaborative work of libraries and partners around the world.”

The one thing that Prichard doesn’t have, however, is a strong library background, and some see this as a disappointment. Carl Grant, librarian and longtime industry commentator, gives his thoughts on his blog, and a number of librarians add similar sentiments in the comments:

I was hoping the new person would have a much stronger background in librarianship rather than in business. I’ve stated before in a blog post that I think OCLC is on the wrong track. So it’s not news that I think OCLC’s position in the profession has been greatly compromised in effectiveness by its continual blurring of the line between being a for-profit vendor and being a non-profit library cooperative …

It is clear from my conversations with librarians at these conferences that many here consider them purely a vendor. 

So I was hoping the Board would return to hiring a person that would help realign the organization around the principles of a strong, totally non-profit library collaborative focused on reestablishing and strengthening the value of librarianship in the field. 

Founded in 1967, OCLC is a nonprofit, membership-based, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs. More than 74,000 libraries in 170 countries have used OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend, preserve, and manage library materials. On May 4, the University of Alberta added the 2 billionth holding to the world's most comprehensive online library catalog.

This is the second time the OCLC Board of Trustees has conducted a search for a replacement for Jordan. Last June, the board announced the appointment of Jack Blount, the former president and CEO of Dynix Corp., as the successor. Less than 2 weeks later, the board announced it had reversed its decision and Jordan agreed to delay his retirement while a new search was conducted. No explanation for the reversal was ever given. 

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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