In the digital world, information and data are pervasive and available to anyone at any moment. However, the amount of data makes it difficult to have relevant, reliable and traceable information stand-out. This is why quality data and processed information are so valuable, and the ones accessible through the OECD iLibrary are part of them. Indeed, the quality and relevance of all data and information accessible through this library are certified by the OECD.
About the OECD
The OECD iLibrary is an online source of information, books, papers and statistics. It belongs to the OECD and gives access to all data and analyses collected and published by the OECD. It is a great source for open-access studies, reports and data. As such, the OECD iLibrary has established as a major source of intelligence, accessible (for a great part of it) to anyone. It is thus used for informative purposes as well as accurate decision-making purposes by individuals, academic bodies, NGOs, businesses and governments.
Let’s focus on the OECD itself, in order to understand where the OECD iLibrary comes from. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) is an international organisation providing economic reports and economic data analyses. It is mainly composed of developed countries and all of its members have democratic regimes and free-markets economies. The OECD does not have any supranational authority over its members but mostly plays a consultative and advisory role.
In 1961, the OECD succeeded the OEEC (Organisation for European Economic Cooperation), which was created in 1948 following the Marshall Plan. Its aim was to favour the reconstruction and long-term development of European countries after World War II. Indeed, in the beginning, its purpose was to apply the Marshall plan and allocate its dedicated funds. The OEEC’s role started to become obsolete when the Marshall plan ended in 1952. Therefore, in 1961, the organisation expanded to non-European countries and shifted its mission to economic studies. In addition to the shift of its internal structure, it also created specialised agencies such as the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA). In 1989, on the edge of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the OECD turned towards Central and Eastern Europe countries and accepted several new members before 2000.
Today, the OECD has 37 member states: 18 founding members (European and North American countries) and 12 other members spread across the world and added throughout the years. The organisation holds a forum through which member-governments can share issues and try to work together based on the intelligence provided by the OECD. The organisation’s objective is to understand what the main levers of economic, environmental and social evolutions are and to give governments relevant and actionable data: current and historical data with written reports and analyses, but also forecasts and estimates with analyses of future trends. The scope of the OECD’s studies is very wide; they range from macro-economic indicators to micro-focuses on individuals’ habits. After collection and analysis of data, a committees discusses policy matters and the OECD council eventually phrases recommendations intended to be used as consultative advice by members.
Overview of available content
The OECD iLibrary contains books, papers and data published by the OECD, or jointly published by the OECD and other International organisations. For example, when it comes to agriculture, the OECD sometimes works together with the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). It also includes content published by OECD agencies: the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the International Energy Agency (IEA), the OECD Development Centre, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and the International Transport Forum (ITF).
The topics of books, papers and data are very diverse:
- Agriculture & Food
- Finance and Investment
- Industry and Services
- Nuclear Energy
- Science and Technology
- Social Issues, Migration and Health
- Urban, Rural and Regional Development
As of November 2020, the OECD library contains:
- 16,020 books
- 84,380 chapters
- 252,120 tables and charts
- 2,450 articles
- 6,387 multilingual summaries
- 6,840 working papers
- 7 billion data points across 44 databases
The OECD iLibrary content is meant to be easily usable, readable and citable to any user. Indeed, content is available in many different formats such as: online readable text, online readable and/or responsive data, but also PDF, XLS and ePUB. The content is intended to be used by universities, research institutions, think-tanks, NGOs, governments and businesses. The major part of the content is in open-access. However, the OECD iLibrary offers a subscription possibility, which gives the subscribers access to all data, in all formats and in real time.
Searching in the OECD iLibrary
The OECD iLibrary has a simple an intuitive interface. It offers different searching possibilities.
List of all searching possibilities
- Users can search through all the content by using a search bar. This search bar will crawl the content and index query matches according to two elements: name of the author of the content and keywords included in the content name. In addition, an “advanced search” option is also available and offers more refined searching possibilities (developed below).
- Users can search content by theme. Themes correspond to the list of 17 topics shown on page 3 of this report.
- Users can search content by country. It is worth noticing that the OECD iLibrary offers content on nearly all countries, including non-OECD member countries (although a minority). A content item may be related to one or several countries.
- Users can search by theme and country combination.
- Users can also search by type of content through the “catalogue” feature: books, papers, statistics, glossaries and additionally coronavirus during these times of sanitary crisis. The last feature on the blue ribbon (“statistics”) is a shortcut link to catalogue/statistics.
Focus on browsing by features: Theme / Country / Theme & Country / Catalogue
All other methods than the search bar or the advanced search offer a few means to refine and narrow the search. Let’s take “Browse by Country” as an example.
When first choosing a theme (Nuclear Energy for example), users land on page displaying all the latest content, classified by nature (books, papers, statistics and glossaries). One can then directly select a piece of content or refine the search by nature or sub-nature.
After refining the nature of the search to a maximum, users land on a results page, where results can be classified by date and title. As an example, I looked for all books about nuclear development and landed on a page displaying all books published by the Nuclear Energy Agency.
Overall, browsing by features on the OECD iLibrary does not offer the best refinement possibilities but is rather intended to display all intelligence produced by the OECD and its agencies. It is a very useful tool to search for information in an agnostic way. For instance, individuals, business managers or public policy actors may need to be informed about a topic. In this case, the research above may usefully suggest what the recent major issues with nuclear energy have been.
For people looking for specific information or data, the search and advanced search options would be more appropriate.
Focus on Search and Advanced search
The basic search function allows to search for any kind of data by typing any words in the search bar. The system crawls all content items and matches user queries through two elements:
- Author – Each piece of content has an entry in the “author” category. However, authors can take different forms: content may have identified individuals as authors, or it can be simply labelled by the OECD or one of its agencies.
- Title – Each piece of content has a title, usually composed of a few words. The basic search function will try to match words entered in queries with words contained in the title of pieces of content.
The Advanced Search function offers much more refined searching possibilities to users. It is the best tool for people searching for specific information or data. This tool allows users to refine queries according to the following features:
- Keywords – One can enter keywords and specify where they should appear (title, author, abstract, etc.). Syntax rules can be used:
- Booleans AND, OR & NOT
- Quotation marks “” to match exact phrases
- Asterisks * to match partial words
- Dates – One can restrict the search to certain years.
- Imprints – One can restrict the search to a publishing body (i.e. OECD agencies).
- Languages – One can choose languages.
- Content type – One can specify the desired content types (books, papers, etc.).
- Theme and Country – One can choose up to one theme and one related country.
- Results sorting methods – One can sort by newest, oldest or relevance.
After submitting a search query, the user gets a list of results. All results have a colour sticker, indicating the level of access as shown on the picture below (blue for total access, orange for read-only). Both basic and advanced search offer the possibility to refine and sort the results obtained after submission of the query.
Features of a piece of content
Each piece of content has the following features:
- Author: single of several, individuals or organisations
- Language: several can be available
- Publication date
- Associated keywords
Depending on the type of content, items may have others features or characteristics:
- Textual publications have an abstract.
- Some items may have a summary, possibly in multiple languages.
- Some items may have several versions, updated over time.
- Some items may have several associated files. For example, a data analysis report may offer a PDF written analysis and the underlying dataset in Excel format.
- OECD iLibrary is a huge information source belonging to the OECD. It is a global major renown source for economic data and analyses.
- Its content (books, papers, data, reports, etc.) covers a wide range of sectors and is intended to be used by academic institutions, governments, NGOs, businesses and individuals.
- The great majority of content is in free access.
- The content is classified according to several features and the OECD iLibrary offers advanced searching methods allowing to search by title, related themes and countries, authors, content type, publication date and other features.