Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Mapping WorldCat's Digital Landscape

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Mapping WorldCat's Digital Landscape

Article excerpt

Digital materials are reshaping library collections and, by extension, traditional library practice for collecting, organizing, and preserving information. This paper uses OCLC's WorldCat bibliographic database as a data source for examining questions relating to digital materials in library collections, including criteria for identifying digital materials algorithmically in MARC21 records; the quantity, types, characteristics, and holdings patterns of digital materials cataloged in WorldCat; and trends in WorldCat cataloging activity for digital materials over time. Issues pertaining to cataloging practice for digital materials and perspectives on digital holdings at the work level also are discussed. Analysis of the aggregate collection represented by the combined digital holdings in WorldCat affords a high-level perspective on historical patterns, suggests future trends, and supplies useful intelligence with which to inform decision making in a variety of areas.

Introduction

Print books have been the traditional focus of library collections; indeed, the word library itself originates from the Latin word for book, liber. Over time, library collections have diversified to embrace a variety of information resources, such as scholarly journals, photographs, microfilm, and videotapes (the authors note that a Columbus-area public library even circulates artwork to its users). But after print books, one may argue that digital materials have made the greatest impact on the nature and shape of library collections. The reverberations of this impact are still being felt and the long-term consequences for traditional print book collections are yet determined.

Digital materials are shifting long settled library practice for collecting, organizing, and preserving information. Libraries have been challenged with the need to collect and manage new types of materials (for example, software and Web sites), as well as new forms of traditional materials (for example, electronic books and electronic journals). The established custodial role of libraries has been overturned by the growth in digital content obtained through license or subscription rather than direct acquisition. Simultaneously, companies such as Amazon and Google are making inroads into traditional library services all along the discovery-to-delivery chain. Information seeking increasingly occurs in a variety of digital environments, with the ensuing need to adapt traditional library roles and services to meet the emerging needs and expectations of the "e-user" (for example, through the provision of online virtual reference services).

The impact of digital technologies goes well beyond new forms of material in library collections. Even so, the rapid proliferation of digital content--information represented as ones and zeros instead of ink on paper--is the epicenter from which ancillary effects ripple out to other library spheres. Any systematic analysis of how digital technologies have transformed libraries would find a useful starting point in examining how digital technologies have transformed library collections.

This paper uses the OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. WorldCat bibliographic database to examine questions relating to the growth of digital materials in library collections, including criteria for identifying digital materials algorithmically in MARC21 records: the quantity, types, characteristics, and holdings patterns of digital materials cataloged in WorldCat; and trends in WorldCat cataloging activity for digital materials over time. Issues pertaining to cataloging practice for digital materials and perspectives on digital holdings at the work level are also discussed. The purpose is to obtain a general understanding of the process by which digital materials have filtered into library collections over time, and to characterize the types of digital materials libraries have included in their collections. …

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