Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Why WorldCat Local? "Web Scale" Discovery and Delivery of Library Resources

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Why WorldCat Local? "Web Scale" Discovery and Delivery of Library Resources

Article excerpt

Before WorldCat Local, OCLC had built two platforms that addressed the "Web scale" discovery and delivery of library resources: Open WorldCat and Open WorldCat integrates WorldCat content into popular search engines (Google, Yahoo! Search, etc.) and bookseller sites. Once integrated, WorldCat records appear in results along with other Web resources, providing information that was previously hidden in library catalogs. is a destination Web site for access to library collections and services. It searches the entire WorldCat database, provides links to services and resources that are geographically close to the user, and has a search box that is freely available to add to other Web sites. WorldCat Local builds on improvements to, leveraging traffic from Open WorldCat,, and partner sites.

Successful Web services leverage two-way networks. Google matches advertisers with searchers, eBay has a history of feedback from millions of buyers and sellers. brings even more things together, with thousands of stores and millions of products served up in one Internet storefront. In each of these cases, every new user or transaction adds value for all users and to the platform as a whole. Each system--as well as the user experience--is more robust and efficient through shared resources (improvements, feedback, data). Thus far, individual libraries have generally not been able to participate at the "Web scale."

Partnering with OCLC made sense because OCLC is in a position to work with large commercial entities like Google and Microsoft and expose our data in ways that individual libraries are unable to.

What Is WorldCat Local?

WorldCat Local is most easily thought of as a localized version of It is branded and configured to reflect a library's look and feel and the services the library provides, all at a unique URL. Both versions of WorldCat include all 100 million+ records in OCLC WorldCat, as well as over 50 million article citations from five databases (Article First, British Library Serials, ERIC, GPO, and PubMed), integrating traditional catalog records with article citations. What makes WorldCat Local special is the way in which records are displayed and the integration of local delivery options. In addition, WorldCat Local inherits enhancements and services that are built for the platform.

How Does It Work?

At a very high level, all searching in WorldCat Local is done against records in the WorldCat database. At minimum, a library implementing WorldCat Local must have its OCLC holdings symbol attached to records in WorldCat (or use other services, such as a link resolver or OCLC eSerials Holdings). So as part of the implementation, some libraries might need to have a data cleanup, or reclamation, project to ensure that all records are marked appropriately.

This basic holdings information is used to present a "Held by:" statement in the brief results list. When a user selects a specific item to view, the system queries a local or consortial catalog to ascertain current circulation and status information. Depending on how an individual library has defined its work flows, users are presented with different options for obtaining the item. Any local records (e.g., on order or in process) or local edits not present in WorldCat are not currently seen by users in WorldCat Local. Implications and issues surrounding this topic are covered later in this work.


Realizing that libraries have vast amounts of digital content in repositories other than their catalog, OCLC can harvest records from OAI repositories, crosswalk them to MARC format, and load them directly into WorldCat, where they become part of a user's search and discovery experience. This is how OCLC handles CONTENTdm and other digital collections. In addition to providing information about the individual items, WorldCat Local also displays harvested thumbnail images in the brief results list (see figure 1). …

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