August 8, 2006
New Worldcat.org website now available (and what it means for medical libraries)
From the MLC Communique:
This site—and a downloadable WorldCat search box you can easily add to your Web site—opens the complete WorldCat database to the public, not just the smaller data subsets utilized by Open WorldCat partner sites such as Google, Yahoo! Search and others. WorldCat.org builds on the success of OCLC’s Open WorldCat Program that has elevated the visibility of library materials on the open Web since the summer of 2003.
The main attraction of the new site is the WorldCat search box. Web users can now search the entire WorldCat database with the method most familiar to them: simple keywords. As in Open WorldCat, each linked result leads to a “Find in a Library” information page. From there, users can enter geographic information such as a zip or postal code, receive a list of nearby libraries that own the item, and link right to a library’s online catalog record to initiate circulation activity or access electronic content directly. Users can also create their own WorldCat account and add book reviews, table-of-contents information and notes to many WorldCat items, helping to personalize their library search experience.
From WorldCat.org, any Web user or organization can also easily download and install the free, WorldCat search box to their personal or commercial Web page, allowing even more people to discover library content through WorldCat. Libraries and other groups inside and outside the OCLC cooperative are encouraged to add the box to their sites. We believe that sharing the ability to search for library materials to as many other sites as possible will help increase the awareness of libraries as primary sources of reliable information and helpful personal assistance.
To try the new WorldCat search box and download the box to your own Web site, visit the site at http://worldcat.org.
Being a hospital library that is not openly open to the public (nor do we circulate directly to those are not employed by the hospital) we use WorldCat for only “technical services” help. But, since our holdings are on OCLC it is important that we know what the public is seeing. For instance, I just looked up Hurst’s The Heart, which we own. I notice we do not have any library information under our profile (my bad, guess who get’s to add something to her Projects list?). So, some poor, hopeful patron could walk into our library looking for this book only to find out that he cannot check it out. Not only does our library have our reputation to think about but that of our parent organization (the Hospital). Steven Cohen over at LibraryStuff talks about this aspect of WorldCat and the need for WorldCat to offer lending information in the library’s profile. That is only half of the solution. It is then up to the library to utilize that feature. While many hospital libaries are solo or minimally staffed, and we may think we don’t have time to do stuff like create and update WorldCat profiles, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to redirecting the public to the more appropriate institution. Hospital libraries may not be open to the public but they are more and more becoming aware of our existence and we need to act accordingly.