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OCLC and Yahoo! Offer Joint Toolbar
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Posted On November 15, 2004


Today, OCLC (http://www.oclc.org) and Yahoo! officially launch a free co-branded toolbar that provides one-click access to Open WorldCat as well as Yahoo! Search's Web search engine. The free toolbar plugs into Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. A whirligig OCLC logo to the extreme left on the toolbar clicks to a subset of Open WorldCat (currently 2 million of the 57 million records available in the full WorldCat, reflecting the holdings of some 9,000 libraries). In time, the click-through will access more—perhaps all—of the WorldCat database, as Yahoo! begins to "harvest" the full file now offered by OCLC. The new toolbar also supports access to other OCLC database services, such as FirstSearch and netLibrary, for those using the toolbar via library networks. [See NewsBreaks: "All of OCLC's WorldCat Heading Toward the Open Web," http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16353 and "Yahoo! Search Joins OCLC Open WorldCat Project," http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16417.]

The new toolbar continues to expand OCLC's Web-targeted initiatives to increase the online visibility of library collections. "The Open WorldCat program has gained traction and support in the library community because libraries recognize the need for greater visibility on the Web," said Phyllis B. Spies, vice president, OCLC collection management services. "Working with a powerful partner such as Yahoo! will help us extend the reach of libraries by bringing Web searchers to some of the most reliable and authoritative information available on the Internet. And, we believe this will bring more people into libraries."

In turn, David Mandelbrot, vice president of Yahoo! Search Content, said: "The co-branded toolbar serves as a vehicle for delivering this content and empowers users with the ability to seamlessly search for information that is available in offline databases." A Yahoo! representative clarified that they consider "stacks of books" as "offline databases."

The Yahoo!/OCLC Toolbar works with Windows 98/2000/XP and MS Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher. Although some third parties have introduced ways to use the Yahoo! toolbar on other browsers (e.g., Mozilla's Firefox), a Yahoo! representative indicated that this would not work for the OCLC/Yahoo! toolbar. After downloading the file from http://www.oclc.org/toolbar, a user will have to execute the file to install the toolbar. When installed, users simply enter a query in the search box and either click on the WorldCat logo on the far left or use the drop-down menu to the right of the search box ("Search Web ?") to reach the "Libraries" link. Once connected to OCLC, menus request the user's ZIP code to match bibliographic citations with nearby OCLC member libraries. (For thorough background on Open WorldCat, see Nancy O'Neill's article, "Open WorldCat Pilot: A User's Perspective," Searcher, November-December 2004; http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/nov04/oneill.shtml.)

The drop-down menu link to "Libraries" also provides access to the OCLC FirstSearch service, netLibrary's eBook service, the OCLC member library list, the OCLC Web site, and to background information about WorldCat. However, accessing these sources licensed to and through libraries requires that users come from a recognized, authenticated IP address. In other words, to use such features, users would probably have to be working from inside a library or on some other form of networked access. An OCLC representative indicated that they were definitely looking into library card ID access for the future.

The new toolbar (above) also offers the usual range of Yahoo! toolbar options of quick access to news, sports, weather, finance/stock quotes, games, movies, TV listings, and photographs; Web searches for images, directories, local sources, news, shopping sites, maps, yellow page listings, and individual site searches; and tools such as a pop-up blocker, anti-spy software, bookmarks, and e-mail.

OCLC will promote the toolbar on its own Web site and also work with libraries to market the toolbar worldwide. According to Andrew Boyer, product manager of WorldCat End-User Services: "Step one will be to make libraries aware of the toolbar and make sure they can install and run it. We will be doing market research to develop talks and dialogs to discuss how libraries can use the toolbar to market in local communities, campuses, etc. We will certainly be talking to libraries on how best to use it and, once they have the opportunity to use it, how to entice and teach their patrons to use it."

At present, Yahoo! has no announced plans to market the co-branded toolbar on its own Web sites. However, according to Sumir Meghani, manager of business development at Yahoo! Search, the company plans "to use a lot of conference appearances and sponsorships. For example, at [this week's] Internet Librarian conference, Yahoo! is sponsoring an Internet Café. We will also be promoting it at our booth."

As for any plans to put a "Library" tab on the Yahoo! Search page, as some have suggested (all right, I suggested it), Meghani said he could "not comment on future plans, but Yahoo! believes in the power and value of libraries. Hopefully this is only the first step. Stay tuned and see what we do with OCLC."

I asked Boyer if the arrangement with Yahoo! was exclusive, since Google was the first Web search engine OCLC had signed up for the Open WorldCat project. Boyer said that the Yahoo! arrangement was not exclusive, "but, that being said, Yahoo! is a very important partner. We have an obligation, because of who we are, to deal with leading companies. If and when other types of opportunities arise, we will certainly consider them."

Yahoo! Search (http://search.yahoo.com) already contains a large amount of material that users might consider appropriate to reach when clicking on any tag marked "Libraries." For example, it has arrangements in place to access content from the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. It also already covers tens of thousands of full-text books on Project Gutenberg, the National Science Digital Library's 250 collections, the University of Michigan's millions of open access journal articles in OAIster, the Wikipedia encyclopedia, etc. [See "Yahoo! Pursues Invisible Web Content for Its Search Engine," http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbreader.asp?ArticleID=16499.]

At present, however, Yahoo! has no plans to connect these special content holdings into the "Libraries" link, according to Meghani. If it would do so, it might solve some of the problems that librarians working with the content have pointed out—for example, giving special weight to bibliographic citation elements in distinguishing book literature (such as Project Gutenberg's) from other uses of terms in general Web searches. Meghani said that Yahoo! is currently concentrating on the "short term. We really think WorldCat is very special. We want to see how libraries and users respond and, based on that feedback, work with OCLC on how to expand it. But for now it's limited to WorldCat."

Boyer indicated that OCLC was looking at and talking about other expansions; for example, book ordering was "under review." Boyer said: "We want to do as many projects as make sense for our membership. The toolbar with Yahoo! is a great example of taking it to the next step."


Barbara Quint is contributing editor for NewsBreaks, senior editor of Online Searcher, and a columnist for Information Today.

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