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OCLC Tightens Links to Google Book Search
Posted On May 22, 2008
Librarians and library patrons can expect to see the leading library vendor bringing Google Book Search (GBS; --on its way to becoming the world’s largest library--to greater prominence throughout its offerings. This week, OCLC ( signed an agreement confirming and increasing the links between OCLC’s free web service ( and Google Book Search. According to Chip Nilges, vice president of business development at OCLC, this formalizing of OCLC’s "Find in a Library" relationship with Google Book Search, begun in 2003, marks the first step in a new initiative. By the end of FY 2009, Nilges expects OCLC to have an integrated platform "to make and WorldCat Local the end-user environment for all licensed electronic products, including NetLibrary, Electronic Collections Online, and FirstSearch." All the books coming into Google Book Search from library partners will be linked through WorldCat, including public domain books available for downloading.

Though the arrangement applies only to books supplied by the library partners to Google Book Search, not the publisher partners, it already covers more than 1 million books. An OCLC representative confirmed that all the libraries partnering with Google—both U.S. and foreign—are OCLC member libraries. Google will have access to MARC records from WorldCat. Under the new agreement, OCLC agrees to create MARC records for Google Book Search digitized content from existing records for print content in their system and will create new records for any content they do not already have. They will also add links to Google Book Search for existing records. Though no time frame was given for completing the project, Nilges didn’t seem worried. Apparently the task of adding masses of catalog records is a familiar one. He didn’t consider this unusually large.

All the links from OCLC WorldCat connect to the "cover" page Google creates for each book, not to the book itself. When it comes to books supplied by publisher partners, Adam Smith, product management director for Google Book Search, points out that "We currently have links to library union catalogs from all books in GBS including publisher books. See 
right above ‘Search in this Book’." These represent the "Find this book in a Library" look-ups done on-the-fly. If a book from a publisher partner has not been listed by any OCLC member library, it will not appear in WorldCat.

Commenting on the OCLC/Google arrangement, John Wilkin, associate university librarian for library information technology and technical and access services at the University of Michigan, says, "OCLC’s efforts to bring together information on digitized content will be significant for users, making it possible to find in one place what has been digitized, where that content is, and the relationship of one version to others. We’re
excited by this major step forward."

According to Nilges, OCLC member libraries will be able to download Google Book Search records for insertion into their own OPAC listings. These records "will surface in all OCLC services, including FirstSearch." As regards the problem of multiple editions or alternative versions of a work, Nilges pointed to all the work OCLC does to try to pull together multiple listings. "We hope to know when a user is searching for a record of a particular version of a work in, whether it would be available under another listing. If it is available in the Google collection, we should show a link to it."

When asked whether member libraries could use the new arrangement to supply full-text indexing to the books in their collections that matched content in Google Book Search, Nilges replied, "Not from this agreement. We know that full-text indexing is important and becoming more important, but not for now." However, Smith indicated that libraries might have a couple of options that could work. He says, "The MyLibrary function lets users curate their own set of books. Theoretically, it would work, though it was not designed for an entire library. We have other services that might work too, though differently for libraries. For example, we have a co-branded search function for our publisher partners. Publishers can have the books they contribute searched on their websites. Google hosts the images displayed at the publisher partner’s website. The second option is the BookSearch Viewability API that we launched on March 12. The API is available to anyone. It lets sites like libraries or library catalogs link to Google Book Search." The tool also uses ISBNs, LCCNs, and OCLC numbers. The "Get It" link on Google Book Search can then track back to local libraries. (For examples of the co-branding option, Smith refers to the Penguin Group site, For details on the BookSearch Viewability API, check The details include a list of libraries and library vendors already using the API. The list includes such establishments as public libraries, university libraries, as well as Open Library, Scriblio, and LibraryThing.)

Though its partnership with Google has clearly proved fruitful, with orchards yet to come, OCLC is not limiting itself to this one garden. It plans to work with other organizations supplying digitized content with details to follow over the next few months. According to Nilges, "We have collection development plans to expand coverage of WorldCat to non-traditional formats, especially digitized content. The first wave was our acquisition of Openly. We’ve gone from article metadata to ebook collections. We’re in partnership with Overdrive and we own NetLibrary. Beyond that we are thinking of archival material in repositories and expanding our coverage for a number of mass digitization projects and commercial ebook providers. Our goal is to represent this content as comprehensively as we can." (For details on Openly, read "OCLC Expands Linking Resources with Acquisition of Openly Informatics," Jan. 9, 2006,

Nilges promises that OCLC is focused "on doing what we can to make sure our members see and access this content through the services we offer, but we could expand beyond that. We’re going to be the best OCLC we can be."

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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