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OCLC to Open WorldCat Searching to the World
Posted On July 17, 2006
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The new site will be considered a beta release. Adjustments in design and function will be made as feedback is provided by end users and OCLC member libraries. Nilges detailed a long list of planned enhancements that he said would be introduced on an ongoing basis over the next 6-9 months. The enhancements include the following:
  • Post search support, such as "Did you mean?"
  • Results sorting
  • "Get it " after a user finds it—this will focus on improving interoperability with circulation systems
  • Identify public domain content and enable click-throughs
  • Click through to Open URL resolvers
  • Add article-level metadata
  • Expand social networking capabilities
  • Create custom views

"It's been a fun project to work on and we're excited," said Nilges. "We want to do whatever we can to effect interoperability between the discovery tool [] and the local fulfillment systems run by libraries. We've got to complete the equation to satisfy users."

Nilges said that it has been interesting for OCLC to move to a relevancy ranking model for search. OCLC is currently employing about a dozen factors. Title takes the highest priority; other factors include frequency of terms, number of library holdings, author names, publication year, etc. "What's cool is that we can tweak it," said Nilges.

He said that this fall OCLC would begin indexing the full text of items for which it has this format, including books, journal articles, and other digital works. He also indicated that the search engine partners for Open WorldCat are beginning to use more of the metadata that OCLC supplies.

Several librarians pointed out that the question of having to subscribe to WorldCat on FirstSearch is a sticky one. O'Neill commented: "Many libraries, like Santa Monica, have subscribed to FirstSearch for years and use it for our ILLs [interlibrary loans]. For us it's not a problem. The State of California set up a subscription to WorldCat for California libraries a year or so ago so that less well financed libraries could offer it to their clients. SMPL had already paid for that service so we saved a little money when the State picked it up. I suspect that all libraries will have to contribute to supporting this type of subscription sooner or later—unless the State can find the funds."

Searching WorldCat on FirstSearch also supports more sophisticated searching capabilities than through or Open WorldCat. In the FirstSearch view, for example, a user can use multiple search terms in specific fields (title, author, subject, etc.) and limit by characteristics such as format, date, or audience level.

Despite the cost of the subscription, Nilges stressed the value proposition to libraries of exposing their holdings. He feels this message is getting through to librarians, citing evidence of the increasing number of holdings added to WorldCat in the last 2 years, the growing number of Find in a Library referrals, and the increased use of WorldCat on FirstSearch.

He also stressed the advantages of OCLC's collection development efforts for WorldCat. Augmenting the cataloging and holdings of its member organizations (libraries, archives, museums, etc.), OCLC has been adding other collections, such as non-U.S. catalogs, digital content, open access content, etc.

OCLC's vision clearly extends beyond providing access to traditional libraries' physical collections. While this could present a potential element of friction with librarians who might worry about the future of libraries, one hopes that librarians will embrace the larger vision of access to information in whatever format. We should work together with a diverse set of tools to provide the full spectrum of services our users need.

Founded in 1967, OCLC Online Computer Library Center is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world's information and reducing information costs. OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat—the OCLC Online Union Catalog.


Anyone who wants to receive updates from OCLC about progress of once it is released can register at

For background on Open WorldCat, see Nancy O'Neill's article, "Open WorldCat Pilot: A User's Perspective," in the November—December 2004 issue of Searcher or go to

All of OCLC's WorldCat Heading Toward the Open Web

OCLC Expands Linking Resources with Acquisition of Openly Informatics

OCLC Project Opens WorldCat Records to Google

Yahoo! Search Joins OCLC Open WorldCat Project

OCLC and Yahoo! Offer Joint Toolbar

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Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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