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Small World: OCLC launches WorldCat Local

Smart Libraries Newsletter [June 2007]

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Copyright (c) 2007 ALA TechSource

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OCLC has made another foray (remember LS/2000?) into the online catalog arena by launching WorldCat Local, a version of WorldCat designed to replace the online catalog delivered as part of a library’s integrated library system. WorldCat Local competes among an emerging genre of next-generation library interfaces that includes AquaBrowser from Medialab Solutions, Endeca ProFind, Primo from Ex Libris, and Encore from Innovative Interfaces, as well as the online catalogs delivered as part of each ILS.

WorldCat Local Pilot Underway

WorldCat Local builds on WorldCat.org (launched in August 2006) providing a highly-customized version of the interface that a library can use as its online catalog instead of the one provided with their automation system. WorldCat Local makes use of the interface and database of WorldCat.org, customizing it for the users of a specific library or consortium. WorldCat Local prominently presents the logo and other branding of the local library rather than OCLC’s own branding. From the user’s perspective, an instance of WorldCat Local functions as the catalog for that specific library.

Following a period of behind-the-scenes planning and development, OCLC launched the initial version of WorldCat Local in April 2007. Pilot phase participants include the University of Washington, the Peninsula Library System in California, and a number of libraries in Illinois, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northeastern Illinois University, public libraries in Glendale Heights, Springfield, Hoopeston, and Mattoon, high school libraries in Champaign and Williamsville, the twenty-six libraries of the Cooperative Computer Services Consortium, the Illinois State Museum, and the Illinois State Library.

In addition to these libraries, the ten libraries in the University of California system will partner with OCLC to implement WorldCat Local as the new version of Melvyl, the union catalog that spans the holdings of these libraries. Melvyl is currently powered by ALEPH 500 from Ex Libris, which has been in place only since April 2003, replacing an earlier locally-developed version.

The University of Washington was the first of this group of libraries to make their implementation of WorldCat Local publicly available, unveiled April 30, 2007. This initial version still bears the “beta” designation, representing the product as ready for production use, but still under active development.

Expanded scope of search

WorldCat Local leverages the expansive content of the OCLC WorldCat database as it provides a search interface for a library. In a traditional library catalog environment, the scope of the initial search includes only the holdings in the local library or consortium. This approach provides no convenient way for users to know about materials available beyond the library’s own collection.

If the search fails to locate the desired item, a persistent user then must use an interlibrary loan system to locate and request the item.

Because it searches the entire WorldCat database, WorldCat Local helps users become aware of a much broader universe of content that matches their interests, regardless of whether it happens to be in their library’s collection.

WorldCat Local follows a search model based on broad results that can be narrowed to the local collection as opposed to the traditional online catalog scenario that begins with a narrow search of the library’s collection that can be expanded to wider resources through separate search utilities.

WorldCat Local provides information beyond books, extending the search universe to include a large number of article citations. OCLC has enriched the World- Cat database with over thirty million article-level citations to date, including records from the public domain GPO, PubMed, and ERIC databases, as well as its own ArticleFirst resource.

Making it local

In order to function as the library’s local catalog, the basic WorlCat.org has been extended to interact with some of the components of the library’s local automation environment. As the interface displays items, it needs to be able to interact with the local ILS in order to display current shelf status, make requests, or perform other services expected from the library’s online catalog. As part of the pilot project, OCLC has developed interoperability with automation systems from Innovative Interfaces, SirsiDynix, and Ex Libris.

As search results display in the initial brief listing, WorldCat Local indicates those held by the local library or consortium. When the user clicks through to view the detailed record for a locally-owned item, the system dynamically retrieves information regarding the location and availability from the local ILS. For each relevant holding library, the item’s location, call number, and circulation status are listed. This holdings lookup takes place only for items with holdings in OCLC that match the local library.

Although WorldCat Local searches the entire WorldCat database, it gives preferential access to the holdings of the local library. When comparing how the results list displays on WorldCat Local versus WorldCat.org, one can see differences in the ordering and presentation of the results from a given search request. WorldCat Local consistently gives exactly the same number of results as the same search entered in WorldCat .org. As the search engine determines the relevance ranking of a search result, it gives additional weight to items owned by the local library. Items ranked highly in WorldCat.org fall much lower in the search result if not owned by the local library.

Several aspects of the brief and full record presentations have been enhanced to emphasize the local library. The brief view includes an additional line that describes the closest library where the item is available, which will hopefully be the local library for the items listed first.

When viewing the detailed display of an item, a “Libraries” tab displays a list of the libraries that offer the item, beginning with those closest to the locality of the user. A box prompts for a location, which can be entered as a postal code, state, province, or country. Once the user enters a postal code it is remembered in future sessions. Each holding library displays along with its distance from the user’s location. Clicking on the library name launches a search for that item in that library’s online catalog.

Content Delivery Options

WorldCat Local has been enhanced with a number of features to assist the user in gaining access to library materials. On the right side of the page, for example, a button appears labeled “Request Item” which links into the local library’s ILS or interlibrary loan system. In the case of University of Washington, it links into the Orbis Cascade Alliance union catalog. If the item is available in one of the libraries in the consortium, the user can request that the item be delivered to her or his local library.

WorldCat Local also includes a feature to help take users to an electronic version of an item when available. Depending on the type of content, a button will appear in the upper right corner of the full record display to help the user view the item. For an article-level record, the button is labeled “Check for Online Access” and invokes the library’s OpenURL resolver. When displaying a serial title, a button labeled “Access Online” appears in the same position. Pressing this button will display a page that lists all the online versions of the serial or periodical from the local library or consortium. This page has a link for “Check for Online Access” that invokes the library’s link resolver.

Synchronicity with WorldCat

One of the key issues for WorldCat Local involves how well the OCLC database accurately represents the library’s collection. The ability for WorldCat Local to function as the local catalog depends on the library’s collection being comprehensively represented in WorldCat and all holdings set accurately. In most cases the most complete and up-to-date representation of a library’s collection resides in its local automation system. Though OCLC member libraries theoretically obtain their records from OCLC and update holdings during the cataloging process, there are many opportunities for the local system not to be in synch with WorldCat. If a library obtains records from other sources, for example, those holding may not be set in OCLC. In order for WorldCat Local to serve as an effective substitute for their local catalog, some work may be needed to synchronize the library’s holdings with OCLC.

Enriched Content and Display

The display of records goes beyond a textual display based on MARC records. WorldCat enhances the visual presentation through the use of book jacket images when available. While WorldCat allows for user-submitted reviews and ratings, the records are not pre-populated with summaries, reviews, or other supplemental content from third-party sources.

WorldCat provides several opportunities for user to provide input and contribute content. Each full record includes tables for “Reviews” that displays any existing reviews and invites users to “write an online review and share your thoughts with other readers.” You must be registered and logged in to use this feature. To write a review, you can select an overall rating from a drop-down selection tool (Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor), give your review a short title, and provide a narrative review of up to 20,000 characters in length. Under the details section users can contribute Notes or Tables of Contents for an item.

Faceted Navigation

The WorldCat interface guides the user through the search process via faceted navigation. Once the user enters an initial search, the list of items returned display in a wide column in the middle of the page. A narrow column of facets appears on the left, grouped into several categories: Author, Content, Format, Language, and Year. Following well-established conventions, the number of items associated with that facet selection appears in parentheses after each.

Given the position of OCLC as a global cooperative of libraries with the largest bibliographic database, it stands in a strong position to offer a search product that many libraries will see as a valuable approach to helping their users find library materials. WorldCat Local addresses many of the weaknesses seen in the previous generation of online catalogs and follows an approach for information discovery more consistent with current expectations by today’s Web-savvy users. OCLC has already lined up an impressive group of libraries with plans to deploy WorldCat Local as an alternative to their current online catalogs. With the debut of WorldCat Local, the dynamics of the competition for next-generation library interfaces have taken on a new dimension.

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Publication Year:2007
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 27 Number 6
Issue:June 2007
Page(s):3
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
ISSN:1541-8820
Record Number:12920
Last Update:2012-12-29 14:06:47
Date Created:2007-12-06 07:04:21