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OCLC Partners with EBSCO to Expand Access to Articles in WorldCat Local

Smart Libraries Newsletter [May 2009]

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Copyright (c) 2009 ALA TechSource

Abstract: In the world of next-generation discovery interfaces, competitors battle to deliver more and more content through a single search box. OCLC positions WorldCat Local as a next generation library interface, using its massive WorldCat database to provide a novel model of access to library collections rather than Web-based online catalogs tied to the contents of a single library or consortium. WorldCat Local embodies the approach of presenting users with the ability to search against an expansive universe of resources, sorting results so that items available locally appear more prominently than those from more distant locations. This model allows library users to easily discover materials even when they are not held by their local library, with a built-in streamlined approach for requesting materials held in other libraries.


In order to be more successful as a discovery interface, OCLC has been working on expanding the reach of WorldCat Local to include ever-larger collections of articles and other resources.

In the world of next-generation discovery interfaces, competitors battle to deliver more and more content through a single search box. OCLC positions WorldCat Local as a next generation library interface, using its massive WorldCat database to provide a novel model of access to library collections rather than Web-based online catalogs tied to the contents of a single library or consortium. WorldCat Local embodies the approach of presenting users with the ability to search against an expansive universe of resources, sorting results so that items available locally appear more prominently than those from more distant locations. This model allows library users to easily discover materials even when they are not held by their local library, with a built-in streamlined approach for requesting materials held in other libraries.

WorldCat Local leverages the massive WorldCat.org database of bibliographic records, which currently represents the holdings of thousands of libraries worldwide and includes over 135 million bibliographic records. Many libraries may hold an item described by a bibliographic record. The total number of holdings represented in WorldCat.org totals over 1.4 billion. The WorldCat.org database includes records for monographs, serials, audiovisual materials, and many other formats.

In order to gain access to the individual articles within their massive collections of e-journals, libraries license from a vast array of information products. These article-level information products have reached a high level of maturity and provide access to ever larger bodies of articles within specific disciplines or general areas of interest. The segregation of article-level indexing into these separate products poses a challenge as libraries seek to provide interfaces to their users that include all aspects of their collections. Even though WorldCat.org contains a near-comprehensive representation of library materials at a higher level, it does not include records for the vast number of individual articles which libraries provide to their users.

OCLC is no newcomer when it comes to article-oriented products. It has offered the FirstSearch service since about 1991. FirstSearch provides access to a variety of article collections. Libraries can subscribe to FirstSearch collections as one of the many competitors in the arena of article databases. OCLC offers several packages of resources within FirstSearch, including ArticleFirst, a broad collection of over 23 million citation records covering 16,000 sources in the humanities, social science, business, technology, and popular culture.

WorldCat Local aims to provide access to the entire range of a library’s collection, not just its books. From its inception, WorldCat Local has included some article-level content. The WorldCat Local pilot projects have included access to collections such as ArticleFirst, ERIC, GPO and PubMed, enabling search results that include books, articles, and other specialized materials. Yet OCLC’s own ArticleFirst collections represent only a fraction of the articles that many libraries offer to their users.

In April 2009 OCLC announced a new partnership with EBSCO that would incorporate the vast body of articles available in EBSCOhost through WorldCat Local. Through this agreement, EBSCOhost data will significantly expand the amount of full-text material made available through WorldCat Local.

The citation records will be loaded into the WorldCat index and made available to the WorldCat Local interface integrated in search results. The addition of the EBSCOhost material into WorldCat Local vastly increases the volume of article material available through WorldCat Local. The EBSCO material will be the first article database made available through WorldCat Local outside of its own FirstSearch products.

WorldCat Local will provide a consolidated search with EBSCOhost content to those libraries that subscribe to both WorldCat Local and to EBSCOhost. For libraries that subscribe to both resources, the ability to consolidate them into a single search provides a powerful discovery environment to library uses that includes immense collections of both books and articles. If a library that subscribes to WorldCat Local also subscribes to EBSCOhost, the appropriate search features will appear automatically.

This agreement between OCLC and EBSCO does not automatically give EBSCO content to WorldCat Local subscribers who are not also EBSCOhost customers. Nor are there any additional costs to take advantage of the WorldCat Local interface and search capabilities to gain the ability to offer consolidated searching to those libraries that do subscribe to EBSCOhost.

The agreement with EBSCO marks the most recent and the largest partnership formed to bring article-level content into the WorldCat Local search environment. The agreement between OCLC and EBSCO is not exclusive. OCLC intends to pursue similar agreements with other content providers to continue to expand the capacity of WorldCat Local. To the extent that OCLC is able to forge agreements with additional publishers, it will be able to expand WorldCat Local’s ability to provide access to larger portions of a library’s e-journal collections.

While it’s helpful to have even a small portion of articles in a discovery interface, it does not save the user from having to search multiple resources until it spans a critical mass of content that can be considered reasonably complete. The partnership with EBSCO is one of many tactics that OCLC is pursuing to allow WorldCat Local to serve as a single point of search for library content.

This partnership also includes significant benefits to EBSCO. Through this reciprocal agreement, EBSCOhost content will be made available through WorldCat Local and the WorldCat database will also be made available through the EBSCOhost search engine. OCLC will provide EBSCO with a copy of the WorldCat database so that subscribers of EBSCOhost will also gain the ability to perform a consolidated search of articles and books. This approach also helps EBSCO deal with the same need to provide more comprehensive access to library collections through its search interface.

The key strategy of WorldCat Local involves placing collections of content directly into the WorldCat index and providing rapid search capability that can be ranked by relevancy. Metasearch technology can be used to supplement this strategy by bringing in content from external resources not indexed in WorldCat. OCLC has been working with Index Data since June 2008 to use its metasearch technology to extend WorldCat Local to include resources not directly indexed in Worldcat.org.

In recent years, the technique of harvesting metadata or full text into a consolidated index that can be searched instantly has gained favor over the distributed query model of metasearch. Searching a centralized consolidated index yields significant functional advantages over metasearch, especially in terms of the search speed, the depth of results, and the ability to sort by relevance. From the publisher’s perspective, distributed query of metasearch can be problematic in that their servers must respond to a high percentage of queries for which none of their content is selected and viewed by an end user. The problem until now with the consolidated index approach has been the inability to populate them with sufficient content, due to the reluctance of publishers to provide copies of their citation data and the full text of articles to those involved in creating discovery products. The recent announcements involving Summon and WorldCat Local signify a sea change where publishers now see the value and practical benefits of cooperating with this model of content discovery.

Trials of WorldCat Local have been underway since April 2007. Some of the early libraries that have been engaged in testing WorldCat Local include the University of Washington, the University of California, and Northeastern Illinois University. OCLC expects to launch the version of WorldCat Local with the EBSCO content in July 2009. OCLC’s WorldCat Local competes with other discovery products such as AquaBrowser, Primo, Encore, and VUfind. The products in this latter group are installed locally by individual libraries or consortia. WorldCat Local is a subscription service that doesn’t require installation local software.

The recently-announced Summon product from Serials Solutions [See the March Issue of SLN] also competes directly with WorldCat Local. Offered only through the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, Summon presents a number of interesting similarities and differences with WorldCat Local. Summon works on a similar model of acquiring content from publishers of article level data as the basis of a central index that powers their search interface.

Serials Solutions has access to a great deal of content through the content products within the CIG organization that includes ProQuest and R.R. Bowker, and has also formed arrangements with Gale and other companies. A major portion of the indexing of the content for Summon is based on the full text of the articles and not citations. While WorldCat Local has been designed to accommodate full-text indexing, the agreement with EBSCOhost involves indexing citations. Summon integrates a library’s monograph collection into its search scope through harvesting the bibliographic records from the local ILS, which contrasts with WorldCat Local use of the massive WorldCat.org.

With the advent of products such as WorldCat Local and Summon, the competitive battlefront shifts to the quantity and quality of the content enabled through pre-populated indexes versus the merits of the interface features and technology.

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Publication Year:2009
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Smart Libraries Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 29 Number 5
Issue:May 2009
Page(s):1-3
Publisher:ALA TechSource
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
ISSN:1541-8820
Record Number:13998
Last Update:2012-12-29 14:06:47
Date Created:2009-06-08 10:50:26