Check it out!
March 15, 2007 7:12 PM   Subscribe

WorldCat is a beta search utility that helps you search for an item in libraries near you. Results include over 1 billion items in more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. Brought to you by OCLC, previously on MetaFilter.
posted by owhydididoit (27 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Remember that when you use the library you're getting content without paying for it, and that's stealing.
posted by mullingitover at 7:17 PM on March 15, 2007

...but WorldCat is awesome. Thanks!
posted by mullingitover at 7:18 PM on March 15, 2007

Also worth checking out is their shiny, colorful DeweyBrowser interface.
posted by estherbester at 7:21 PM on March 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

Shouldn't we save this post for Caturday?

(oops, wrong cat)
posted by wendell at 7:39 PM on March 15, 2007

I can't wait for WorldCat 3.0, where it tells you the exact location of the book you're looking for anywhere within 30 miles. Libraries, bookstores, neighbors, whatever, thanks to RFID and OCLC!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:42 PM on March 15, 2007

That's kind of neat in theory, but they only have university libraries near me, and good luck getting Yale to let you check out a book.
posted by smackfu at 7:45 PM on March 15, 2007

great site!
posted by NVjulie at 8:00 PM on March 15, 2007

Interesting, but why would we need this service if we have inter-library loan? That's how we get books from the university or whatever. Heck, I just request what I want and they find it from afar. Once they even got me one from Washington State, and I'm in Canada. The odd time they can't get something. Rarely.

Spoiled Canadians.
posted by Listener at 8:42 PM on March 15, 2007

Listener, the main use of OCLC is to help libraries, not users. OCLC stores standardized records for libraries to download and use. Most library employees use a more fully featured OCLC program to search for records, but I knew a few older bibliographers who used Worldcat to do searches.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:50 PM on March 15, 2007

"Interesting, but why would we need this service if we have inter-library loan? That's how we get books from the university or whatever. Heck, I just request what I want and they find it from afar. "

Well, if material is non-circulating would be one reason. A lot of material in my field is reference-only, i.e. no library would ILL it.

Worldcat has really turned up trumps for me with material that is not listed in any other union catalogue. It's been described as basically a great heap of accumulated records, which is its strength and weakness. It's also only a small subset, I believe, of the FirstSearch product available to subscribing institutions.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 8:58 PM on March 15, 2007

A bit US centric I suspect.
I want to read Kuntsler's The Long Emergency. I entered my location 60 miles from Sydney.
The top ten results for closest copies were:
Brisbane (460 miles)
Hong Kong
Cape Town

Maybe needs a bit of fine tuning?
posted by bystander at 8:59 PM on March 15, 2007

Not really US-centric Bystander, just needs contributing information from more libraries. Firstsearch and WorldCat rely on getting holdings information from participating libraries. The more participating and contributing libraries, the 'better' the results you will get.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 9:40 PM on March 15, 2007

The Cat Attack of 2007!
posted by homunculus at 11:03 PM on March 15, 2007

(oops, wrong cat)
posted by homunculus at 11:04 PM on March 15, 2007

I refuse to be held responsible for the reckless actions of homunculus. My cat joke was intended as a one-time-only thing, not a running joke, and I ruled out including a link to cat-oriented content myself as a sign of respect to the MetaFilter community. I could have made a Dewey Decimal joke too, but I didn't. Some people don't know where to draw the line, but I do.

Where did the line go?
posted by wendell at 11:27 PM on March 15, 2007

I used to blame my reckless acts on society, but now I just blame them on wendell. He drew a line, sure, but then erased it with his own urine while no know (but me) was looking. He simply cannot be trusted.
posted by homunculus at 11:42 PM on March 15, 2007

This is so tantalizingly close to awesome it is frustrating. The site is incredibly fast and easy to use. It tells me exactly where books are that I want. But it doesn't seem to be complete (I just searched for some books I know the location of). And worst of all, it's just a catalog. I don't want a meta-catalog, I want a catalog of a meta-library. I would gladly pay book-rate shipping to be able to remotely borrow books from, say, the Boston Public Library, if that's the closest place that has what I want.
posted by DU at 4:15 AM on March 16, 2007

When it comes to searching by keywords, WorldCat is FAR superior to my "local" large research institution's online catalog. The librarians often use it (or even Amazon) to find books and subject headings, and then use the university's catalog to locate similar materials within the library itself. I love WorldCat, and I love that Google Books links to it from book records.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:45 AM on March 16, 2007

Oh, and that's why users might use it in addition to ILL. They can use it to more easily find books within their own libraries, as well as to find out about books that the library doesn't have.
posted by unknowncommand at 4:50 AM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Books rule.
posted by JanetLand at 6:02 AM on March 16, 2007

One reason WorldCat might not show book you know are there on the shelf is because OCLC libraries need to tell OCLC when they add and delete items from their holdings. I am a cataloger at a small college library, and our cataloging system is integrated with OCLC. Once I locate the correct record for the item and grab it for our catalog I have to then click the option that says "update holdings." If I don't, the OCLC database has no record that we own the item. Conversely, if we delete something but don't tell OCLC, we run the risk of people requesting it through ILL. Either way, we're doing a disservice to our users and potential users by not keeping our holdings up to date.
posted by Biblio at 8:14 AM on March 16, 2007

not to be (too) snarky, but is worldCAT new to you?! For your sakes, I'm glad you've discovered it.
posted by Grod at 8:20 AM on March 16, 2007

err, I'm an idiot. this is a new and public interface, I get it now.
posted by Grod at 8:23 AM on March 16, 2007

Biblio, thanks for that insight! Very useful info...

homunculus, you can't go wrong posting cats in my threads, as long as the kitties don't get hurt.
posted by owhydididoit at 9:30 AM on March 16, 2007

But it doesn't seem to be complete (I just searched for some books I know the location of)

WorldCat only knows about libraries which pay substantial subscription fees to use it for their cataloging, and as Biblio points out, it only knows about their books if they make a point of informing it. It's definitely a good thing to have it accessible to the public, but, as librarians are wont to do, I worry about people who will conclude that absence of evidence in WorldCat is evidence of absence in the real world. The more time you spend with it, and God knows I've spent plenty, the more conscious you become of its limitations.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:53 AM on March 16, 2007

That's true Horace Rumpole, although it does include the Library of Congress...
posted by unknowncommand at 11:35 AM on March 16, 2007

This will be useful. Thanks.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:18 PM on March 16, 2007

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