(Warning: extreme library geekiness ahead.)
OCLC is going to be opening up full public searching of WorldCat!
(Official announcement here.)
I am breathless with anticipation.
WorldCat is a worldwide union catalog created and maintained collectively by more than 9,000 member institutions. With millions of online records built from the bibliographic and ownership information of contributing libraries, it is the largest and most comprehensive database of its kind.
At the reference desk, we use WorldCat for tons of things — the largest one, in my experience, being to help people find things Michigan doesn’t own, which they can then request through ILL. When I worked at the UChicago Map Collection, I used its records for copy-cataloging parts of the Latin American collection. It’s also great for figuring out alternate titles and spellings and things when you can’t find something you feel like you should be able to find in your own library’s OPAC. And personally, I sometimes just like poking around to see which eight libraries own some relatively obscure book or map. But I’m a geek like that.
WorldCat is an expansive, relatively simple to use window into the collections of thousands of libraries — one that I’ve always wished was publicly available, for the vast potential it has to connect individuals with the resources they actually need or want with a minimal cost in search effort.
And apparently, they’re even going to be letting random folks stick WorldCat search boxes on their random sites. Sign me up…