“We began efforts in June of this year running through June 2004, which we have named the 'Open WorldCat' pilot. The purpose is to determine the feasibility of a new service to raise the visibility of libraries to information seekers on the Web. OCLC has completed initial communications for the pilot to our member libraries.
Web services participating in the pilot will provide links to WorldCat library ownership information. Participants in addition to BookPage include: Abebooks, Alibris, Antiquarian Booksellers of America, and HCI Bibliography….
As to more details, right now all I can say is that we intend to aggressively expand the scope of the pilot which would potentially increase the list of partners. We should have more news to report later this Fall.
We are also working on a public website that will provide further details on the pilot and which should be available shortly.”
Sure enough, if you search any of those sites, there's a “find in libraries” button that takes you right into WorldCat based on a zip code you enter. It's not perfect, but it's a sight to see (or is that a site to see?!) and is certainly a step in the right direction. It must set a cookie, too, because now when I go from site to site, it automatically brings up libraries from the zip code I originally entered. Each library listed also gets links for a “map” and “library info.”
Unfortunately, you can't directly request the item from this page and to view the status of it (available or checked out), you have to manually re-run the search in the library's native catalog. Plus there's the standard caveat that non-OCLC library holdings are not represented (duh). Still, it's an evolutionary step forward to see WorldCat being put to good use like this out on the open web. Especially when taken in context with news of a Google-OCLC partnership:
“It says Google, OCLC, and Gale have announced new partnerships that will help highlight the resources of libraries for Internet searchers: The Google/OCLC partnership will involve OCLC making a subset of OCLC WorldCat records available for indexing by Google as part of a pilot project. Holding information attached to the WorldCat records will be retrievable, so Google searchers will be able see which libraries in their area own copies of the particular title. Directors of MINITEX/OCLC libraries will soon receive a letter providing more information about this pilot project.” [LISNews.com]
Again, this is all just a start, but it's an important first step. As we say at SLS, “baby steps.” I will be watching the Open WorldCat pilot project quite closely, and hopefully we'll start seeing some of the potential materialize. Congrats to OCLC on this one! [The Shifted Librarian]