Sharing new ideas, resources, knowledge and technology to keep abreast of new development in reference service field

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

OCLC and

Most of us are now familiar with the FirstSearch database WorldCat. This is a powerful database that includes over 100 million records from libraries across the United States. You can search for books, music CDs, videos, journals, digital content and more. These resources are also available in many languages.

While FirstSearch is a subscription database there is also a web based version that can be accessed at You can use the database without creating a user name and password. However, doing so allows you to create a profile, make lists, and receive email updates. In addition, has some distinct advantages over FirstSearch. The initial search in both databases is exactly the same: either a basic or advanced query with all the same choices in fields to help narrow the search.

Each result displays basic bibliographic data: author,title, publisher, standard numbers, and so forth. Each record also has a link for all editions and formats plus book jackets when available. The libraries that own the item are arranged by state with those closest to your zip code appearing first. While FirstSearch only shows those states closest to your zip code has a comprehensive list (this feature is useful for practitioners of 24/7 reference). Both databases have hot links that will bring you directly to a particular library catalog for holdings information.

Other unique features of are the hot links to booksellers if don't wish to ILL the item or travel to the library, the option or reading or writing reviews, and a link to information about the author that also includes audience level and book classification numbers. If you happen to be using Google Books to find an item the reverse is also true. Google has a hot link to if you do not wish to purchase (though there are links for that as well).

Another great advantage in using is the option of searching for journal articles (the FirstSearch version only allows a search for journals and not articles). The results list for journal articles includes a full bibliographic record. Attached to the record is a list of those libraries that own that particular journal. For those patrons that are members of libraries that subscribe to journal databases has a second feature. By clicking on "Check for Electronic Resources" you are linked directly to your libraries journal databases.

Statistics have shown that most patrons do not know how to go from the local catalog to wider and wider resources. This is made even more difficult when the catalog is not linked to those wider resources. alleviates some of the pain.

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