OCLC announced yesterday that the WorldCat database reached a record number of 2 billion holdings. I am simply amazed by the growth of this database over the years. WorldCat has been a great resource for discovering content and extending a library’s collection through interlibrary loan service. Here is more from the press release:
On Saturday, May 4, at 2:58 a.m. (MDT), the holding symbol for the University of Alberta Libraries, in Edmonton, was set through an automated process to the WorldCat record for the e-book, Evaluation of the City of Lakes Family Health Team Patient Portal Pilot Project: Final Report, published in 2012 by the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research. It was the 2 billionth holding set in WorldCat. The e-book catalog record was created by the Canadian Electronic Book Library, an e-book provider in Canada, and was enhanced through OCLC’s automated authority control processing system.
WorldCat is a database of bibliographic information created and continuously updated by some 25,000 OCLC member libraries around the world. WorldCat records describe specific works and contain a listing of institutions that own an item, referred to as “holdings.” Institutions use holdings information to create local catalogs, arrange interlibrary loans and conduct reference work.
“It is astounding that the number of holdings in WorldCat has doubled in less than eight years,” said Jay Jordan, OCLC President and CEO. “This is strong testimony to the power of global library collaboration. I want to thank the University of Alberta, and the thousands of librarians and catalogers around the world who are working daily to create this unique and valuable resource for knowledge seekers everywhere.”
WorldCat was created in 1971 so that libraries could share cataloging information from a central database, increasing workflow efficiency and the ability to locate and loan materials. It took the OCLC cooperative almost 34 years, from August 26, 1971 to August 11, 2005, to add 1 billion holdings in WorldCat. It has taken just seven years and eight months to add the next billion.
WorldCat spans six millennia of recorded knowledge, from about 4800 B.C. to the present. It encompasses records for books, serials, sound recordings, musical scores, maps, visual materials, mixed materials and computer files.
In recent years, OCLC has made a series of technological advances that has made it possible to process millions of records and holdings through batchloads. OCLC has also made a concerted effort to partner with national libraries, library agencies, regional metadata hubs and other groups. This has resulted in the loading of national bibliographies and other important collections.
Academic and cultural researchers value WorldCat as much for its depth and distinctiveness as its size. Libraries often hold unique and significant materials, including maps, music, artifacts, theses and other research materials that can be found nowhere else. In a world where general reference, entertainment and news content becomes widely available online, WorldCat helps libraries describe and promote local and specific knowledge far beyond the boundaries of any single institution.
For example, many genealogists value WorldCat as a central source for unique family and local history records. Because WorldCat represents items from more than 170 countries and 470 languages, scholars use the database to locate and borrow items around the world. More than 40 national libraries contribute to WorldCat, including recent additions from Japan, Spain, Israel and China, and over 60 percent of the records in WorldCat are for materials in non-English languages.
OCLC member institutions use a variety of specific services to add, enhance and access WorldCat records, improving workflows and helping libraries save time and money. Anyone can search these collections at www.WorldCat.org. WorldCat.org users can find nearby libraries that hold an item, build personalized lists, easily create citations and post reviews and ratings.
Other public views of WorldCat include WorldCat Identities, which provides summary pages for the name of every person, organization and fictional character in WorldCat (currently around 30 million); WorldCat Genres, which allows users to browse hundreds of genres from WorldCat; and WorldCat Kindred Works, a content-based service that helps users find similar materials of interest. In addition, the WorldCat Live! API provides a real-time stream of newly added records of library collections and published materials to WorldCat.
WorldCat information is also syndicated through relationships with partners such as Google, Goodreads and EasyBib. When searching these and other popular online services, information seekers can connect to local libraries through WorldCat links and data services.