I’m sure you do this for some very important reason, but spending $16 to express mail me a copy of a report that I didn’t ask for (though it does look quite interesting) seems wasteful. I go to the post office once a week and all express mail does is makes my postmistress agitated. While WorldCat is closer to being useful for me — showing one copy of Jane Eyre shown that is actually in my state before the ones one state over; the closest copy actually being about a quarter mile from here — I’d love it if you could apply this money to some sort of teeny-library scholarship fund so that we could benefit from WorldCat in Vermont instead of just hearing about how we can raise more money to pay you with.
I’ve been watching WorldCat grow, but I’m a little confused. When I fist looked, the “title” I saw was Americana, cinema and dramatic arts, cookbooks, erotica, fine, decorative and graphic arts, illustrated books, literary first editions, metaphysics and the occult, science fiction, juvenalia, investment rarities. Now it just says List #2. These are not book titles. What am I watching?
Slow reading points me to the Not in WorldCat blog, showcasing weird funky and obscure books that you can’t find in one of the many libraries Worldcat covers.
Worldcat.org is the public face of the largest combined (or â€œunionâ€) library catalog in the world. Library folks usually refer to it as OCLC (Online Computer Library Center). Currently OCLC/WorldCat catalogs over 1 billion items from over 60,000 libraries around the world. This blog is not affiliated with OCLC/Worldcat in any way. Itâ€™s just an outlet for one bookseller/librarian (me) to feature unusual, rare and interesting items that exist outside of WorldCatâ€™s vast reach.
Tim has a post on the Thingology blog about OCLCs new announcement that they are creating something they call WorldCat Local, further blurring the boundaries between book data and end users services using that data.
There are a lot of good things about this. Andâ€”lest my revised logo be misunderstoodâ€”there are no bad people here. On the contrary, OCLC is full of wonderful peopleâ€”people who’ve dedicated their lives to some of the highest ideals we can aspire. But the institution is dependent on a model that, with all the possibilities for sharing available today, must work against these ideals.
Keeping their data hidden, restricted and off the “live” web has hurt libraries more than we can ever know. Fifteen years ago, libraries were where you found out about books. One would have expected that to continue on the web–that searching for a book would turn up libraries alongside bookstores, authors and publishers.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Libraries are all-but-invisible on the web. Search for the “Da Vinci Code” and you won’t get the Library of Congress–the greatest collection of books and book data ever assembled–not even if you click through a hundred pages. You do get WorldCat, but only if you go sixteen pages in!
Meanwhile WorldCat still tells me that I have to drive 21 miles — to a library I don’t even have borrowing privileges at (Dartmouth) — to get a copy of the Da Vinci Code when I know that I can get a copy less than half a mile down the street, and another copy eight miles away, and another copy if I go another two miles, and then another copy eight miles beyond that. I can get maybe eleven copies of the Da Vinco Code before I hit a WorldCat library.
There may be a future world where teeny libraries like the ones in my area and other rural areas become part of this great giant catalog that is supposedly so beneficial to library users everywhere, but for now they can’t afford it. And every press release that says that this sort of thing helps everyone is like another tiny paper cut added to the big chasm that is the digital divide out here. How is this problem getting solved? Who is trying to solve it?
Keep in mind that while it is in the best interests of librarians to access to bibliographic records be as open as possible — to facilitate record-sharing, search and retrieval of items in a library and just our collective knowledgebase generally — it is often NOT in the interests of library companies, or libraries who act like companies, to share their data such that other people or libraries can use it to do what they want with it. So goes the saga of NYPL vs ibiblio, a long and not at all complicated tale concerning their records and what is or is not copyrightable about them. Special appearance by OCLC and their revised policies about records sharing.