WorldCat has launched its freely-accessible beta, a move that will give the public access to our library holdings without having to go through a library’s subscription version. It has the simple interface of Google, the look of Amazon without the ads, and an easy way to see which libraries in your neighborhood have the book you’re looking for. It also has code you can put on your own page to offer a search right there – handy for bloggers and anyone else who wants a library search handy on their site.
This seems to me a stunningly smart move – finally. Making the “find in your library” link available (for some books) through search engines was a good move, but for the casual searcher the link tended to be buried, not on the first page of search results. Linking it from Google Book Search was also a good move, though publishers who submit their work generally only have booksellers linked from their content and last I checked Google will only say they’re considering adding the library link. (It’s quite likely publishers don’t care for the idea.)
But here’s a question for academic librarians: how do we use this? It doesn’t have the advanced search options of our subscription WorldCat, and the free site points this out.
Many of our member libraries let you search WorldCat from their own Web sites or from inside the library using the FirstSearch reference service. Although the basic identifying information you’ll find on this Web site can fulfill most needs, WorldCat at your library includes extra features such as advanced search and “similar items” capabilities, as well as published reviews and excerpts to help you better evaluate an item.
But it is a version our students will be able to use anywhere after graduation. What will you do?