More than maintenance: Four reasons to update holdings

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We do lots of maintenance tasks in our daily lives. We change tires, clean the HVAC, and inspect our roof and gutters—the list goes on and on. Usually, we do these things to prevent bad things from happening. But have you ever stopped and considered the benefits?

Holdings maintenance—making sure your library’s WorldCat holdings are accurate and up to date—is a good example of how important maintenance is. But there’s still so much more at play. In fact, there are major benefits for your library, your users, and the wider library community.

Baseline expectations

We all know that keeping WorldCat holdings up to date is important for the regular, standard functioning of many systems. When holdings aren’t current, bad things can happen like:

  • Users can’t find your most recent, new materials—which are often the most important
  • Users discover records for materials that you no longer hold
  • Libraries make flawed collection development assumptions

But if you’re looking for even more reasons to update your holdings, read on.

1. Eliminate resource sharing “false positives”

It’s a tale as old as time: You had an item in your catalog, and now you don’t. But your WorldCat holdings aren’t up to date, so unless you have configured a “shelf status” check, it keeps showing up in interlibrary loan. End-users and ILL staff on both ends become frustrated, upset about the wasted time and inaccuracies, and your library, as well as the borrowing library, has a damaged reputation.

When we first launched our streamlined holdings update process, we saw just how much better this situation became after libraries did the update. In many cases, libraries were able to eliminate more than 90% of their “false positives,” and some even got up above 95%.

So, doing a quick update means giving your ILL staff a whole lot of their time back.

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2. Get into Google Search results

In 2022, we extended our partnership with Google to include Google Borrow Actions. This program puts direct links to library catalogs into Google Search results based on metadata that we provide. This means that when a user’s search returns results that include print books, direct links to holding libraries’ catalogs will be presented in the info card to the right of the search window, allowing the user to find the item in your library quicker.

How do you qualify to get your library’s data into this program? Well, you need to catalog with us and also have a FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery or other web visibility subscription. But most importantly, 95% or more of the links from the Google knowledge panel to your local catalog must go directly to an item. So, again, “false positives” will be a barrier.

There are a couple more steps involved regarding your local catalog, such as getting the identifier from WorldCat back into your ILS so that the links work correctly. Having consistent and complete identifiers in the local catalog is essential to getting at least 95% of the links working. Many early adopters who updated holdings and identifiers in their local catalogs were able to reach that goal.

Finally, make sure your WorldCat Registry information is up to date. The main address and name of the library should match what’s in Google Maps. (Oh yeah—if your library doesn’t have a Google Map yet, you can request one.) And make sure that the links to your online catalog are up to date. Many of the libraries that have followed the steps above have gone live in our program, and they’ve since reported a bunch of clicks through to their items from Google.

(Please note: this program is active only for libraries in the US currently)

3. Power up your analytics

My colleague Andy Breeding recently wrote a blog post about collective intelligence. In it, he describes how Choreo Insights, our new analytics solution, provides “a set of tools that explores peer libraries, academic programs you’d like to emulate, collaboration opportunities, and institutional data.” He notes that it allows library staff to analyze:

“… place-based data elements—such as location of publication, language, and geographic subject descriptors—to identify under-represented voices within larger collection profiles. Whether it’s materials that need to be preserved or ones that should be acquired, these data points can help uncover materials to support local diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.”

I recommend you read the whole post. Andy provides some interesting insight into the analytics process. But the thing I’d like to emphasize is that none of this is possible if your holdings aren’t up to date. The data necessary for a solid analytics win is—you guessed it—accurate holdings information. And if your library is doing a collective analysis with other libraries, maintaining holdings will help ensure that the decisions being made more accurately reflect the collective collection.

4. Update library holdings for free

Last year, we did a trial of free streamlined holdings update. It was so well received, and the benefits so immediate and substantial, that we’ve rolled it out widely. With this program, your WorldCat holdings will be up to date across many OCLC services, such as FirstSearch, WorldCat Discovery, WorldShare ILL, WorldShare Record Manager, and Connexion. Up-to-date holdings also means that people can find items in your collections on and through our partnerships with websites like Google Books, Wikipedia, and Goodreads.

This process updates WorldCat holdings for titles you manage in your local catalog. If that includes e-resources, the holdings for those will be updated, too, and if you register those e-resources in the WorldCat knowledge base, we’ll update them without the need to include them in your files.

WorldCat at the center

You may have noticed that while updating WorldCat holdings is something that must be done locally, the results can positively impact the library community as a whole. That’s the “superpower” of WorldCat—that it magnifies the work each individual does in ways that impact library workers and users around the world.

Of course you want the “maintenance benefits” that apply to your own staff and community; that’s always going to be a priority. But when those necessary changes can also provide more visibility for all libraries on the web, better end-user experiences, and the ability to improve collaborative operations? That’s a big win for everyone.

Get additional details about our free streamlined holdings update from this detailed FAQ. If your library maintains an OCLC cataloging subscription and you’re ready to get started, please fill out this form.