Seven years ago, I was the director of e-commerce development for a global brand with more than $USD 2.5 billion in sales, 500 stores, and nearly 12,000 employees. Then I found WorldCat.org.
It was love at first search as I’ve always been a superfan of libraries. I saw the fundamentals of my chosen career—improving online services, intuitive interface design, and an exceptional user experience—put to use in the service of libraries. That moment moved me to join OCLC.
Today I can say, without hesitation, that our recently rolled-out work to reimagine, redesign, and rebuild WorldCat.org has been the highlight of my career.
What is WorldCat.org?
WorldCat.org is central to the OCLC web visibility program that puts library collections where people start their searches. Individually, libraries can reach only a small percentage of current and potential users. Even library supporters don’t always realize the wealth of knowledge available. Our program is the missing link, allowing people to browse collections of thousands of libraries around the world. Since its inception, WorldCat.org has helped hundreds of millions of people find their way back to libraries from other places on the web.
The site has been completely updated, including the addition of more libraries. We leveraged machine learning to make the search experience better. We built the site on a suite of open APIs. We enhanced the technology infrastructure, updated the search interface, and added a wealth of additional user-centric features. The result? The new WorldCat.org more effectively meets the needs of information seekers from academic researchers to someone looking for a book by a local author.
New features and opportunities to engage
The new WorldCat.org was developed collaboratively with libraries through extensive user testing to ensure our focus fully supported user needs and library impact. We also made the site available as a beta to more than 5,000 libraries, so that we could gather feedback and provide an opportunity to update library information on WorldCat.org. The new site features:
- A mobile-friendly design and a more accessible experience. It shows people all formats of library resources and highlights the materials that are closest to them, increasing user satisfaction and introducing new people to your library.
- More tools to promote your collections. Your library information page features locally relevant information like recent additions to your collections, links to your catalog, access to your library card request form, and directions to your physical location. And your staff can easily create and share lists that highlight your library’s areas of expertise and unique materials.
- More opportunities for engagement. Topic pages enable members of specific communities of interest to explore and browse through the riches in library collections. Users can easily create and share their own lists and select their favorite libraries, prioritizing nearby materials in their search results.
- Improved access to local library e-resources. Your users can more easily view the full text of e-resources you make available to them. Integration with the WorldCat knowledge base facilitates links to e-resources and emphasizes open content links in search results.
We haven’t just created a phenomenal destination site for library discovery. We also continue to connect people to libraries from search engines and partner sites such as Google Books, Wikipedia, and Goodreads, in addition to more than 5,000 other websites that link people to WorldCat.org for library resources. And recently, we’ve enhanced our partnership with Google to connect web searchers directly to library catalogs from Google Search.The new WorldCat.org expands the impact of libraries everywhere. #OCLCnext. Click To Tweet
Now we’re expanding visibility options to fit a variety of needs and budgets. All of these subscriptions include visibility for the items your library holds on WorldCat.org and through our search and web partners, as well as detailed listings on WorldCat.org that connect users directly to your library’s collections:
- An OCLC cataloging and FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription means a library can offer exceptional search options within the library and ensures that collections are front and center on campus or in the community, on WorldCat.org, and on search engines and other sites.
- Our new WorldCat Visibility subscription, available to libraries with any OCLC cataloging subscription, makes library resources visible for people searching WorldCat.org, actively shares collections on search engines and other popular websites, and links people to items in library catalogs.
- Our new OCLC Small Library Edition subscription gives small public and small community college libraries the tools they need to catalog their collections, register them in WorldCat, and participate in our web visibility program. This helps give equitable access to information and supports the smallest libraries as they serve their communities.
In addition, cataloging libraries will now have (for no additional cost) a basic institution listing on WorldCat.org with their library name, city, and state displayed on items for which they have holdings in WorldCat.
Please note: Collections from libraries in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa can also be made visible on WorldCat.org with a WorldCat Participation subscription.
Transforming lives, one search at a time
Just like WorldCat.org was my inspiration to join OCLC, the service itself is grounded in real people and their stories. That’s why I’m so thrilled that we’re supporting this new effort with a major WorldCat.org marketing campaign. It’s a way to enhance relationships with lifelong library supporters and inspire new advocates and users, too. The campaign started shortly after launch and will continue into 2023. And I sincerely believe that it will connect more people to libraries—and to their dreams and goals—the same way it did for me.
The experience of each individual may start with a search, but it can lead to a life-changing discovery, a new passion, or a shift in career. WorldCat.org increases the chances of the library being part of that journey.
Even the best pre-release market research and testing doesn’t catch everything. We’ve gotten helpful insights from the community so far. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to refine the WorldCat.org experience as we address the feedback and monitor user behavior. Want to share your experience?