Five Months with WorldCat Local

Speaker: Jennifer Ward, University of Washington Libraries

Jennifer started by showing a YouTube video, “Finding Time in the Penn State Libraries,” to illustrate the problems searchers have when looking for material through library catalogs. I was amused when I looked for the video that another librarian has posted a video response, “Finding Time Magazine at Humboldt State” that shows a simpler search process.

Jennifer is head of Web Services at the University of Washington Libraries, and she described her experiences as a participant in the OCLC WorldCat Local Beta project. She noted that she was not free to share everything, due to a non-disclosure agreement with OCLC. She largely walked the audience through the uwashington.worldcat.org, which is available to all users although it may not behave as expected for users not in Washington state. The other Beta participant currently is the Peninsula Library System in California, with an implementation available at the San Mateo County Library.

Jennifer started by describing the environment in Washington. UW is a member of the Orbis Cascade Alliance and participates in the Summit consortial online catalog. Through WorldCat Local (WCLocal), UW has been able to combine three different delivery systems (local, Summit, and Illiad) and four article databases: PubMed, ERIC, GPO, ArticleFirst (collectively more than 30 million article citations), plus digital collections in CONTENTdm. She noted that it has not been possible to add all of their licensed database content into WorldCat Local due to varying license terms from publishers, but OCLC is working on increasing the amount of licensed content available.

When a user types in a query, WC Local returns items held by UW first, then items in the Summit catalog. When the user selects an item, he or she is presented with four options: “Get It,” “Save It,” “Add to It,” and “Share It,” the same options that are available in WorldCat.org. However, the “Get It” option in WCLocal allows the user to “Request Item,” where WorldCat.org offers as options “Find in other WorldCat Libraries” and “Buy from Amazon.com” (UW opted to turn off the Amazon option). “Request Item” in WC Local sends the request either to the local ILS, if UW has the item, or to Illiad for ILL processing. If the item is an article, the request option looks first for electronic availability, using the libraries’ Open URL Resolver.

The effect of WorldCat Local on their borrowing and resource sharing practices has been significant. Since April 30th, when the system went live, they have seen a 50.28% increase in borrowing within their consortium, a 39.5% increase in ILL requests, and a 16.28% increase in ILLs processed, compared to the same period a year ago (the difference in ILLs requested and processed is due to borrowers mistakenly requesting materials available from a Summit library or a licensed database).

According to Jennifer, WCLocal is only an additional view on top of the local ILS; all cataloging and acquisitions are still done through the ILS, so the impact on staff in those areas has been minimal. The increase in resource sharing has resulted in additional burdens on staff, however. The focus of the trial has been on the impact of the catalog on end users, some of whom love the new system, while others have complained about the change. Jennifer could not share details of OCLC’s user testing, but she said that she was impressed with both their methodology and the quick turnaround; in some cases, the user testing has resulted in rapid changes to the interface. UW is scheduled to keep WCLocal as the default catalog view through Fall 2007, and OCLC is planning to do a second round of formal usability testing during the semester.

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