I continue to learn a lot about libraries from my board service at OCLC. No grass is growing under their feet at OCLC as they continue to look for new ways to connect the world’s libraries. Mobile devices are fast becoming the medium of choice for access to information for more and more of us. OCLC has been aggressive on this front and has just partnered with RedLaser to introduce an innovative iPhone app which puts information about books from thousands of libraries at your fingertips.
RedLaser, developed by Occipital, of Boulder, Colorado, turns the iPhone camera into a barcode scanner. Just aim the camera at the barcode on a book and the app captures the information. You then tap on it and the app uses a connection to OCLC’s WorldCat to deliver localized U.S. library results based on the your geolocation and it provides a list of libraries that have the book plus the library locations, contacts and map information. There is a very good interview with Mike Teets of OCLC and a YouTube demo here.
OCLC has opened up the interfaces to WorldCat not only for RedLaser but to anyone interested in creating non-commercial mash-ups or mobile apps that utilize library data. The WorldCat iPhone app can also be used separately. A version of the WorldCat Mobile app also works on Android phones, including the Motorola Droid and the new Google Nexus One.
I have to admit that I had never heard of WorldCat until I got involved at OCLC. Quite impressive that it is the world’s largest database of bibliographic information. Institutions around the world share the records, using them to create local catalogs, arrange interlibrary loans and conduct reference work. There are now more than 165 million records in WorldCat spanning five millennia of recorded knowledge. Like the knowledge it describes, WorldCat grows steadily. Every second, OCLC and its member libraries add seven records to WorldCat.