It is a privilege to be able to participate and contribute to various boards. Board service is a way to learn new things, meet interesting people, and gain new perspectives. That has certainly been the case since I joined the board of OCLC in 2009. Fifteen years ago some pundits — myself not included — were saying that libraries were history — as in toast — they were not long for the emerging digital world. Been to a local or college library lately? They are full of people and many libraries are expanding their facilities. Library use has doubled over the past decade. What happened to the digital “vision”? It turns out that the digital and physical modes can get along together quite well.
The crown jewel of OCLC is WorldCat — the world’s most comprehensive database of resources held in libraries, connecting millions of users to library collections and services of thousands of libraries around the globe. WorldCat, the most comprehensive online database of resources available through libraries around the world, has reached a major milestone with the addition of its 2 billionth holding. On Saturday, May 4, at 2:58 a.m., the University of Alberta Libraries, in Edmonton, added an e-book to WorldCat — Evaluation of the City of Lakes Family Health Team Patient Portal Pilot Project: Final Report — the 2 billionth holding in WorldCat.
WorldCat was created in 1971 so that libraries could share cataloging information from a central database, increasing workflow efficiency and the ability to locate and loan materials. It took OCLC almost 34 years to add 1 billion holdings in WorldCat, but has taken just seven years and eight months to add the next billion holdings. The holdings in WorldCat span six millennia of recorded knowledge, from about 4800 B.C. to the present, and encompasses records for books, serials, sound recordings, musical scores, maps, visual materials, mixed materials and computer files.
Academic and cultural researchers value WorldCat as much for its depth and distinctiveness as its size. Libraries often hold unique and significant materials, including maps, music, artifacts, theses and other research materials that can be found nowhere else. In a world where general reference, entertainment and news content becomes widely available online, WorldCat helps libraries describe and promote local and specific knowledge far beyond the boundaries of any single institution. For example, many genealogists value WorldCat as a central source for unique family and local history records. Because WorldCat represents items from more than 170 countries and 470 languages, scholars use the database to locate and borrow items around the world. More than 40 national libraries contribute to WorldCat, including recent additions from Japan, Spain, Israel and China, and over 60 percent of the records in WorldCat are for materials in non-English languages.
WorldCat information is syndicated through relationships with partners such as Google, Goodreads and EasyBib. When searching these and other popular online services, information seekers can connect to local libraries through WorldCat links and data services. WorldCat grows steadily. Library members add seven records to the WorldCat database every seven seconds. Take a minute and visit worldcat.org and enter the title of your favoirte book to see the breadth and depth of this great resource. Or if you want to witness the next milestone, visit “Watch WorldCat Grow“. As I type this, WorldCat is at 2,001,695,395 holdings.”