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WorldCat is the world's largest bibliographic database, built and maintained collectively by libraries that participate in the OCLC global cooperative. Created in 1971, WorldCat catalogs the content of more than 50,000 libraries in 90-plus countries. As of April 2006, it contains more than 63 million records referencing physical and digital items in more than 360 languages. WorldCat itself is not directly purchased by libraries, but serves as the foundation for many other fee-based OCLC services (such as resource sharing and collection management).

How to access WorldCat

The entire WorldCat database may be searched through the online catalogs of libraries that subscribe to OCLC’s FirstSearch reference service. Often, these catalogs are freely available on the Internet, requiring only an authenticated logon associated with a user’s library account. WorldCat records can also be found on major Web search engines as well as selected bibliographic and bookselling sites, as part of the "Open WorldCat" program (below).

Open WorldCat

In 2003, OCLC began the "Open WorldCat" pilot program, making abbreviated records from a subset of WorldCat available to partner Web sites such as Yahoo!, Google and various booksellers, to increase the accessibility of its member libraries’ collections. On the general search sites, a user can limit their search to Open WorldCat records by adding the phrase "find in a library" (with quotes included) to their search string. In 2004, this functionality became a permanent feature of WorldCat, and the entire database was made available for search-engine harvesting.

Starting in 2005, it is possible to make direct links to Open WorldCat records, allowing immediate access to all libraries holding a given book. Instructions can be found at The basic structure for linking to items is:

  • ISBN: number)
  • ISSN: number)
  • OCLC Number: number)


The easiest way to obtain an OCLC number is to go to a statewide union catalog, like California'sand search for the desired book. The OCLC number will appear towards the bottom of any given record.

Once in an Open WorldCat record, a user is asked to type in his zip code and the nearest libraries that own the book are displayed. If his library is an OCLC member, then available library services will appear on the right hand of the page.

External links


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