Information Toolkit

Introducing Information Toolkit -- An Occasional Column Spotlighting the Libraries' Research Tools.

By Anna Marie Johnson, Information Literacy Team Leader

World of Cats? Cats of the World? What the heck is in that database anyway? Much to the dismay of cat lovers everywhere, WorldCat is a database produced by OCLC FirstSearch containing over 41,000,000 (yes that's million) records for OCLC member libraries. The name WorldCat is somewhat misleading because most OCLC member libraries are in the United States. There are records for some libraries in Great Britain, but I've never run across records from any other part of the world.

The records include many different types of materials such as books; manuscripts; computer data files; maps; computer programs; musical scores; films and slides; newspapers; journals; sound recordings; magazines; videotapes. It does not include articles. In fact, OCLC says it best: " Does not include book chapters or individual articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers." So in some sense, WorldCat is much more like Minerva than it is like Ebsco Academic or ProQuest. It is a catalog, not a periodical index.

What do you use WorldCat for? WorldCat is especially helpful when I want to verify the existence of an item or to make sure that I have the correct information for that item. WorldCat can also be used to determine which libraries in the United States own an item.

To search WorldCat, go to the "All Databases" list on the Research Center. Click "W" and find WorldCat in the list. ( Once you've started the database, you can type in the name of an author, a title, or some keywords to perform a search. For example, my husband wanted a video of the punk rock band "Devo" so I searched for Devo and limited to visual material. I found a video called Devo: the men who make the music and discovered that 11 libraries in the U.S. owned a copy but, alas, none in Louisville. Thanks to the Ekstrom Interlibrary Loan people, we had the video in a short while. One last important note: because of differences in cataloging, one title will often have several different records (not to mention different editions). Check each record carefully to determine which libraries own that item.