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OCLC WorldCat Turns 40

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Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of WorldCat, the world's most comprehensive database of resources held in libraries around the globe.

On August 26, 1971, the OCLC Online Union Catalog and Shared Cataloging system (now known as WorldCat) began operation. That first day, from a single terminal, catalogers at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, cataloged 133 books online. Today, WorldCat comprises more than 240 million records representing more than 1.7 billion items in OCLC member libraries worldwide.

"We congratulate the thousands of librarians and catalogers around the world who have helped to build WorldCat over the past 40 years keystroke by keystroke, record by record," said Jay Jordan, OCLC President and CEO. "We who work at OCLC are proud to have been a part of this remarkable story, and I want to thank our member institutions and employees for the years of dedicated effort that helped build this unique resource. Fred Kilgour's vision - improving access to information through library cooperation -- is every bit as vital today as it was in 1971. This anniversary is an important milestone in a shared journey that, I believe, will continue for many decades to come."

WorldCat is a database of bibliographic information built continuously by OCLC libraries around the world. Each record in the WorldCat database contains a bibliographic description of a single item or work and a list of institutions that hold the item. The institutions share these records, using them to create local catalogs, arrange interlibrary loans and conduct reference work. Libraries contribute records for items not found in WorldCat using OCLC shared cataloging systems.

"In retrospect, I have to say that in those early days, I don't think we really understood the enormity of the system that we were embarking upon, much less did we consider what the future possibilities might be," said Lynne Lysiak, who had just started her career at Ohio University Libraries when WorldCat first went online, and is now retired. "As OCLC forges ahead now with WorldCat Local and cloud-computing developments, they are embarking on a new era and suite of services for libraries and their users. It's an exciting time."

"OCLC cataloging and resource sharing services and our library management systems continue to help libraries improve their productivity, save money and improve access to their collections," said Mr. Jordan. "Against a backdrop of continuous technological change, WorldCat and the OCLC cooperative have continued to grow."

Since 1971, 240 million records have been added to WorldCat, spanning more than 5,000 years of recorded knowledge, from about 3400 B.C. to the present. This unique collection of information encompasses records in a variety of formats--books, e-books, DVDs, digital resources, serials, sound recordings, musical scores, maps, visual materials, mixed materials and computer files. Like the knowledge it describes, WorldCat grows steadily. Every second, library members add seven records to WorldCat.

Once records have been added to WorldCat, they are discoverable on the Web through popular search and partner sites, and through

Records entered into WorldCat since 1971 have been continuously migrated, reformatted and updated to conform to newly issued cataloging standards. They have been touched and enhanced hundreds of times by librarians around the world and by OCLC staff and automated systems.

The first OCLC cathode ray tube terminal was the Irascope Model LTE, which was manufactured by Spiras Systems. OCLC deployed 68 LTES, one of which is now on permanent display in the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., and another in a new OCLC Museum dedicated today in Dublin, Ohio. The LTE was connected to OCLC via a dedicated, leased telephone line from AT&T; message traffic moved at the rate of 2400 baud (2,400 symbols per second).

People can now use their mobile phones to access WorldCat via WorldCat Local, where 4G wireless downloads are 2,500 times faster than the original OCLC network. Wired networks are now 416,000 times faster.

Find more about WorldCat on the OCLC website, and watch WorldCat grow as libraries around the world contribute to the database.

WorldCat Reaches 200 Million Records

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The Bibliothèque nationale de France has added the 200 millionth bibliographic record to the WorldCat database 39 years after the OCLC online union catalog and shared cataloging system was launched.

The record describes "Je reviendrai à Montréal" ("I will return to Montreal"), a sound recording by Robert Charlebois made in 1993. The 200 millionth record was added to WorldCat on August 27, 2010, only one day after the 39th anniversary of the launching of the OCLC online union catalog and shared cataloging system on August 26, 1971.

WorldCat continues to grow faster than ever. In the fiscal year that ended on June 30, libraries added 56 million records to WorldCat. In comparison, it took the OCLC cooperative:
31 years, from 1971 to 2002, to add the first 50 million records
six years (2002-2008) to add the next 50 million
1.5 years (2008-2009) to add the next 50 million
10 months (November 2009-August 2010) to add the next 50 million, for a total of 200 million.

The growth rate for bibliographic records is being matched by that of holding symbols in WorldCat, which represent the libraries that hold the items cataloged. The number of holdings surpassed 1.6 billion on June 4, 2010. The OCLC cooperative hit 1 billion holdings on August 11, 2005. It took the cooperative 34 years to get to 1 billion. Since then, libraries have added more than half a billion symbols in less than five years.

DUBLIN, Ohio, June 21, 2010--A new WorldCat record use policy, developed by a Record Use Policy Council and informed by community input, has been approved by the OCLC Board of Trustees. WorldCat Rights and Responsibilities for the OCLC Cooperative will be effective August 1, 2010.

The new policy outlines the rights and responsibilities associated with stewardship of the WorldCat bibliographic and holdings database by and for the OCLC cooperative, including the use and exchange of OCLC member-contributed data comprising WorldCat.

The policy was drafted by the Record Use Policy Council, a group of 12 library leaders charged by the OCLC Board of Trustees to craft a replacement for the Guidelines for Use and Transfer of OCLC Derived Records, which was developed in 1987.

In April 2010, the Record Use Policy Council submitted to the library community and to the OCLC Board a draft policy that began a two-month period of community review and discussion. More than 275 comments were gathered via e-mail, phone, meetings and letters, in an online forum, and by monitoring blogs, listservs, and Twitter. At the end of May, community input was incorporated and a policy statement was submitted to the OCLC Board, which approved the revised document during its June meeting.

"We decided to emphasize a code of good practice for members of the cooperative, based on shared values, trust and reciprocity," said Jennifer Younger, Co-Chair of the Record Use Policy Council, President-Elect, OCLC Global Council and Chair, Board of Directors, Catholic Research Resources Alliance. "The focus of the new policy is on member rights and responsibilities--instead of data ownership issues, detailed provisions or restrictions--with the general aim of fostering innovation in our ever-changing information landscape."

The policy is based on the premise that OCLC members value WorldCat as a comprehensive, timely, and accurate reflection of the consolidated holdings of those members. The policy's intent is to encourage the widespread use of WorldCat bibliographic data while also supporting the ongoing and long-term sustainability and utility of WorldCat and of WorldCat-based services such as resource sharing, cataloging, and discovery.

"The new policy supports library choice in a hybrid environment of metadata types and content standards," said Barbara Gubbin, Co-Chair of the Record Use Policy Council and Director, Jacksonville (Florida) Public Library. "It recognizes as essential the need for OCLC members to share and reuse their data with many partners, across many systems, sites, and applications."

The Record Use Policy Council was named in September 2009 to develop this new policy by providing a broad and inclusive set of perspectives and experiences, determining the current and future information needs of the library community, and gathering and including feedback from the library community.

"We heard from many OCLC members, and we listened," said Larry Alford, Chair of the OCLC Board of Trustees and Dean of University Libraries, Temple University. "This process was an exercise in governance of the collaborative by its members. The result is a new record use policy that will serve the cooperative well as we continue to nurture and grow WorldCat while providing libraries with the flexibility they need to use WorldCat derived data in innovative ways in a rapidly changing information environment." Mr. Alford acknowledged the work of the Record Use Policy Council. "These global library leaders spent many months grappling with complex issues and listening to library community input," said Mr. Alford. "OCLC members worldwide owe this dedicated group a deep debt of gratitude for their time and hard work."

The new policy will become effective Aug. 1, 2010, replacing the Guidelines for Use and Transfer of OCLC Derived Records. Because the data sharing environment is constantly and rapidly evolving, this new policy will be regularly reviewed to ensure its continued timeliness.

To view the new policy, including a Frequently Asked Questions document and a comparison between the draft submitted for community review and the final document, visit the website.

One Hundred Million and One

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Bruce Willms, of Metropolitan State University Library (OCLC symbol XOJ), e-mailed me on Friday telling me to look at OCLC record #10000001.

Sure enough, XOJ created a great record (another K-level record) for a CD-ROM titled Information on Demand but missed the traditional "golden record" by mere moments. I can only imagine the groan that went through their tech services area when they updated the record and saw the number. Our sympathies are with you, XOJ!

And an update - since the hundred millionth record was input, OCLC Quality Control has upgraded it to a full-level record, complete with controlled subject headings and Dewey call number.

Hundred Millionth Record

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The hundred millionth record was added to OCLC WorldCat today (Thursday, March 29) around lunchtime. It is a "K-level" record for:
It's a Horse's Life: Advice and Observations for the Humans Who Choose To Share It, by Joanne M. Friedmann.

The record was created by Library Connection, Inc., a non-profit cooperative of 27 public and academic libraries in Central Connecticut.

By 1:47 p.m., an additional 153,264 records had been added to WorldCat, so it is growing by leaps and bounds. You can Watch WorldCat Grow.

The K-level thing reminds me - we're planning a webinar on minimal-level cataloging. Different kinds of less-than-full cataloging, when or why to do it, how to do it, what to do with those records when you find them in WorldCat ... that sort of thing. We should be announcing it soon. Keep an eye out.

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