Friday, November 19, 2004

The death knell for libraries? I don't think so!

On Nov 15, 2004, OCLC and Yahoo! officially launched a toolbar that provides "one-click access to Open WorldCat as well as Yahoo! Search's Web search engine." Here's the press release.

As I understand it:
1) OCLC basically made library catalogue records (US public libraries) searchable by a web search engine. When a user searches on the web, the catalogue record is displayed like how a website search result is displayed. At first glance, you'd think it's a URL link to a website.

2) When user clicks on that result link, it brings user to narrow the search to a particular library. The key thing is that the user sees a typical web search engine page, rather than the typical OPAC search page with lots of options and boxes. Users don't necessarily know they are now searching a library OPAC record.

3) The search then brings them to a library record, showing the book cover, synopsis, loan status and library location (depending on the library system I think).

When I last heard the OCLC president, Jay Jordan, talk about this in May '04, he said they were negotiating with a "search engine company" to market this service. I guess that was Yahoo. I have not tried this new toolbar. Last time I tried the "beta" was in May '04, but I think it works the same.

I see this as another step closer in making libraries relevant in the Internet era. Who said libraries won't be relevant anymore? I like this excerpt from this Information Today Inc. article:
"The co-branded toolbar ... ...empowers users ... to seamlessly search for information that is available in offline databases." A Yahoo! representative clarified that they consider "stacks of books" as "offline databases."

The toolbar is available for download at http://www.oclc.org/toolbar/default.htm

3 comments:

  1. Actually, it's not just for U.S. public libraries - any member library that supplies its catalogue records to OCLC WorldCat can make use of this system. Although the NLB appears to be a member, it doesn't supply its records to WorldCat and so you can't make use of the 'Find it at my library' functionality of the toolbar.

    But I don't fret because there's always LibraryLookup to the rescue.

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  2. Thanks for the clarification! Now I wonder if there's data on how many web users really go visit a library bec. of the search result from the toolbar...

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  3. Recently I created a Bookmarklet for our campus library. It lets you highlight any text on your browser, and then run a search on the OPAC database. Very useful when you come across some book and want to know if the library has it.

    http://preetamrai.com/weblog/archives/2005/02/10/ngee-ann-polytechnic-library-search-bookmarklet/

    I was trying to do it for the NLB but the way the forms are created, some of the search variables are hidden. Do you know anyone at NLB who can give me the details of the search system?

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