Saturday, April 14, 2007

SDGS WorldCat Presentation

There were two presentations at the San Diego Genealogical Society meeting today - the first was "Search the World's Libraries with WorldCat" by Robyn Gage, who works at the San Diego Public Library.

Robyn defined OCLC (55,000 libraries) and WorldCat (67 million records), representing books, periodicals, recordings, maps, computer resources, etc.

Anybody with a web browser can access WorldCat at However, she said you will have more search capability and better bibliographic information if you use a public library link to WorldCat. The SDPL link is You have to enter a library card number and PIN number at most library web sites.

She recommended the "Advanced Search" option since you can enter several search terms, types of search terms (e.g., title, author, subject, keyword, etc) and can use the Boolean operators (e.g., AND, OR, NOT, etc). The "Expert Search" requires detailed knowledge of search terms and specific inputs, so it is not recommended.

She demonstrated how the search results are listed, how to find which libraries have the resource, and recommended using Inter-Library Loan to obtain it if you cannot visit the particular library holding the resource.

There were quite a few questions; mine included:

1) Do the book citations include availability as digital images (e.g, Google Books)? She didn't think so. I tested it with "History of Jefferson County NY" by Hough - it's available on Google Books, but that fact is not listed in WorldCat. WorldCat did catch different editions of the book, and it's availability on microform (presumably in the University Microfilm International (UMI) collection).

2) Do the periodical citations include genealogy resources? She thought they did, but perhaps only the major periodicals, not every periodical in every library. She said that if it was in a participating library's catalog, then it would be included. I tested it using Keywords "new england" "register" "genealogy" and got only 27 citations. They were all specific articles in the NEHGR that appear in the catalogs of specific libraries. So it is not particularly useful for periodical searches.

3) The "Keyword" search - are these words in the title, the text, or some list of key words? She thought it was the latter - it certainly is not the text.

It was a good talk by a knowledgeable librarian - I told her that I was a Gage descendant from MA and NJ; her ancestry is from Louisiana.

UPDATE 14 April 10 PM: Please read Erin's comment concerning WorldCat capabilities - she explains it in more detail than I did in my original post. Thanks for the information, Erin.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Well, I'm a library clerk, and I can tell you that in answer to the google books and other ebooks that are not part of a library, they are not in there because the holder of those books (like google,, etc.) does not enter them. Worldcat is not a search engine like google that spiders catalogs and gets books they have, individual libraries are members or subscribe to the OCLC (which includes a function for catalogers, if a library already has a book they are trying to catalog, they can download the record and make any minor changes they need to). And not every library is in worldcat either. Small libraries are generally not in there because they can't afford the service, or just choose not to use it if they can afford it.

Whole periodicals (such as the register) would be listed, the individual articles depend on whether a library chooses to catalog individual articles or not. And I just checked myself and noticed that the ones who do are history or genealogy themed libraries. But if you see a library has the register, you can go to that libraries catalog and see the specific issues and volumes they have. PERSI is a great source for finding the volume and issue you need of a particular title (but awful for telling you which libraries have it), and then you can take that information and search for a library who has that particular volume/issue.

The keyword search on worldcat generally works like the keyword search of your libraries catalog. It searches: title, author, subject headings, and added entries in the catalog record. Worldcat does not contain full text articles, so it would not search the actual text of the book or article. Again, this is where PERSI comes in handy. PERSI is not free that I can find, but it is accessible through Ancestry (and the library version that many libraries have), HeritageQuest (also available in many libraries), and I see that Allen County Library has it as well.

I may be a little off on some of this, but this is what I see from my own personal experience. would work fine for someone just trying to find a library that has a particular title. I haven't seen that one is better than the other in that respect, but I happen to prefer the other version simply b/c there is more detail, such as call number schemes for a title by both dewey and LOC classification which could be useful