Today is the 45th anniversary of the launch of WorldCat, the world’s most comprehensive database of information about library collections.
On August 26, 1971, the OCLC Online Union Catalog (now known as WorldCat) began operation. From a single terminal, catalogers at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, were able to catalog 133 books online that day. Today, WorldCat comprises more than 380 million records representing more than 2.4 billion titles in libraries worldwide.
“WorldCat represents the cooperative spirit of thousands of librarians and catalogers around the world who have contributed to this unique resource for the past 45 years,” said Skip Prichard, OCLC President and CEO. “What started as a database created for Ohio libraries to share work and resources has become a global network of data about the collective collection of the world’s libraries. Technologies have changed and evolved over time, but the objectives of WorldCat have remained the same—to improve access to information through library cooperation. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of library staff around the world working with OCLC staff, the creation and evolution of WorldCat is a remarkable achievement.”
Ohio University’s Alden Library was the first library to catalog a book online using WorldCat. The title of the first book cataloged in WorldCat: The Rand McNally Book of Favorite Pastimes.
Since 1971, 380 million records have been added to WorldCat, spanning more than 5,000 years of recorded knowledge. 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, computer files and more.
Libraries cooperatively contribute, enhance and share bibliographic data through WorldCat, connecting people to cultural and scholarly resources in libraries worldwide. Each record in the WorldCat database contains a bibliographic description of a single title or work and a list of institutions that hold the item. Institutions share these records, using them to create local catalogs, arrange interlibrary loans and conduct reference work. Libraries contribute records for titles not found in WorldCat using OCLC shared cataloging systems.
On average, a bibliographic record is added to WorldCat every second. To watch WorldCat grow in real time, visit the OCLC website.
Read the Complete Birthday Announcement
- From 1991: More WorldCat and OCLC History in this Article Celebrating 20 Years (PDF)
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