Sunday, July 11, 2010

Is SGS ready for WorldCat?

 I think I've written previously about the proposals submitted to the Board by last year's Library Trustees. One of their many thoughtful recommendations was that SGS should place it's library catalog on WorldCat. Since none of the current Board members know much about the inner workings of WorldCat, we invited Gary Zimmerman, president of the Fiske Library (the second genealogy library to join WorldCat and the first to use WC as its digital catalog), to come and speak to us about the Fiske's experience. Gary was kind enough to accept our invitation and gave a very interesting and informative talk last Wednesday evening, July 7th.
One of the many things I didn't know about WorldCat is that it's operated by OCLC--the folks who coordinate interlibrary loans across the country. You have to join OCLC and pay them a monthly fee to list your holdings on WorldCat. You also have to join FirstSearch, which "seamlessly links your users to thousands of full-text articles, electronic books and journals, digitized special collections and more." What they are selling is "linkages"--to researchers on the internet, to other libraries, to a rich set of resources that support libraries. As a 501(c)3 we can join at a reduced rate of $1100 per year. Some of these costs can be offset by credits generated by listing our library holdings on WorldCat, but it's not clear to me whether or not we could offset the full costs or not. You can also get credits for sending your items out to other libraries via interlibrary loan (ILL), but there are some strict standards that have to be met (like responding within 72 hours to an ILL request; mailing the book on the same date as your "accept" the request; mailing from your library's zip code).
The Fiske has entered about 9000 titles in 3 years into WorldCat and are the envy of many libraries. They've also added bar codes to all of their books so they can track them efficiently. It's not clear how many hours of volunteer time this has required, but it was clear from Gary's talk that generating accurate library call numbers was a continuing challenge--and still is--for them. I can't imagine it would be any different for us.
There are definitely pros and cons to joining WorldCat and I, for one, don't have a clue how they might balance out for SGS. Your thoughts?
Next week our new Director of Library, Mary Alice Sanguinetti, will begin an inventory of our collection. Kudos to her for moving so quickly to get this important effort started.

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