Not too long ago OCLC rolled out a new OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) of sorts. This new tool known as WorldCat Local offers a three tiered display of cataloged search records, first from the local library, then the local consortia, and finally from the whole WorldCat. Including material continuously added to, this new tool allows access to books, periodicals, individual articles, government reports, medical scholarship and educational material.

This three tiered approach will greatly increase the material that libraries can make available to their patrons. Now a patron can technically access holdings for the material they want, literally, from all participating libraries in the country. They can then easily request this material through interlibrary lending (ILL), usually for free.

For libraries this new tool will provide a personalized interface, it will allow for integration of WorldCat Local with their circulation records, and will permit inclusion of licensed full-text collections. Three major OPAC vendors (Innovative Interfaces, SirsiDynix and Ex Libris Voyager) are also being worked with to make WorldCat Local interoperable with their systems. Once this merger is achieved, the systems will allow for integration of services like ILL, and accessing certain online resources. In the future WorldCat Local hopes to also integrate a number of social networking services.

In an era where libraries and librarians grapple with new users who are more comfortable seeking information on Google than through an OPAC, and given that the traditional OPAC mainly retrieves books, a system like this one that can present a simple interface and that can aggregate information from so many different sources and in a variety of formats can really begin a trend of seamless and thorough searching.

The initial test runs included four universities, four public, two high school libraries, one state and one museum library. In the future libraries wanting to use WorldCat Local must have their holdings cataloged in WorldCat. The University of Washington was one of the institutions that first pilot-tested WorldCat Local, they have since made it their official OPAC. You can take a look at it through the library’s main page.

You can read an article on this from InfoToday.