Whenever I end up making a comment on another blog that ends up long, I figure I might as well make my own post out of it.
Lorcan Dempsey points out that Google Books now makes a reference to integrated worldcat.org functionality in a little help page about using it for college research. Google says:
“If you’re connected from campus, we’ll show you where you can find the book right in the stacks of your university library. “
By “we” they mean “OCLC”, right? They’re talking about what worldcat.org will do?
I’m still not following what they mean here in terms of functionality. Are they talking about the worldcat.org link resolver and (less reliable to work) direct link into OPAC that show up when the IP is recognized from the Worldcat Registry? I guess so.
I think that’s definitely the ‘killer feature’ of worldcat.org, and apparently Google agrees: Worldcat’s ability to mediate between the web in general, and your own LOCAL library, at least for printed books.
The way to work for greater adoption is to recognize your ‘killer’ feature, the useful thing people will want that they can’t easily get elsewhere, and capitalize on it, make it work as easily and as powerfully as possible. OCLC isn’t in my mind quite doing that yet.
But it could be made a LOT better with just a little bit of tweaking.
1. Make those links show up on the summary results screen, right now they only show up on the item detail page, and are kind of subtle there.
2. Take a page from Google Scholar’s “preferences” — let a user select a (or several) affiliations from a search of the entire Registry, and let them do it and save it without logging in, like Scholar does, in cookies. You can plug Worldcat accounts there as a way of letting these preferences persist accross browsers or whatever, but don’t require a login.
[DO make it very easy for a newcomer user to find this preference selection. Perhaps right at the top of the holdings list. “Save your library preference for better links” or something.]
These two fairly simple tweaks would take the worldcat.org ‘killer feature’ to new level of usefulness for the average user.
Oh, once you know a user’s library affiliation(s), worldcat.org could also easily remember to always show those on top of the holdings list, and even to let the user filter a search based on availability at his library. But that might get into features that OCLC’s business model says should be for-pay with Worldcat Local. Either way, the first step is is getting those basics down above.
Have Worldcat.org direct users to a copy at their local library as easily, intuitively, quickly, and hard-to-miss as possible. Those two steps would be a big step. And there’s nothing tricky about implementing them.