Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Odd Opportunities

I went to have periodontic work done this afternoon (translation: rotor-rooter work done on my gums) and the hygenist is relatively new so we made the usual small talk. She says (in a politically correct way, seeing it was mid-day) "Do you work outside the home?" and I said, yes, I work at OCLC. She perked up..."how do I get into OCLC's database?" Now, this is not the usual yakkety-yak one has with people.

Even here in Dublin, OH (and I know you'll be shocked) most citizens have not one clue as to what OCLC does and even if they have the vaguest, the details escape them. So, to be asked about access to the Real Thing is always surprising. But this woman's spouse is a chemist and she and he do lots of research, related to lipids. For her, the Holy Grail is WorldCat. It was odd for me to be doing a pitch for Open WorldCat through Google and Yahoo! Search while I was tilted back in the chair. I relish, though, any opportunity to spread this particular good word.


Anonymous said...

I have such hestiation about pointing our patrons to Open WorldCat via Google or Yahoo. Anyone who approaches the database that way will assume it's all in there, and when they don't find what they're after, they will inevitably assume they can't in fact find what they want in our library or in any library. I don't know what proportion of the database either search engine has crawled so far, but I can tell you that neither Ian Rankin's new title Fleshmarket Alley nor Bernd Heinrich's last year's title Winter World come up as an Open Worldcat entry in either database. Search by author instead and Google offers you lots of other Heinrich titles in Open Worldcat but not Winter World; and the first hit is a kindly offer of googleprint material for Winter World, further convicing any user with any sense that libraries don't have it or Google would have shown it, because, look, there's even the index and table of contents and all this other electronic material available...

You could clarify the limits when talking to your dental hygenist, but I can't figure out how to clarify it for our library patrons. No matter what we said, they'd end up believing what they saw, or rather didn't see, on the screen.

Apologies for complaining to one of the Net Gods about the nectar you are offering, because of course your hygenist is right. WorldCat is the Holy Grail.
But Open Worldcat is only the Grail's shadow. I need to be convinced that pointing to an incomplete database isn't actively misleading users.

Miriam Bobkoff
Santa Fe Public Library

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