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Who, What and Where: Step Aside Google, WorldCat has Something to Say!

Mar 01 2011

As a researching student, budding scholar and lifelong learner, your interests can be driven by a number of factors.  Here are three:

Scenario 1: Preparing to write a thesis, or work on a major term project, you would like to know whether a topic has been addressed in the form of a book.

Scenario 2: You would like to know what writings exist about a person, or by a person, be they an architect, poet, or professor of [fill in the blank]. 

Scenario 3: You are aware of a published book and would like to know, very specifically, where it is available (city, state, nationally, and even internationally).

Enter WorldCat. Let's go ahead and say it, "WorldCat is better than Google at indexing library holdings!"  A database of databases, at last count WorldCat indexes close to 179 million records housed in libraries throughout the world.  It is useful to think of WorldCat as a vertical search engine, whose primary concern is libraries.  There are two varieties of WorldCat.  An advanced version, which you can freely access as an NYIT community member, and a free version available at www.worldcat.org.  The latter includes a mobile URL (www.worldcat.org/m/), which makes for a great @phone bookmark; an iPhone App and Android App are also available.

As for searching, there are a variety of ways to approach the interface.  Keeping in mind that every interface offers a unique scenario and learning curve, my own preference is to advanced search, limiting results by checking the appropriate materials type box (only books, for example).  Finally, rank your results by relevance using the dropdown menu located on the lower section of the screen, et voila.

Remember, as with most catalogs you can be very specific (locate a journal title by ISSN and learn which libraries include holdings), or very general (develop a search using keywords).  Finally, when gathering citations, clicking marked records followed by export will deposit your items in RefWorks where they can be easily stored, managed and exported in a variety of formats (MLA, APA, etc.).  In either case, WorldCat is an excellent tool.

Author: sebastien_marion