August 2011 Archives

Happy 40th Birthday, WorldCat!

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Today marks the 40th anniversary of the launch of WorldCat, the world's most comprehensive online library database. Few of those involved in the creation of WorldCat would have guessed that 40 years later, thousands of librarians and catalogers around the world would have cataloged more than 1.7 billion items.

Contributions to WorldCat from individual libraries and other partners in the community allow many libraries to get most of the records in their local catalogs from this shared resource. While records come in to WorldCat from a variety of sources, it is the ongoing partnership between dedicated catalogers and the WorldCat team at OCLC that keeps collection data accurate and useful to information seekers.

WorldCat is a singular achievement. It represents the cooperative spirit at the heart of what makes libraries unique among cultural, educational and civic services. It is a shared resource that is built and maintained by thousands of members for the good of all. We who work at OCLC are proud to have been a part of this remarkable story, and I want to thank our member institutions and employees for the years of dedicated effort that helped build this unique resource. Fred Kilgour's vision--improving access to information through library cooperation--is every bit as vital today as it was in 1971. This anniversary is an important milestone in a shared journey that, I believe, will continue for many decades to come.

At one point in our history, OCLC used Irascope LTE terminals to send message traffic at 2400 baud over dedicated, leased telephone lines. Our network people tell me that information moves in and out of WorldCat via the Web at approximately 416,000 times that speed today. People now access WorldCat from desktop computers and laptops that are far more powerful than the dedicated servers of the 1970s and '80s. And with tablets and smartphones, our users are staying connected to member libraries at any time, from almost anywhere on the globe.

The technology has obviously changed, but the vision has not: furthering access to the information in the world's libraries. WorldCat may be one of the world's oldest databases, but our libraries' commitment to its health and improvement keeps it truly young at heart. And that heart, still beating strongly, is at the center of a unique, global bibliographic system.

Happy 40th birthday, WorldCat. And congratulations to everyone who had a hand in building this marvelous resource, one record at a time. You're truly part of something extraordinary.

Jay Jordan
OCLC President and CEO