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OCLC has reported on the WorldCat Blog that you can use the RedLaser iPhone app to scan book barcodes and see which nearby libraries have that book, as well as hours & contact info for those libraries, using WorldCat.org.

The app uses Google Product Search to translate barcodes into data that WorldCat can use. The app costs $1.99 and does more than just search out books…but it does that too.

I really like the idea of the app, and am glad that it adds some more global mobile functionality for our users and may help them save money by using more library materials instead of purchasing those items. It is important to note, however, that while this app will work quite nicely for libraries that are OCLC members and have paid to have their records listed in WorldCat, it won’t list those who have not.

Functionally (and very generally speaking), this means that the app will likely work well in urban and/or wealthy communities, it will not work for many rural, small, and poor libraries, or for libraries who have chosen not to update their records and therefore what’s in WorldCat isn’t actually an accurate representation of what the libraries actually have. I am reminded once again that until libraries are able to share their records without a financial hardship attached, through something like OpenLibrary, apps like this only skim the surface of what our libraries truly offer their users.

So…for my wish for the new year, I’m choosing to wish for an open source, open access, accurate, complete, and 100% free-to-use database of library materials worldwide.  Happy New Year!

“iPhone book search app + Sarah’s wish for the new year”

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  2. Genny Engel Says:

    Actually, even for OCLC libraries the app may be less than helpful. Since our entire county library system has a single OCLC identifier, as far as WorldCat is concerned our materials are all physically located at our headquarters address. An item that is checked in at one end of the county is a good 50 miles away from an item at the other end of the county, but there is no way you would know that from WorldCat data. Not only that, there’s no item-level circ data in WorldCat to indicate whether our items are checked in at any branch.

    The app would give just as good results if it checked Google Local for our library branches (which ARE all listed) and gave driving directions to the branch closest to the user’s iPhone. Once there, the user could request the item no matter where it’s checked in.

    For that matter, the app could just link the user to our catalog, so they could log in and put in an online request for the item to be sent to any branch they like.

  3. Liz Paulus Says:

    The WorldCAT RedLaser partnership is cool – but I agree with Genny’s comments about the limitations based on how libraries are seen by the vendor. We have the same problem with the AccessMyLibrary Gale Cengage app, where it only registers the “corporate” address, but the county or co-operative may be way bigger than the 10-mile radius they assume. As I sit in urban Portland, Oregon, I can see Multnomah County Library and the Vancouver, WA library (FVRL) on my map, but both counties are wider than 10 miles or the offices’ address is at the far west of their coverage area – so those that live east of Interstate 205 don’t have the same access.

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