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!