FirstSearch and WorldCat® Discovery

Frequently asked questions

General information

How do the FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery services compare?

FirstSearch: Precise, full-featured searching of WorldCat required by library staff and expert users

WorldCat Discovery: Discovery service that lets people search the electronic, digital, and physical resources in library collections through a single search of WorldCat and a central index of thousands of e-content collections

BOTH meet users where they start their research by increasing visibility of library collections on popular websites.

FirstSearch WorldCat Discovery/
WorldShare® Management Services user interface
Searches WorldCat + former FirstSearch Base Package databases Searches WorldCat + central index of 3,156 e-content collections + > 200 million article records in WorldCat.org
Displays all library holdings from WorldCat Displays all library holdings from WorldCat
Enables use of precision search features required by library staff and experienced searchers Enables use of a single search box preferred by many users; searchers may select Advanced Search
Displays "unclustered" view of editions and formats Library sets default editions/formats display; users choose to group and ungroup
Complements, but does not replace, a library's existing discovery service Includes access to precision search features in the FirstSearch interface

How should I decide which service best meets the needs of my library and our users?

A FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription provides access to the FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery interfaces. As you consider your use of these services, think about your users’ needs.

  • Choose FirstSearch if the primary need is for specific, precise searching of WorldCat.
  • Choose WorldCat Discovery to provide users with single-search access to your library’s resources, including licensed content collections.
Use FirstSearch if... Use WorldCat Discovery if...
You want to provide precise, full-featured searching of WorldCat for library staff and library users. You want to give users single-search access to your library’s electronic, digital, and physical collections, including materials represented in WorldCat and e-content collections you provide. This includes current WorldCat Local subscribers.
Your library already has a discovery service and you want to provide searching of WorldCat as a complement to that service. You wish to use WorldCat Discovery as your library’s discovery service or as the user-facing interface to WorldShare Management Services.
Your users need to quickly see which libraries own materials not available in your collections. Your users primarily want to see what is in your library’s collections.

My library searches WorldCat at no charge through WorldCat.org™. Why should I subscribe to FirstSearch or WorldCat Discovery?

FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery provide access to more content and functionality than WorldCat.org.

  WorldCat.org FirstSearch WorldCat Discovery
Content searched WorldCat + more than 200 million article-level records (includes some former Base Package databases) WorldCat + former Base Package databases Everything in WorldCat.org + central index of e-content collections
Library holdings display Holdings of libraries with cataloging and FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery or WorldCat Participation subscriptions All holdings in WorldCat All holdings in WorldCat
Search experience Single search box + Advanced Search Precision search features w/ detailed results Single search box + Advanced Search
Interface adapts to user devices No No
New search algorithm w/ more relevant results No No Yes, with ongoing enhancements
Access to online full text Link to local resolver Link to local resolver Integrated OpenURL resolver via WorldCat knowledge base or link to local resolver
WorldCat Search API No Yes Yes
Display MARC record No No Yes (for library staff)
Display OCLC symbols No Yes Yes (for library staff)
Display OCLC record numbers Yes Yes Yes (for library staff)


Which services do new subscribers receive when they purchase a FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription?

Current FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscriptions provide access to the FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery services. For libraries with an OCLC cataloging subscription, a FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription enables a library's holdings to display on WorldCat.org.

What is included in a subscription renewal?

Your subscription includes the following:

  • FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription: Use of FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery services
  • FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery + previously purchased options: Use of FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery services with options purchased during the initial release of WorldCat Discovery
  • WorldCat Discovery Premium: Use of FirstSearch plus WorldCat Discovery with all options previously sold as additional subscriptions (item location and real-time availability, group views, remote database search, and course reserves/reading lists). A WorldCat Discovery Premium subscription also provides use of the WorldCat Discovery Premium API package and the ability to configure the display of item details.

All of these subscriptions give your collections visibility on WorldCat.org to people who search the site directly or link to it from search engines and popular websites, such as Goodreads and Wikipedia, when your library uses an OCLC cataloging subscription to represent its collections in WorldCat.

Contact orders@oclc.org for subscription details.

Group subscribers

What kind of group pricing is available for FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery?

Your OCLC Library Services Consultant can provide custom pricing for your group that reflects your composition and needs.

My library group shares a subscription to WorldCat Discovery and has a group catalog. Is our group catalog available in WorldCat Discovery and FirstSearch?

Yes, group catalogs are available in both FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery.


Are former FirstSearch Base Package databases individually searchable in FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery?

All former Base Package databases remain individually searchable in FirstSearch. These include: ArchiveGrid, ArticleFirst, CAMIO, Clase & Periόdica, Electronic Books, Electronic Collections Online, ERIC, GPO Monthly Catalog, MEDLINE, OAIster, PapersFirst, ProceedingsFirst, and WorldCat Dissertations and Theses.

In WorldCat Discovery, all former Base Package databases except Clase & Periόdica are individually searchable.

How can users find my library’s e-books in FirstSearch and in WorldCat Discovery?

FirstSearch searches the WorldCat database, so if your e-book holdings are represented in WorldCat, they are included in search results.

The Ebook database of e-book records from WorldCat is also searchable in FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery.

WorldCat Discovery provides access to more than 23 million e-books discoverable through WorldCat plus a central index of 3,156 e-content collections. Many of the collections in the central index include metadata for e-books. When your library’s e-books holdings are present in the WorldCat knowledge base, users can link directly to the e-books from search results.

NOTE: WorldShare Collection Manager streamlines maintenance of your e-book holdings in the WorldCat knowledge base.

Specific features

Will FirstSearch continue to offer the precision searching I depend on?

FirstSearch will continue to provide the precision search features users have told us they rely on.

In response to user input, we have updated the FirstSearch interface. The interface changes display automatically on all active FirstSearch accounts, and do not affect existing functionality in the service. 

We will continue to solicit input from members through focus groups, individual library consultations, and requests submitted via OCLC Customer Support and the OCLC Community Center. 

Member stories

Image of reference desk at Cary Memorial Library

Locate and request exactly what you need from near or far

Discover how the Massachusetts Library System efficiently finds and delivers the right items to library users across the state.

UC Davis library staff helping student

Find precisely what you’re looking for without distraction

See how the University of California, Davis empowers researchers with quick and efficient access to the resources they need worldwide.

“I use WorldCat on FirstSearch 10–15 times a day at least, sometimes more. I couldn't do my job without WorldCat on FirstSearch. The breadth of collections is unparalleled.”

Tommy Nixon
MLIS Subject Librarian for Classics, Dramatic Art, & English/Comparative Literature
Davis Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

FirstSearch is the most powerful interface for searching WorldCat. Researchers and library staff can find and select resources in thousands of library collections with rich information from WorldCat records. FirstSearch libraries are also more visible on the popular websites where people often begin their research.

Service availability

  • Available everywhere

Learn more

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Download the FirstSearch brochure (US Letter)
Download the FirstSearch brochure (A4)

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