WorldCat logo

Inside WorldCat

WorldCat consists of three components: a bibliographic catalog, a knowledge base, and a registry for library information.


icon for the WorldCat bibliographic catalog

The worldwide catalog of library resources

The WorldCat bibliographic catalog includes everything that’s available to users in the library. Beyond books and print journals, the catalog of physical materials includes DVDs, historic photos, video games, musical scores, newspapers, webpages and many other standard items. It also includes unique items, such as 2,700-year-old jewelry, 18th century soup bowls and Soviet civilian medals.

In 1971, librarians in Alden Library at Ohio University added the first bibliographic records to what was then known as the OCLC Online Union Catalog. Within eight years, the catalog already included more than five million records. Now known as WorldCat, the catalog today includes millions of records and billions of holdings.

As the WorldCat bibliographic catalog continues to grow in quantity, efforts to improve the quality also increase. Professional catalogers all over the world consistently improve WorldCat records to make them as complete and useful as possible. This cooperative resource simplifies cataloging, maintenance, interlibrary loan and discovery tasks for libraries worldwide.

Learn more about WorldCat data quality

How WorldCat evolves

WorldCat has continued to keep up with the way modern library users prefer to consume media. From print books to streaming video and beyond, you can find it in WorldCat. Here are a just a few of the many formats that have been added to WorldCat over the years.

WorldCat launches with:





Musical scores





Audio cassettes

Sound recordings



Computer files


Floppy discs


Audio CDs






Streaming video


Blu-ray discs

Italicized years are approximate

Celebrating 45 years of WorldCat

Scott Seaman [photo]

“The world’s knowledge…”

“Modern scholarship would not have been possible without the creation of WorldCat. … To have the world’s knowledge cataloged and made available has just been an extraordinary miracle. And to have been the first contributor is almost unthinkable. It’s such an honor.”

Scott Seaman
Dean of Libraries, Ohio University
Athens, Ohio, United States

Vital statistics

WorldCat growth

Number of bibliographic records

496,963,861 (as of July 2020)

Number of holdings

3,045,437,892 (as of July 2020)


Bibliographic records




Local holdings


Local bibliographic data

(June 2019–June 2020)

WorldCat gets more than one new record

every second

Members fill an ILL request

every second

Watch WorldCat grow.

Watch in real time as librarians and information service professionals from all over the world contribute records to WorldCat.

Language composition of WorldCat items





(as of July 2020)

Number of languages

483 (as of July 2020)

More language statistics

Top 10 languages



187 million

German 12%

59 million

French 9%

42 million

Spanish 5%

23 million

Chinese 3%

15 million

Japanese 3%

14 million

Italian 3%

12 million

Dutch 2%

7 million

Polish 2%

7 million

Russian 2%

7 million

(as of July 2020)

1+ million records

  • Latin 6 million
  • Swedish 5 million
  • Danish 4 million
  • Portuguese 3 million
  • Arabic 2.8 million
  • Hebrew 2.7 million
  • Slovenian 2.5 million
  • Korean 2.2 million
  • Czech 1.9 million
  • Hungarian 1.6 million
  • Thai 1.4 million
  • Catalan 1.3 million
  • Finnish 1.0 million

500,000–1 million records

  • Romanian 871,000
  • Turkish 864,000
  • Indonesian 760,000
  • Ukrainian 747,000
  • Norwegian 656,000
  • Greek, Modern (1453-) 638,000
  • Croatian 597,000
  • Malay 525,000

250,000–500,000 records

  • Serbian 479,000
  • Persian 464,000
  • Vietnamese 398,000
  • Afrikaans 380,000
  • Hindi 326,000
  • Bulgarian 315,000
  • Yiddish 311,000
  • Tamil 291,000
  • Greek, Ancient (to 1453) 278,000

100,000–250,000 records

  • Urdu 232,000
  • Frisian 218,000
  • Slovak 200,000
  • Basque 193,000
  • Norwegian (Bokmål) 185,000
  • Welsh 171,000
  • Lithuanian 154,000
  • Bengali 144,000
  • Sanskrit 125,000
  • Galician 122,000
  • Icelandic 113,000
  • Armenian 108,000

Scripts represented in WorldCat

Non-latin scripts represented in WorldCat


(as of July 2020)

Top 10 non-latin scripts

CJK 74.02%

28 million

Cyrillic 7.34%

2.8 million

Hebrew 7.25%

 2.8 million

Arabic 6.69%

2.6 million

Thai 3.11%

1.2 million


Greek 0.98%


Tamil  0.22%


Devanagari  0.09%


Armenian  0.05%


Bengali 0.02%



icon for the WorldCat knowledge base

A knowledge base to connect users to e-resources

The WorldCat knowledge base connects library users to the electronic content provided by their library. It combines data about a library’s e-resources with linking features that make the collections easier to find, share, manage and use. Like data in the WorldCat bibliographic catalog, knowledge base data are not tied to a particular application, so libraries can streamline electronic content workflows across multiple systems.

The WorldCat knowledge base’s cooperatively maintained collections continue to grow with content from libraries and publishers from around the world. Because OCLC is a non-profit, vendor-neutral cooperative, the WorldCat knowledge base is the only source that includes records from both EBSCO and ProQuest, Gale and Springer, and Wiley and Elsevier, among many other content suppliers.

Logos of some of our partners in the WorldCat knowledge base: ProQuest, EBSCO, Elsevier, Springer, Taylor and Francis, McGraw Hill Education, Wiley, Ingram, Cambridge University Press, Gale Cengage Learning, ebrary, Oxford University Press.

The knowledge base also includes free and open-access materials that users can find and get alongside their library’s materials. As of July 2020, the knowledge base provides access to more than 47,235,652 records and 16,411 content collections from 727 providers. Download an Excel spreadsheet that lists all knowledge base collections to see what’s available today.

Download a white paper on e-resource challenges

Sharing holdings to improve discovery

Maurine McCourry [photo]

“Drastically improved discovery…”

“We have title-level OCLC cataloging for most of our subscribed databases, which is amazing. ...It has drastically improved discovery.”

Maurine McCourry
Technical Services Librarian
Hillsdale College
Hillsdale, Michigan, United States


icon for the WorldCat registry

A registry of library profiles to increase visibility

The WorldCat registry allows libraries to maintain information about their services and contacts to help information seekers find the library online. When librarians maintain their institution’s location, hours, relationships, services and contact information, the WorldCat registry populates that information on WorldCat.org and elsewhere through links on popular websites. Library staff can also share profiles with vendors and consortium members to ensure they always have the most accurate contact information.

Visit the WorldCat registry

Find in a Library links

Services across the internet help people find great books to read. The WorldCat data embedded into those websites through “Find in a Library” links help direct readers to libraries near them that hold the book they want. The WorldCat registry provides the location and other information needed to connect libraries with readers.