frequently asked questions

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Participation / Requirements

Do OCLC libraries have to make their holdings available via

OCLC member libraries are not required to make their holdings available on, but libraries whose holdings are visible on benefit from increased visibility to people who begin their research on popular non-library websites.

How can a library make its holdings searchable through, Google, Yahoo! and other partner sites?

Libraries whose collections are represented in WorldCat can make their resources visible on with the following:
  1. In the U.S. and Canada, subscribe to the FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery. This subscription gives you the use of both the FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery services, along with the benefit of visibility on
  2. Outside North America, maintain a subscription for visibility on

Is there a separate fee for having my holdings visible through

Your library’s collections represented in WorldCat are visible on when you maintain a subscription to both OCLC Cataloging and Metadata and FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery.

Why do I need a subscription to FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery for my library's resources to be visible on

There are many costs associated with building and maintaining the systems that deliver visibility of WorldCat records on the open Web.Your FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscirption supports the ongoing costs associated with maintaining and our partnerships with websites that surface "find it in a library" links.

Why should my library continue to subscribe to FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery if my users will be able to search the entire WorldCat database through

Your users—and many others in your community who are not library members—are searching the complete WorldCat database with the search box. However, after they have found an item of interest and localize their search to nearby WorldCat libraries that own the item, they only see the holdings of libraries that subscribe to FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery. This subscription ensures that your library's holdings appear in results, so they are visible to Web users arriving from search engines and traffic partner sites such as Google, Wikipedia, and Goodreads. This gives your library visibility to people who do not regularly visit your website when seeking information.

A FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription also gives your staff use of the WorldCat Search API.

Why should my users or I still need to use WorldCat on FirstSearch now that the simple search box on is available?

The view of WorldCat on FirstSearch supports  search features and additional metadata required by many library staff and expert searchers.

Does the use of CatExpress qualify as contributing holdings to WorldCat, even though a library may not be providing all of their holdings to OCLC?

Yes. Libraries that contribute holdings to WorldCat through CatExpress, even if this represents less than 100 percent of their cataloging activity, will see their holdings display on, as long as they also maintain a FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription.

In a library group setting where access to WorldCat on FirstSearch is shared and/or attached only to the main library's OCLC symbol, are the holdings of all group libraries visible through

Yes, the holdings of the entire group are visible, if the FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription is identified within OCLC systems as a group authorization and group libraries are identified as affiliates of the group. The WorldCat Registry also functions as a place to designate branches and affiliations for your library that will impact the way your library appears on

Will lead to an increase in the number of resource sharing requests I receive?

The purpose OCLC’s web visibility program, is to promote greater library visibility to information seekers. This means it is possible that resource sharing-related activity will increase. However, the checkpoints that your library may currently have in place (e.g., requiring authentication on your Web site) will help to control "ineligible" resource sharing requests, as will a clear, conspicuous policy statement on your website. Still, your own patrons may generate more resource sharing requests due to increased awareness of the availability of items in other library collections.

WorldCat records

How many WorldCat records are searched through

All records in the WorldCat database are searched on However, holdings display only for libraries that maintain subscriptions to both Cataloging and Metadata and FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery.

If your library contributes holdings to WorldCat but does not have visibility on, contact your OCLC representative for information about obtaining a FirstSearch/WorldCat Discovery subscription.


Does the search box recognize diacritics in search terms?

Yes, the search box accepts diacritical (accent) marks in provided search terms.

Is available in languages other than English?

The interface is available in thirteen languages: Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Czech, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai.

Note that changing the interface language does not affect the language of records in a result set. For example, switching from English to French does not alter search results so that only French-language materials, or materials available from libraries in France, are displayed. The items presented to a user for a particular search remain the same regardless of the interface language.

From where does the information displayed in an individual library listing on come?

Individual library listings on display a library's name, location, "deep" links to local catalog records, and sometimes links to the library's "Ask a Librarian" virtual reference service, links to the library’s profile page on and a general information page on the library's Web site. All displayed links and information are drawn from base URLs and other information the library has entered in its institutional profile within the WorldCat Registry. The WorldCat Registry is a free service that allows libraries to manage data commonly shared with vendors, funding bodies and other organizations in a single location.

Although the base URL used for deep links to an OPAC can also be managed from the WorldCat Services Administrative Module (Linking tab > Web Library Catalogs page), OCLC libraries whose holdings are visible  in are strongly encouraged to maintain the more complete profile provided by the WorldCat Registry. Information entered there is utilized by the and FirstSearch interfaces.

In what order are institutions displayed in results, and how is that order determined? displays libraries nearest to farthest, based on a user’s IP address, to help people find libraries closest to their location.  In addition, users can enter a postal code, state, province, or country name to view libraries closest to the entered location. Distance determinations are based on a postal code's geographic center and the street address associated with each library's OCLC institution symbol. The display of libraries from nearest to farthest can result in out-of-state libraries preceding in-state libraries in a list of holding libraries.

A user who enters a broad location such as a country will see a list of holding libraries sorted nearest to farthest from the central latitudinal/longitudinal point of that country. The list of libraries will not be limited to only those libraries in the country entered.  We recommend that users enter the most specific location available, to identify the nearest libraries that own a needed item.

Do search results apply the FRBR concept?

Yes. WorldCat records in the search results have had a set of FRBR algorithm applied, so multiple versions of a work (e.g. different editions and formats) are rolled up under a single record. Users can click the View all editions and formats link to see other formats and versions of a work in WorldCat results. The FRBR algorithms are constantly improving to ensure the appropriate items are clustered together as works.

Why are there links to material purchasing at sites like

The purpose of providing opportunities to buy a work is twofold: First, to further promote libraries as a primary source of information and entertainment, enabling access to materials through a variety of channels—even retail, if a consumer sees it as the most attractive option. Second, the links benefit libraries by capturing the transaction of a convenience-minded user who has opted to purchase materials after seeking them in the context of libraries. This may be because an item is not owned, is currently in use by another library patron, or is not physically near their location.

If a Web user adds a personal review of a book to a record, will someone else be able to edit what they have written?

No. enables users to add reviews, ratings, tags, lists and other personalized information to WorldCat records. Other users may see this information but may not edit it. Any submitted information can only be edited by its original author.


Can a library change the deep link to its OPAC used in How quickly do changes take effect?

Yes. Change the base URL that enables "deep" links to individual local catalog records listed in the Services > Online Catalog section of your WorldCat Registry institutional profile. Information entered there is used by and FirstSearch. (The Services section of your Registry profile also lets you enter or update other links used in results, such as your IP address or address range, "Ask a Librarian" virtual reference service, OpenURL resolver for full text access, and general Web information page listing hours, location, etc.)

Changes made to your library's OPAC and service links in the WorldCat Registry should be active within 24 hours.

What is a "deep-linking URL" and how do I set it up?

A deep-linking URL is the way a library link within results takes a user directly to an individual item's record within your online catalog (OPAC). In order for this to occur, the "syntax" of deep links for your particular OPAC must be registered with OCLC in the Services > Online Catalog section of your WorldCat Registry institutional profile.

A deep link's syntax is the basic structure of the link, focusing on where standard identifier information about the searched item (e.g. ISBN) is embedded within the URL. A sample deep link syntax is shown below:


The "library_opac_baseURL" portion of the URL above would be replaced with the base URL for your library's OPAC (e.g. ""). In the instance shown above, the standard identifier is an ISBN, and is passed from to your OPAC with an ISBN appended after the "=" sign at the end.

If your library has not registered its deep-linking syntax for your OPAC with OCLC, users do not reach the individual item record; rather, they reach the main search page for your library's OPAC, where they must repeat their search. Please consider that the continued success of this kind of access to library content depends in part on OCLC member libraries guiding Internet searchers directly to item records.

Can authenticated users access my library's online services? users who are on an authenticated Web connection may see links to your online services in a “local services” zone that is prominently featured within the detailed record. Options to view the item online, check for electronic resources or full text leads to your subscription information services that have WorldCat integration—or content available from sources such as OAIster, Hathi Trust, Internet Archive and others.

Possible links might include:

  • FirstSearch databases
  • Resource sharing
  • Document delivery
  • Full text
  • OpenURL resolvers

These links for "recognized" users reflect the services you have identified within your institutional profile in the WorldCat Registry.

Can a user link from directly to the FirstSearch service?

Yes, if the user is on an authenticated Web connection affiliated with a participating WorldCat library. They will see an area that features local services on the detailed record view that contains a link to the full-featured FirstSearch record, as well as other links to that library's fulfillment options relevant to the displayed item.

What is the URL syntax for creating direct links to WorldCat results for an item, and what can I do with it?

Anyone can create a WorldCat link for a published work—or link to keyword search results. Learn more about how to create a WorldCat link and why it’s helpful for libraries.

Comparison with FirstSearch

Why is it that the same WorldCat search performed on and then on FirstSearch produces different results?

The default order of results differs between the interface and the FirstSearch interface. Results are displayed according to relevance in, so the items most closely related to a user's search terms will appear at the top of the results. In the FirstSearch view of WorldCat, results are displayed according to the number of holdings for each item. Therefore, items that are owned by the most WorldCat libraries will appear at the top of the results.

In addition, results cluster related editions and formats under a representative record, while FirstSearch results display a separate record for each edition or format.

As with major search engines, results for the same search on may vary over time, as the WorldCat database grows and OCLC improves its supporting algorithms.

What is the difference between access to databases such as the GPO, ArticleFirst, Medline and ERIC on and in FirstSearch?

The primary difference is that databases cannot be searched separately on, which is designed for Web users who prefer an easy-to-use single-search interface that accepts keywords. Ranked results merge matching article citations from these databases with results for other materials cataloged in WorldCat.

On FirstSearch and WorldCat Discovery, these databases can be searched separately with their unique indexing. Searching on FirstSearch is consistent with FirstSearch's full-featured search experience, which is particularly suited to the way librarians and more experienced users approach their research.

WorldCat partner sites

Which Web sites are currently WorldCat partners?

View a complete, up-to-date list of traffic partner sites.

Can a user perform queries on Google that return only links to library materials?

Yes. To limit Google results to WorldCat, include as a search term.

Within Google Books, a user can select the "Find in a library" link from an individual item and get to WorldCat results.

My library in search results

How do I know whether my holdings are being displayed?

The simplest method is to perform a keyword search for an item for which your library has added a holding in WorldCat. Locate the item in search results and click to the item record. If your library meets the participation requirements, it should appear in the resulting list of libraries. If it does not appear, first determine whether you have enabled deep links to your online catalog records using your institutional profile in the WorldCat Registry. (OPAC base URL is entered in the Services > Online Catalog section of the profile.)

Once enabled, it takes 24 hours before your holdings appear in results. If you still do not see your library in results after meeting the participation requirements and setting up deep links, or need help with the process, contact OCLC Support.

Why doesn't my library appear in holdings displays for items I know we have?

There could be two explanations:

  1. Your holdings may not be current for that particular item. We encourage you to make sure holdings information is current in WorldCat to ensure correct exposure through
  2. The item might share the same title but may exist in a different format or edition, and thus be catalogued as a separate item (e.g., a large-print or audio version of a book).

OCLC addresses the issue of duplicate records for the same title whenever it is identified, so that users are able to recognize and choose from among multiple-item records.

Why do I see a different list of libraries attached to a WorldCat record when I am in the library than when I search from my home or office?

When you search from within a library that has subscribed to public access to the WorldCat database, the IP address of the computer you use will authenticate you to see the list of all libraries with holdings attached to the record you are viewing, regardless of their subscription status. When you access from outside a subscribing library, your IP address is not recognized, so you will only see the list of subscribing libraries that hold the item.

I have just seen my library's holding symbol attached to a WorldCat record for a book we do not own. How can this happen? by default shows the holdings for all records in the FRBRized workset. The "Find a copy in the library" section displays symbols for all libraries represented for all items in the workset. To see library ownership information for a specific edition, click the "View all editions and formats" link.

You can double-check whether a library holds an exact edition from the FRBRized workset by selecting the "Just this Edition" link above the list of holding libraries.

It is also possible that the item has been withdrawn from your collection, but your staff have not yet updated WorldCat with this information.