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I love finding tools that make my workflow easier, and WorldCat for genealogy is one of the “secret weapons” that makes my research easier and more effective.
As you might guess from the name, WorldCat is the world’s largest library catalog and is available online. Instead of searching the card catalog of individual libraries, WorldCat allows you to obtain results from all of their member libraries, which include public, university, and state libraries in addition to sites like HathiTrust.
While visitors can search without registering, what is valuable about WorldCat is the functionality available to registered users. Registering is free and gives users three great tools: favorite libraries, lists, and tags. To register, you only need to input a username, password, and email address.
Using WorldCat for Genealogy
The following sample search will show how you can use favorite libraries, lists, and tags to organize your research. My example uses a book, but you can search for digital records and audio/visual material as well.
WorldCat “Favorite Libraries”
For the example below, I searched for the term “New Orleans architecture,” and clicking on the linked title for New in New Orleans Architecture in the results brings me to the below page showing all of the member libraries that hold New in New Orleans Architecture in any format.
You will see in the screenshot below that the top two results have hearts beside them; this indicates that those two libraries are ones that I have chosen as favorites. As a registered user, you can add up to 10 favorite libraries which will show up first in your search results when you are logged in (you will not see any favorites if you are not logged in). When creating a favorite library, you have the option to make it public or private (I always choose private). The easiest way to create a favorite library is to click on the “Add to favorites” link when that library shows up in search results, but you can also search for libraries to add them to favorites.
After your favorite libraries holding the resource are displayed, results are listed in order of distance from the entered zip code (typically you would enter your home zip code unless you are traveling for research). As you can see below, results will also tell you which formats of the title are held by each library and the distance to the library from the entered zip code.
Lists are where the magic happens.
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