Monday, October 17, 2005

Adding Reviews to Open WorldCat

OCLC has announced that as of October 9, everyone is free to add content to the records in Open WorldCat. Click here for the announcement. Any book enthusiast can now put a review onto an Open WorldCat record as easily as putting one on Amazon. Karen Schneider did it on Thursday and urged others to try. I tried it Friday and found it was easy.

For those who do not remember or have not heard, Open WorldCat is OCLC (a very big library company) putting the bibliographic records from WorldCat (a very big database showing what libraries around the world own) onto the Web so that they can be found through popular search engines, like Google and Yahoo, and other non-OCLC web sites, such as Alibris and BookPage. These records tell anyone who finds them the closest libraries with the books they seek. While this might seem to a knowing librarian as a fairly easy thing to find otherwise, it should help nonlibrarians who do not know the URLs for their area libraries' catalogs. Librarians can also use Open WorldCat (as they do in FirstSearch WorldCat) to find library holdings in multiple systems in one search.

Joe Janes, Roy Tennant, and many others in the library community have called on librarians to use the Web to take library services to the public, reminding librarians that it is the libraries that are remote, not their public. Using Google and Yahoo to get the libraries to the public is one attempt.

Furthermore, online library catalogs are adding features, such as book covers and reviews, to make them more attractive to the public. Open WorldCat is going a step further adding an interactive component. Any reader can add reviews, the table of contents, or notes to Open WorldCat records.

Here is what you do to add a review to an Open WorldCat record.

1. Find Open WorldCat. There are several ways of doing this. The easiest way is simply go to Save this link. (An intended way is at the end of this piece.)

2. Enter your title in either the Google or Yahoo search box. Click "Search." I do not recommend the Google Scholar box, as it takes an extra step and it did not find many of the titles for me.

3. Click the correct title on the results list.

4. Click the tab that says "Reviews."

5. Click "Write an Online Review."

6. Open an Open WorldCat account if this is your first visit. It is free. If you have an account, sign in. (Karen had some difficulty signing up because she already had an account that she did not remember having.)

7. Select a rating for the book.

8. Give the review a title. I just used author and title of the book but you could give your review its own title.

9. Paste in your review. You can write the review at this point, but you are much better off having written it in advance. Open WorldCat will not time out as you write, and you will have a second chance to catch typos. Your readers will appreciate a better edited review.

10. Click "Submit Review." You will be returned to the record and your review will be on the screen. (Karen said her review took awhile to appear, but my reviews appeared instantly.)

I added five reviews to Open WorldCat on Friday:

Given: New Poems by Wendell Berry
Active Liberty by David Breyer
Before Lewis and Clark by Shirley Christian
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

I was the first to add reviews to these titles, which I chose to see how a variety of short and longer reviews would appear. As the trial is so new, there is little contributor content, but I did find the publisher had added the table of contents for Before Lewis and Clark. The reviews do look rather plain, as there is no way to use bold, italics or underline the text.

I found adding the reviews was easy for all the titles except A Year Down Yonder, which is available in hardcover, paperback, and compact discs, all of which were separate records; I had to paste the review into each of the records. This is not necessary on Amazon, where the submitted reviews post to all the editions of a title. Perhaps OCLC will find a way to connect the editions, too.

Back to step 1. You can get to Open WorldCat records directly from Google and Yahoo by using the phrase "find in a library" within quotation marks and the title and author. At this point I would recommend Google, which found three editions of A Year Down Yonder. Yahoo only found the hardbound edition. Remember to use the whole phrase "find in a library." I forgot the "a" once and it did not work. I wonder how many people will try "find in library" and be disappointed.

I will follow Open WorldCat developments and report when there is anything interesting. The review writing feature is promised for FirstSearch WorldCat in the near future.

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