ltr: Vol. 44 Issue 6: p. 24
Chapter 4: Usage and Impact of WorldCat Local
Jennifer L Ward
Steve Shadle
Pam Mofjeld


The University of Washington Libraries, in collaboration with OCLC, began a pilot project that resulted in the creation and launch of a new discovery and delivery platform called WorldCat Local. It enables users to search what were previously three separate catalogs as well as five article databases. The search interface is simple, which research has shown that users prefer.1 WorldCat Local also integrates what were previously separate delivery systems, resulting in a seamless, easier-to-use service. WorldCat Local debuted on April 30, 2007, when the University of Washington Libraries made it the default search box on its home page. The impact on delivery has been impressive, with users requesting and getting far more materials than when we had separate “silos” for discovery and delivery. WorldCat Local provides a new service environment to the library user. Because WorldCat Local integrates a number of data sources (local library catalog, consortial library catalog, digital collections, article databases) and library services (local and consortial catalog requesting, interlibrary loan, link resolving, direct full-text linking, and online reference services), it is important to have the functional experts in all of these areas involved in planning and implementation. This article explores why such a tool was desirable; describes various aspects of the implementation, the effect of usability on development, and the impact on discovery and delivery; and discusses future plans.

When we released WorldCat Local in late April 2007, we made the WorldCat Local search box the default on the UW Libraries main home page. We knew this was necessary in order to get sufficient real user data and input in order to improve the product. There are between 200,000 and 275,000 searches of WorldCat Local per month. Approximately 80% of the searches result in the user clicking through to a full record. Use of the local catalog/OPAC is down by approximately 140,000 searches per month.

WorldCat Local is now the second largest origin to our link resolver, with over 31,000 requests in the first quarter of 2008. These requests to the link resolver represent new activity, not a move away from other databases. The integration of article content in WorldCat Local has enabled users to readily find and use licensed online materials.

Making discovery and delivery more seamless for users is clearly advantageous and beneficial. The integration of the local catalog, Summit, WorldCat, and article citations has made it easier for user to find and request materials regardless of where they are held. Statistics for the first year of WorldCat Local use shows significant increases over the previous year (see appendix).

During the first year of WorldCat Local, the volume of borrowing by UW users from other Summit sites increased by 64%, over 62,000 items. The percentage increases by month ranged from 44% to 84%, with the earlier months being lower than later. This increase in borrowing has really leveraged our participation in the Orbis Cascade Alliance. We saw the number of Summit same-site requests (UW users requesting UW materials) increase dramatically, by over 767%. However, the large increase is due to these holds replacing holds that used to be placed through the UW local catalog. Overall, the volume of local paging, whether through Summit or the local catalog, increased only slightly.

With the release of WorldCat Local, we saw almost immediate increases in interlibrary loan borrowing requests. During the first year, requests increased by 123%, to more than 34,000. The percentage increases by month ranged from 10% to 195%; as with Summit requests, the earlier months were lower than later. The ILL fill rate decreased from 67% to 55% during this time. However, given the huge increase in the number of requests received, this decrease in fill rate is less than might be expected. The most common reason for cancellations was materials being noncirculating or too new for the owning library to lend. Despite the lower fill rate, we still provided UW users with 83% more materials through ILL. We found that the percentage of ILL requests we received but cancelled because they could be filled by UW or Summit holdings remained constant at 19%.

We expected that WorldCat Local would increase Summit and ILL. Our estimates of losing 50% of users getting to Summit and 90% getting to ILL were short of the mark. Users are now using materials that previously they weren't finding. Local circulation has held steady, meaning that our local catalog was doing fine showing UW materials, but users weren't able to make the connection to the broader range of materials available outside UW.

WorldCat Local accounts for approximately 69% of all incoming ILL borrowing requests. Users are able to click on the “Request through Interlibrary Loan” link and log in to their ILLiad account, and OpenURL populates the request form. This seamless integration of ILL was something we were hoping to achieve when implementing WorldCat Local.

The increases in Summit borrowing and ILL requests through WorldCat Local has increased the workload for interlibrary loan staff. We have been significantly busier processing requests and handling all the materials that come through the ILL office. All materials, Summit and ILL, are received and returned through the ILL office. They are distributed to the library unit the patron chooses and circulated from there. The UW Libraries have supported an increase in additional staffing (1 FTE staff, 0.5 FTE students) to process requests and incoming materials. This has allowed us to insure that requests and materials keep moving without any significant backlogs. Planning for success has been vitally important for users and staff. It is always challenging since the volume of activity has continued to increase. However, it has been truly satisfying to hear positive feedback from satisfied users.

We've looked at the ILL request data to see if any patterns emerged based on user status and discipline (figure 16). The percentage of requests based on user status changed after the release of WorldCat Local. Interlibrary loan requests by undergraduate students increased from 14% to 23% of all requests. Graduate students still accounted for the greatest number of interlibrary loan requests.

The UW Libraries resources budget is allocated to broad discipline areas. The volume of ILL borrowing requests increased in all disciplines with the implementation of WorldCat Local (figure 17).


[Figure ID: fig1]
Figure 16 

percentage of ILL borrowing requests based on patron status

[Figure ID: fig2]
Figure 17 

ILL borrowing requests by resources fund groups

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