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Linking to WorldCat in Reference Emails.

So here’s the thing. Like many reference librarians, I use WorldCat all the time. And like many reference librarians, I use the FirstSearch version a lot for advanced features and more seamless integration with our local collections than can offer. For instance, I love the “Advanced Options” under “More Like This” that lets me pick and choose which parts of the metadata were relevant to me and do a more advanced search on just those elements. And sure, the FirstSearch display is a little overwhelming, but part of what makes FirstSearch good for professionals is the huge amount of information displayed for each record. We’re used to the display, so it’s not a problem for us, and often I skim through all that information and learn a whole lot about an item in a very short amount of time. Besides, my eyes are trained to take in what I want from that interface and leave the rest. I know where on the page the OCLC number lives, for example, so I only look at it if I want to.

One thing it doesn’t do well, though, is let me link to a specific record. I can’t send a link to a student and say “Here, this is the journal I was telling you about.” I can do this at, though, and that’s a much better interface for students and faculty anyway. I wish there were a “link to this record” in FirstSearch, or at least a “View this record at,” but since there isn’t, here’s what I do.

  1. Do all my behind-the-scenes advanced searching in FirstSearch (when appropriate).
  2. Find what I’m looking for.
  3. Do a little happy dance in my chair.
  4. Copy the OCLC number.
  5. Open a new tab and click the bookmark I’ve names “WorldCat Link Base.” This contains the base of’s permanent URL.
  6. Paste the OCLC number onto the end of that URL and hit enter.
  7. Et Voila! Stable URL to the bibliographic record of whatever-it-is I wanted to send to somebody, complete with a friendly interface.

The trick comes when they’re off campus and don’t have pre-loaded links to our Interlibrary Loan system. I wonder if it’d be possible to go through our proxy server for that. If so, I’ll have to change my link base… Hmm…. things to ponder. And wouldn’t it be nice if I knew javascript and could make a bookmarklet that would do that to OCLC numbers for me, and maybe copy the full stable URL to my clipboard?

Published inLibraries and LibrariansSearch and DiscoveryTools and Technology


  1. Andrew Andrew

    Could you e-mail the record to the patron (does that button show for your library)? It seems to have all of the information including OCLC number. Could help save you some time.

  2. Iris Iris

    I could, but usually when I send information like this it’s only one small piece of a much larger email, sometimes composed over the course of a day (or several). In cases like those, database-generated emails aren’t as nice as just being able to say “click this link.”

  3. Iris Iris

    Also, it’s harder to explain that you’re using one record as an example of many records if you just email the record from within FirstSearch.

  4. Alice Alice

    Thanks Iris. Your story is exactly the sort of scenario we were thinking of, when we developed As you described, the interface is meant to be clean and simple for end-users. The OCLC number trick you describe is also what comes up when you use the “permalink” on It’s a great way to reference a title in a library blog, newsletter, etc. that is intended to go beyond your ILS/firewall…and still get people right to your library. Other ways to construct links in WorldCat are here. And we’d love to link to a video of you doing the happy dance on YouTube!

  5. Iris Iris

    Ellen, that page you’ve put together is great. I might have to steal that idea….

    I do like, Alice, but moving between the two interfaces could be so much smoother than it is. The fact is that, as of now, the subscription version does stuff that I can’t easily duplicate in the free version, which leaves me jumping back and forth between the two all the time, which in turn forced me to come up with this rather long workaround. Still, I realize that both systems are changing, and that is improving rapidly.

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