Wednesday, 11 February 2009

WorldCat on my mobile phone

When I have not been busy with a digitisation project at work, and (in my own time) my other library profession activities, trying to wade through my Information Online 2009 notes, and getting over the shock of the weekend heat wave and devastating bush fires; I have been checking out the OCLC's mobile WorldCat. This is a WorldCat interface designed specifically for a mobile phone. I have been testing the mobile WorldCat in Australia with my iPhone

According to OCLC, with this interface you can:

* Search for library materials
* Find a WorldCat library near you
* Call a library — Highlight and click the phone number in a library listing to place a call, and
* Map a route — Find the fastest way to a WorldCat library using the mapping software already on your device.

So how does it shape up? Well, from the outset let me say that OCLC has done a great job in developing a very clear and easy to use interface that fits neatly onto the iPhone. While the iPhones has a large screens as far as phones go, there is a lot less real estate to play around on the iPhone than a lap top or PC. The Mobile WorldCat could have ended up messy and cluttered but on an iPhone it is not.

As you can hopefully see from the following sequence of images. I used the mobile WorldCat interface to do a keyword search on Peter Hall's remarkable, magisterial, and seminal work "Cities in Civilization". Mobile WorldCat brought up 1,542 hits with Sir Peter's work on the top of the list. Even though there is limited screen space on a mobile phone, the mobile WorldCat interface still provides room for a thumbnail of the front cover.

It was then very clear on the Mobile WorldCat interface to see where I should click if I wanted to see related books (with very good results), related subjects (again right on topic), or find a library in my area so I could borrow the book. In addition, Mobile WorldCat also allows me to email a title link or a formatted citation direct from my phone.

So far so good, but does mobile WorldCat find a local library if I live outside of the USA? Well, the good news is (to paraphrase Obama) yes it does! It certainly works in Melbourne Australia, and that is about as far away as you can get from OCLC's home in Dublin Ohio. I entered my Australian postcode (zipcode) and up came a list of local public and academic libraries, as well as the State Library of Victoria, which is located very close by in the city centre. Top of this list of local libraries was the closest library, i.e. my local Stonnington Public Library Service.

As you can hopefully see from the series of images, it was then very easy to either use the link on Mobile WorldCat interface to go directly to my public library's catalogue record for this title so I could enter an online reservation; or (when choosing the "Get more Library Information" link) find out the more details about this library. What was really good; is that it did not just give me general information about my local library service, I actually got specific information about the closest branch! It was then very easy to click on a link which launched Google Maps on my iPhone, which then showed me where I was, where the closest library was, and drew a route on the map to tell me how to get there. As you can also see from the last of the images, the library's phone number was hyperlinked, so I could have clicked on the phone link and my iPhone would have dialed the number directly.

It must be early days, because as of 11 Feb 2009 there are only 85 hits when I searched Google blogs for posts relating to "mobile AND phone AND worldcat", but this service looks fantastic on my iPhone, it is very easy to use, it does what it says, and it is great to search the catalogues of my local libraries from my phone. And no, I am not being paid to say this.

Now, if there was a way of linking in my local library's online full text database offerings and federated search engines via my iPhone life would be wonderful. Oh well, Rome was not built in a day.

Click here to view blog postings about the mobile phone interface for WorldCat, and try it out for yourself.

As of February 2009 the WorldCat mobile phone interface is compatible with these phones and mobile operating systems:

* Windows Mobile 5.0
* Blackberry
* Palm OS 5.4 or later
* Apple iPhone
* Nokia
* MIDP 2.0, CLDC 1.1 Java

1 comment:

Alice said...

Thanks so much for this great review. We are so pleased everything worked and that you are finding all the good things available from your local library and libraries around the world through WorldCat. We're very interested in all feedback--positive and less-than-positive--during this pilot phase, so we can improve the service going forward.