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Geographical Representation of Library Collections in WorldCat: A Prototype

Clifton Snyder, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, and Lawrence Olszewski

Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together @ ASIST '05 (ASIS&T 2005)
Westin Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 - November 2, 2005


In today’s world, people are inundated by an overwhelming amount of information. Library and information science professionals attempt to provide information systems that are capable of retrieving precise and accurate information for users. One method for the organization and retrieval of geographically-based information is to develop a system to visually represent the data.

A prototype was developed to provide a visual tool for the management and representation of geographically-based library data and statistics. These data are used to provide information for decision-making in regard to remote storage, collection management and cooperative collection development, preservation, and digitization. Previously, these data existed in spreadsheets with thousands of rows and columns, which made it difficult to review and analyze.

An interactive map, the OCLC WorldMap, was created to represent collection and statistical data geographically. The collection data for the map were generated from WorldCat, the OCLC Online Computer Library Center online union catalog. WorldCat contains approximately 55 million records, and serves not only as an aggregator of bibliographic data, but also identifies almost a billion holding locations by type of library for library resources. WorldCat includes the holding symbol for every member library holding each item represented in the database. Additional data were gathered from the Association of Research Libraries (, the National Center for Educational Statistics (, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (, and more than thirty other sources. The number of titles and holdings by country and date of publication, as well as other library data, such as library expenditures, number of libraries, etc., are depicted on the OCLC WorldMap.

The system allows the user to select a dataset of interest from several options provided on the map. The user is able to display library collections, a group of libraries’ collections, and all holdings in WorldCat by country of publication and date, or by library statistical data. The results are displayed on the map by variations of gradation to represent the data for the selected geographic regions or in a data table, which the user is able to sort by selected column headers. The system also will allow the user to export the data to an Excel spreadsheet. These data will be displayed by screen shots. Several different technologies were used in the development of the OCLC WorldMap. The map interface itself was created using Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an XML specification supported by the W3C. All of the SVG scripting was done in ECMAScript. This SVG is embedded in an HTML page that handles all of the textual elements within the application with JavaScript. Dynamic data are provided by the Apache Jakarta Tomcat Servlet/JSP Container with a MySQL database on the back end. Everything used to create the OCLC World Map is either open source or is designed using a freely available specification.

The interface was designed for diverse user backgrounds and needs. Extensive usability testing was done and revisions were made based on user feedback. Internally, marketing and sales staff can use the library statistics to target potential areas of growth by segment in global expansion and to assess current market penetration. Externally, the place, date and language of publication data can be used by collection development staff to identify strong and weak area studies collections and to determine overlap and gaps within the collection. Research libraries can use the dataset to plan for collaboration of paper and digital collections, suggest candidates for deaccessioning and remote storage, and identify areas for preservation and digitization.

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