WorldCat is not the sexiest research tool out there, focusing as it does on bibliographic information concerning books, DVDs, CDs and articles. But it can also be very useful in a number of small but handy ways.
WorldCat is the public face of the Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC), which began life in 1967 as the Ohio College Library Center. It eventually replaced the National Union Catalog, a mammoth ongoing publishing project which compiled and printed the 3” x 5” catalog cards prepared by the Library of Congress and others in libraries around the United States.
It remains the place to find out where you can locate a particular item in over 10,000 libraries around the world. For instance, I often use it to see which local library has a particular book. Libraries do the same when they are trying to borrow something for a patron through interlibrary loan. It is also a source for cataloging information that institutions use to create entries in their own library catalogs.
Google Scholar and Google Books have, in a number of ways, superseded WorldCat as a way to identify useful sources of printed information. Still, it does provide a rather handy way to compile bibliographies, though its abilities in this regard are greatly enhanced by using a bibliographic management program like Zotero.
However, if all you need is a bibliographic citation for a term paper, it can do the job quickly with a reasonable degree of accuracy. See, for instance, the MLA citation created a 1967 edition of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Capital above.
Like other sites which automatically generate citations, you have to realize that they are not always infallible. An example is the following entry, in MLA style, for the 2009 DVD of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:
Hand, David, Ted Sears, Richard Creedon, Otto Englander, Dick Rickard, Earl Hurd, Maris M. De, Dorothy A. Blank, Webb Smith, Walt Disney, Adriana Caselotti, Roy Atwell, Eddie Collins, Pinto Colvig, Billy Gilbert, Otis Harlan, Verne L. La, Scotty Mattraw, Harry Stockwell, Frank Churchill, Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, Wilhelm Grimm, and Jacob Grimm. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2009.
Listing 24 people as the film’s authors is somewhat absurd and unwieldy. As a film’s director is usually considered the film’s author, a better citation would be:
Hand, David. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Burbank, CA: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2009.
Last update: December 26. 2016