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Union Lists: WorldCat

WorldCat: Description

  • Unites the catalogs of over 72,000 institutions from more than 170 countries.
  • Provides access to nearly 200 million records (for books, journals, media [VHS, DVD, CDs, cassettes], scores, maps, etc.), through a single search interface.
  • Is the source most interlibrary loan departments use for facilitating traditional loan requests.

WorldCat: History

  • In 1967, the presidents of the colleges and universities in the state of Ohio founded the Ohio College Library Center (OCLC) to develop a computerized system in which the state's 54 college and university libraries could share resources and reduce costs.
  • In 1977, the Ohio members of OCLC adopted changes that enabled libraries outside Ohio to become members.
  • In 1981, the legal name changed to OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.
  • In 2006, Worldcat released, which allows public access to much of Worldcat's content (though not to all of its functionality).
  • In 2007, the RLG Union Catalog was merged into Worldcat, increasing the numbers of records, represented library catalogs and holdings significantly. Today, it the world's largest and richest database of bibliographic information.
  • In 2007, OCLC began piloting Worldcat Local, enabling libraries to combine with local holdings displays, services and branding.

WorldCat: Uses

  • WorldCat allows one to limit searches in a multitude of ways: to date ranges, to material types, to languages, to availability (by how many libraries hold the item), etc.
  • Request books not held by your home institution directly through interlibrary loan.

WorldCat: Search Strategies & Options

The multitude of search options in WorldCat can be overwhelming, but used appropriately, these options can significantly improve your search results.

Focused Keyword Searching

Limiting to Particular "Fields"

The drop-down menu next to each search box allows you to limit your search for that term to a particular section, or "field" in the bibliographic record.  For example, you could search for the word "Johnson" in the Author field, "desert" in the Title field and "arizona" as a Keyword appearing any place in the record.

WorldCat Advanced Search Interface

Remember that using the truncation symbol can expand your search by including plurals or other forms of a word. The truncation symbol for WorldCat is asterisk [*]

Limiting to Fields: Best Practices

In the drop-down menus, WorldCat gives a dizzying selection of areas to which a search can be limited. While some of these may be useful under very specific circumstances, generally it is best to stick with the Keyword, Author, Title, Subject or Publisher fields. Getting to know bibliographic records can also help to focus your search tremendously.

Limiting to Particular Fields

Author Phrase and Subject Phrase searches should generally be verified (in a bibliographic record in WorldCat) before using them in a search, and it is usually more successful to search for a portion of a title as a phrase (using quotation marks, e.g. "Grapes of Wrath") using the Title search, than it is to use the Title Phrase search.

WorldCat defaults to putting an "and" between each word you type, unless you override this default by choosing one of the phrase types in the drop-down menus (discouraged) or putting quotation marks around your phrase (advised).

Limiting Searches: Formats, Languages, Dates, etc.

There are two approaches to limiting a search in WorldCat. 

  1. To set the limits prior to searching, or
  2. To run a search and then limit accordingly.

Limiting "Up Front"

Limiting "up front" gives you a more manageable results set, but may exclude relevant records. If you know you ONLY want records from a particular date range, in a certain language or material type, you should limit your searches "up front."

Limit Type to:

Check one or more of the boxes for the desired format types. (These are also easily selected for post-search limiting).

Formats in WorldCat

Subtype Limits:

Use the drop-down menus to limit within one of the subtype categories provided.  The most helpful seem to be limiting to non-microform items or certain kinds of media (under Any Format).

Subtype Limits in WorldCat

Limit to Language, Date & # of Libraries

Enter a date or a date range or select from the Language drop-down menu to limit to a particular language.

To limit to more than one language, select "Language Phrase" from the drop-down menu next to one of the main search boxes and type in the languages you want to limit to connected with OR (e.g. French or Romanian or Italian).

While you may use the "Number of Libraries" to limit a search, the options for limiting to a particular number of libraries are much more detailed if this is done post-search .

Limit Availability to:

Because WorldCat has such detailed search options, it can be nice to use the WorldCat interface to search for items in your own library.  To do this, simply check the box next to "Items in my library." Note: While this can be effective, not all items in your library are necessarily in WorldCat's database .  Additionally, WorldCat will not give location or status information about items in your catalog.

Limiting to Items in Your Library

Limiting to a range of libraries is also possible in WorldCat, though not at all user friendly. Codes for libraries are not intuitive, and finding them on the OCLC/WorldCat website is extremely difficult. To search for items held by any one of the three Arizona Universities (which can be acquired through interlibrary loan very rapidly), cut and paste these codes into the "Library Code" box -- AZS AZU AZFU

Using Library Codes to Limit Your Search

To search for materials owned by GWLA (Greater Western Library Alliance) members, with whom the UA has agreements that allow for quick access to materials through interlibrary loan, cut and past these codes into the "Library Code" box -- AFU AZS AZU COD COF CSL ILU IQU IWA IXA IYU KKS KKU LDL LHL MUU NTE OKS OKU ORE ORU RCE SOI TXA TXH UBY UUM UUS WAU WS2 WTU

Post-Search Limit Options

Options for Limiting Post-Search in WorldCat There are a number of options for limiting, sorting, or refining a search after it has been run/executed, some of which are also available "up front". Most of these options are available by clicking on one of the images at the upper-left of the search results.


Sort Icon Clicking on "Sort" allows you to set the defaults for sorting records (as well as a number of other technical settings -- e.g. number of records per screen; highlighting search terms, etc.).

Related Subjects/Authors

Related Subjects or Authors Icon This feature provides a ranked list of the subject headings or authors found in the records in your result. You have the option of running a new search limited to those subjects you select.

Limiting to Particular Subjects

Limiting to Particular Authors


Limit Icon Post-Search limiting allows you to limit in one or more of the following ways:
    • To particular subjects or authors, as detailed above
    • to a particular date, or date range
    • To a document type (book, computer file, serial, etc.)
    • To a particular language
    • To the number of libraries that own the item

The benefit of post-search limiting is that WorldCat provides you with the parameters for each category, based on the results of the search (e.g. how many items in each category were returned in the original search)

Post Search Limiting

Other Options

Marking Records

Marking records allows you to email, print or export the records you have marked after you have completed all of your searches in WorldCat.  To mark records, simply check the box next to the record. 

Marking Records in WorldCat

Marked Records Link All records marked during a single WorldCat session will be saved. You can view all your marked records by clicking on the "Marked Records" link in the grey oval.

Emailing, Printing & Exporting

Email, Print or Export Icons To email, print or export your marked records, click on the appropriate icon.  Select which records you wish to email, print or export ( Make sure you select "Marked Records" ) and any other required information (brief or detailed records, record format, etc.) If you are printing, the print dialog box should also open.

Combining Searches

Combining searches can be a very powerful tool. WorldCat keeps a temporary record of your past searches (for the given session).  You can combine any of them (or rerun them) by clicking on the "Previous Searches" link on the far right of the screen.


Help Icon Click on the Help icon if you are having any troubles.  The Help section is fairly comprehensive and also has a search function.  Don't forget to use the library's Ask a Librarian service, should you need it.


Subjects Option The "subjects" option (which is only displayed as an option prior to any search being made) allows you to locate relevant subject headings by entering one or more keywords and then see related subjects. It is often more efficient, however, to do a keyword search and then use the "Related Subjects" option.


Index Function in WorldCat The "index" option is only offered if you select the "Expert Search" mode from the upper navigation bar. This option allows you to alphabetically browse a portion of the entire list of titles, authors, subject headings, etc. in WorldCat. This can be very useful if you don't know the exact spelling, or want to see all the forms of an author's name or of a title. 

Requesting through Interlibrary Loan

If you find an item that you need for your research, but which our library does not own, you can request it from interlibrary loan directly through WorldCat. Select "Request Interlibrary Loan" link/icon (from the detailed record). 

ILL Icon

You will be prompted to enter your UA NetID to enter your ILLiad account. The necessary information will then be transferred automatically from WorldCat. You will be contacted by email when the item is available for pick up.

Learn more about interlibrary loan.

WorldCat: Access

Search WorldCat

Last modified: December 15, 2015