The Online Computer Library Center is one of those quiet organizations making a huge difference in the world. They don’t attract a lot of attention to themselves, normally, and much of what they do is plumbing that helps other organizations. They’ve recently partnered with Occipital, creators of the iPhone barcode scanning app RedLaser, to bring access to their enormous database of books to your iPhone. Just how big is OCLC’s database? It indexes “more than 165,000,000 books at more than 75,000 libraries in 112 countries.” That represents “more than 5,000 years of human history in a single, searchable database” — that’s a lot of books! Now you can snap a picture of a book’s barcode, and within moments find out whether your local library has that book in stock, and whether it’s currently checked out or sitting on the shelf. Yay technology!
We borrowed a relatively obscure book about Europe’s perception of Google (not exactly a Best Seller), Google and the Myth of Universal Knowledge: A View from Europe by Jean-Noel Jeanneney, translated from French by Teresa Lavender Fagan. Within seconds of snapping a quick photo of the bar code on the back of the book, “RedLaser” told us we could buy the book at dozens of online stores for $0.75 to $31.17 and that we’d find it in the Worthington Libraries and the Capital University Law Library.
WorldCat, the OCLC database, is also available for Android and other mobile devices.
As an unrelated aside, I know a few folks who work at OCLC, and my friend Michael has, in my opinion, the coolest job title evar: Manager, Dewey Decimal System.