It’s a match made in genealogical heaven: two of our most important online tools for finding family history resources, WorldCat and the Family History Library catalog, will soon be searchable simultaneously.
Recently OCLC (the company that runs WorldCat.org) announced that Family History Library holdings will soon appear in WorldCat search results, and vice versa. For several years we’ve had to remember to search both catalogs, because holdings didn’t overlap.
Just to remind you what a significant development this is, let’s run a few numbers. WorldCat is the world’s largest online library catalog with 1.5 billion resources from more than 10,000 libraries worldwide. They add new materials at the rate of one per second. The Family History Library’s collection is much smaller, but every one of its 3.5 million or so holdings supports genealogical research. Their catalog is actively growing, too; they have 200 cameras are currently digitizing records in 45 countries.
Once the interface is complete, searchers at WorldCat.org or the FHL site will be able to view relevant search results in the other catalog without having to leave the website they’re on. According to OCLC Public Relations Manager Bob Murphy, there’s not a firm date yet for when the reciprocal service will be available. “It will likely take a few months,” he says. What he can say is how well received the announcement has been by genealogists and librarians: one response calls this the best collaboration since peanut butter and jelly.
What will this mean for our ability to borrow Family History Library materials? In the past, Family History Library books have not circulated through interlibrary loan, and microfilms have only circulated to designated FamilySearch Centers. FamilySearch has not said whether lending services will expand. However, in the past few years many public and private libraries have become FamilySearch affiliates. If you haven’t checked lately, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can now rent Family History Library microfilms through your favorite local library. We’ll keep an eye on this developing story for sure!