Posted by: Steven Harris | February 3, 2009


WorldCat search screen

WorldCat has come to your mobile phone. There are now a couple of flavors of mobile-enabled sites to access One of these is created by the folks at OCLC. Go to:

The other version is created by Boopsie (makers of other phone-enabled web channels):

The screen caps here give you some idea of how they look. (Click on any of the images to see a larger view at Flickr.) Both sites were designed with the iPhone in mind. The Boopsie version can be used on other phones, but it will ask that you install additional software. You then have access to much the same data, although the look and feel is somewhat different. I got it installed on a Treo with not much problem, but the experience is a little clunky. Although I got to the OCLC site on the Treo, it wouldn’t show me the search box. And none of the browse categories worked either.

WorldCat on iPhoneSo, are these effective means of searching the WorldCat database, and what are the differences between the two versions? Let me address the latter as a means of getting at the former.

Both of these versions have limited functionality. Not all features are available. The OCLC-produced version is available as an app through the app store on iTunes for free. The app, however, simply puts an icon on your home screen. When you launch the app, it really just directs you to the website through Safari. Once on the website, you can immediately begin keying in a search. The default is a keyword search. You can also select “search options” to do keyword, author, title, subject, or ISBN searching. Sorting by relevance, author, title, or publication date are also offered. The start page also offers some preselected search categories like “graphic novels” and “military history.”

The look of the OCLC product is pretty good. You do see book covers when they are available. There are links for related books and subjects. You can “find in a library,” email a link to the title, or view formatted citations. There are some drawbacks, however. When you’ve done a search, you see a results list. There is no link to go to an individual record. All the data is display in the results list. I guess the thought was that the links would provide all the function mobile users would need.

WorldCat BoopsieThe Boopsie version looks a fair bit different, but provides about the same level of function. It searches keywords as you key, so you already have a results list when you finish. It does group items by format in the initial results list. You see only brief information until you link through to a more complete record. This actually looks a lot like the record from the web: bibliographic information with a list of libraries near the location that you have set. There is a “cite” link and the libraries listed have a “view on map” link that will take you to the Google Maps app on your iPhone. There is no email link, however. And no book covers.

Neither version is ideal. I like features in each, but would pick the OCLC release if I had to choose. Neither version has the faceted browsing that makes the full website so appealing. I also wish they would allow you to log into your individual WorldCat profile and save things into lists. The ability to enter reviews (as you can on the full web page) would be nice too.

Given that web access on the iPhone is pretty good anyway (you can actually log in and do all of the things I mention here) one wonders why we even need these phone-enabled versions. WorldCat resultsThey do present the data in a smaller space, eliminating the need to flick around the web page. But to me, the iPhone’s multi-touch screen makes navigating a page fairly easy (not ideal, but easy). So, unless they can get more of those functions into the apps, I will probably not use them much. Need to quickly look up a title to settle an argument? Well, maybe then.

Boopsie WorldCat



  1. How many times can I say the word app in one paragraph?

  2. Thank you for this post Steven. I didn’t know there was a mobile version. I’ll have to try it out!

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