In 1967, the nonprofit Ohio College Library Center was formed. Their goal was to create a computerized network for Ohio libraries to participate in. Today, its name changed to the Online Computer Library Center, the cooperative venture boasts 72,000 participating libraries from 170 countries and territories around the world.
For individuals, OCLC provides an incredible service with their free online catalog. WorldCat currently contains more than 256 million bibliographic records representing more than 1.8 billion holdings in these libraries. One new record is added every ten seconds.
These records include published works as well as other materials in the libraries’ collections. Many libraries also provide online access to images of materials from their collection, making the catalog even more valuable.
WorldCat is completely free to use. Registering and creating a profile, however, provides some additional benefits. For example, when you put in your zip code, the results will include a list of repositories that hold the work, starting with those closest to you.
The catalog is available at www.worldcat.org, but family historians new to the site would do well to visit www.oclc.org/worldcat/genealogy. There you will find more information about WorldCat specific to your family history research.