Wednesday, January 13, 2010

iPhone App Provides Access To Local Libraries - Very cool job OCLC!!!

Ben's note:

Click on this link to see the original story with video:

COLUMBUS, Ohio—A local non-profit is providing data for a mobile app that lets you find your favorite book by just scanning a bar code.

The Dublin-based Online Computer Library Center, OCLC, maintains an enormous database that includes records for more than 165,000,000 books at more than 75,000 libraries in 112 countries. It’s more than 5,000 years of human history in a single, searchable database. And now OCLC can push it to your smart phone.

“Wherever users are, we try to be there,“ says Mike Teets, OCLC’s Vice President of Enterprise Architecture.

Teets and his team hooked up with Occipital, a Boulder, Colorado-based company that produces a bar-code reading application called “RedLaser” for the iPhone. He says it was a three-day, 24-hour-a-day project. But now it’s up and running smoothly.

“RedLaser” uses the phone’s camera to scan a book’s bar code. Then it searches for the book on the internet and in OCLC’s database. The results tell users where to buy the book online, how much it costs or if it’s available in a nearby library for free.

“For any given book,“ Teets says, “we know, specifically, what libraries have what copies of that book, which versions, which languages they’re in, whether it’s hardback, paperback, whatever.“

The app has enough access to some libraries’ data to tell users if the book is on the shelf right now or if it’s been checked out. It also provides addresses and phone numbers if a user wants to call the library to double-check the availability.

NBC 4 put the application through its paces.

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.

At the Worthington Library on High Street, we found the book on the shelf in mere minutes. The database was exactly right. The system worked for several other books as well.

“If you call ahead,“ says the library’s Gwen Nzimiro, “we can actually just pull it off the shelf and let you know for sure that we do have it, that it’s not checked out.“

With some libraries, the iPhone app has even more access. For some, it’s possible not just to determine whether the book is on the shelf, but to actually check it out and have it waiting for you when you arrive at the facility.

“Can’t imagine it getting much easier,“ Teets says. “You push one button and you point the camera at the bar code.“
The “RedLaser” app is available for $1.99 in the iTunes App Store. Versions of OCLC’s “WorldCat” mobile app are also available for the
Droid and the Google Nexus phones at

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