3.13 WorldCat – the World’s Books at Your Fingertips

One of the easiest ways to locate books and library materials anywhere is to use a database called WorldCat. WorldCat lets you search the library catalogs of thousands of libraries across the world, including the ISU Library and Ames Public Library. WorldCat is a great tool for finding what books exist on your topic, regardless of whether they happen to be owned by the ISU Library. If the ISU Library doesn’t own a book you find in WorldCat, you can easily use the library’s Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service to borrow that book from another library for free.

Using WorldCat

Let’s take a look now at WorldCat, found at www.worldcat.org, so you’re familiar with how it works. WorldCat has a simple search interface with a few useful tabs to help you search for specific materials. You can choose a tab and then type your search into the search box. For example, if you are looking for a book, use the Books tab.

WorldCat search box

When you find a book of interest in your search results, click it to open the full record of that book. Look for the Find a copy in the library section. In Enter your location, type in your zip code (in case you don’t know, the zip code for ISU is 50011) and click the Find libraries button. You’ll then see a list of libraries nearest to the zip code you entered that own the book. In the image below, Grinnell College’s Burling Library is the nearest library to ISU that owns the book.


Item record in WorldCat

So, do you drive to Grinnell then to read the book? Well, you could if you wanted but it will be easier to use Interlibrary Loan to request the book. In the example here, you’ll also see a link to ILLiad located right above the Find a copy in the library section, circled in red. If you click the ILLiad link in WorldCat and then login to ILLiad with your ISU NetID and password, you’ll see many fields of your Interlibrary Loan request form are already filled out for you, including title, author, and so on. Submit the online form and Interlibrary Loan staff will take care of the rest. You should have the book delivered to the ISU Library for you within 5-7 days. Simple! WorldCat is a very handy tool to add to your research skill set – get started today!

Check your understanding

How to use WorldCat – a hands-on interactive guide to give you practice with this tool and finding scholarly books.


LIB 160: Information Literacy Copyright © 2019 by Iowa State University Library Instruction Services. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book