Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2008 Issue

ViaLibri Expands Its Library Search

Vial

ViaLibri Quick Query searches 72 databases.


By Michael Stillman

Book meta-search site ViaLibri recently announced an expansion of its library search program. Thirteen new library databases along with Google Book Search have been added to ViaLibri's "Quick Query" search engine. The new bibliographic databases include four national union catalogues (Canada, Norway, Czech Republic and Hungary) five university libraries (Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, McGill and Carnegie-Mellon), the Russian State Library, specialized book collections at the Museum of Modern Art, the Royal Horticultural Society and Hunt Botanical Institute. This brings the total number of bibliographic databases now searched by ViaLibri to 72. These are distinct from the various online bookselling databases, such as AbeBooks, Alibris, and Biblio, which ViaLibri searches separately.

For those unfamiliar with ViaLibri's library search, it is an exceptionally convenient tool for searching the collections of various institutions (along with the Google Book Search digitized "collection"). However, the number 72 grossly underestimates the number of libraries actually searched. Many of the databases searched are themselves compilations of collections of many libraries. Most notable is the WorldCat catalogue of the holdings of 10,000 of the OCLC's participant libraries. Additionally, there are other large cooperative databases, such as the 2,900 Italian libraries of ICCU, the 1,300 Canadian libraries of AMICUS, and the 300 Swedish libraries of LIBRIS.

Along with these cooperative databases are those that relate to single specific institutions. Available to search are the holdings of the largest holder of early American works, the American Antiquarian Society, the Huntington, Newberry, and Morgan Libraries, and the cleverly named "CATNYP" catalogue of the New York Public. The U.S. Library of Congress can be searched, along with national libraries of Britain, France, Russia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia and the Vatican. The list goes on. We have no idea how many listings in total can be searched, other than to safely say it is easily in the hundreds of millions.

If you go to ViaLibri's library search (link provided below), you will find a search box followed by the 72 searchable databases. We recommend that the first thing you do, in the bottom of the search box where it says "Results display in," is click "Open in new window." If you open a new window, you will always have the ViaLibri search page available even as you look at your results. You will also be able to search another library while keeping the previous results available. If you don't open a new window, you will be forced into a series of back button clicks to return to the ViaLibri search page, and you will have to close the matches from one library before you can locate those from another.

Once you fill in the book, author or keywords you want in the search box, scroll down to the name of the institution whose records you wish to search. Click the icon below the word "Search." Don’t click the name of the institution unless you want to go to their search page. That is fine if you want to conduct multiple searches of the holdings of one library. However, if you want to search many libraries, you should conduct the search from the ViaLibri site.

The value of this library search is obvious for those trying to locate a copy of a rare book wherever it might be. It is also a great tool for finding the descriptions these various institutions may provide for these books, along with discovering works of which you may not be aware. For collectors and booksellers, it also provides an excellent way of estimating a work's rarity. ViaLibri has created an excellent and valuable research tool for bibliophiles everywhere.

To test out ViaLibri's Quick Query Library Search, go to www.vialibri.net/library_search.php.

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