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OCLC Support

Get started with OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging

Discover how to set up and use OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging software.

How does a library start using OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging?

The steps for starting to use the OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging service are listed below. Please discuss them with your system administrator and local system vendor. If you have questions about the steps, contact OCLC Support or fill out an online inquiry form to request that someone contact you or send you information.

  1. OCLC cataloging access. Verify that your library has a cataloging subscription that includes using the Z39.50 cataloging interface to WorldCat. If not, please contact OCLC at or your local OCLC office for subscription information.
  2. Communications method. Use one or more of the following communications methods:
    • Internet
    • OCLC Dial TCP/IP
  3. Z39.50 client. Have a local system that can function as a Z39.50 client or have other Z39.50-client software.
  4. Holdings submittal. Submit holdings information online. For technical information about this option, see Database update implementation for OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging: Extended service definition.
  5. Client configuration and testing. Configure and test your Z39.50 client for OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging. For technical information, see Configuration guide for OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging.
  6. Procedures. Define the procedures that staff will follow to use OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging through your local system. For information about searching, see Search tips for OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging.
  7. Training. Train staff on how to use OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging.

What are the service responsibilities?

The OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging service differs from many OCLC services because much of how it works and looks is controlled by the library and the library's local system. Therefore, the service responsibilities differ from other OCLC services.

OCLC responsibilities

  • Provide and support the Z39.50 server and access to it.
  • Provide information about the server to help the library and vendor configure the local Z39.50 client.

Library and local system vendor responsibilities

  • Provide, configure, test, and support the local system or other Z39.50 client.
  • Train staff to use the Z39.50 client.

How does OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging work?

The following is an overview of how OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging works. The specific procedures that a user follows are determined by the local system.

  1. The user selects OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging and enters a search. For more information about searching, see Search tips for OCLC Z39.50 Cataloging.
    1. The library's client formats and submits the search request to the OCLC server.
    2. The server returns the search results to the client.
    3. The client formats and displays the search results for the user.
  2. The user selects the record(s) to view.
    1. The client submits the record(s) request to the server.
    2. The server returns the requested record(s) to the client.
    3. The client stores and displays the record(s) for the user.
  3. The user selects and edits the record for cataloging.
    1. The local system adds the record to the library's catalog.
    2. If the library has implemented the Extended Service Definition for returning holdings information to OCLC:
      • The client returns the OCLC record control number to the OCLC server.
      • The server receives the OCLC record control number, matches it to the submitting library's authorization, then adds the library's symbol to the WorldCat record in WorldCat or deletes the library's symbol from the WorldCat record in WorldCat. OCLC archives a copy of the WorldCat record for the library.

If the library has decided to use data sync for returning local holdings information to OCLC, see Exchange file with OCLC.