The University of Alberta added WorldCat Local to its web offerings a while ago, but for my own library use I’ve gone on using our old OPAC by default, for no other reasons than familiarity and inertia. Now, though, I’ve found a solid advantage that WorldCat Local offers to my personal workflow: fixed record-level URLs.

I was trying to solve the age-old problem of capturing a call number so that it will be easy to consult when I get to the stacks to pick up the book. The OPAC record is on the screen of my workstation, my iPhone is on my belt: how to bridge the gap? Emailing it to myself is tedious, copying and pasting into a note and then syncing even more so. Taking a picture with the iPhone’s camera may get the call number but it’s hard to include enough of the citation to show which item this is, if I’m fetching more than one.

The solution I want, which was inspired by a tweet by Lorcan Dempsey, is a QR code that gives me the URL of the record. That way when I need it I’ll have the full citation, the call number, everything. QR codes don’t appear in WorldCat Local or in the OPAC (like Huddersfield), but there’s Greasemonkey for that, specifically the “QR Code for Everything!” script (and probably others, I didn’t explore). I can pop up a QR code for any page I visit in Firefox on my workstation, grab it into the iPhone using the free i-nigma app (or one of the other QR-reading apps) to snap a picture of the QR code, and then easily consult the full record in the stacks.

Capturing a QR Code in i-nigma (i-nigma is fast, making it very hard to get a screenshot)
A URL captured in i-nigma, with a “Go Online” button to take me there

The only problem with my default behavior is that the OPAC uses a session URL, which is meaningless once the session expires or when accessed from another device, so capturing it does me no good. WorldCat Local gives me a URL that doesn’t depend on the current session. That’s what I need: a cool URI that doesn’t change, at least across two devices and within the time-frame of my interest in a given book. I suppose I could customize the Greasemonkey script to use the OPAC’s permalink service before it generates the QR code, or we could enhance our unAPI service to provide a QR code as one of the options, but hell, WorldCat Local just works for this.