Factfile: Providing links to your content from other services
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Gordon is a researcher at a Scottish University. He 'logs on' to his library website to conduct an online literature search. The results yield an abstract and web link (URL) to a journal article that looks promising. Unbeknown to Gordon, his institution has a subscription to the journal; however, the URL takes him to a website where the article can be purchased by credit card. Faced with the prospect of paying, he decides against accessing the article.
Consequently Gordon 'misses out' even though he was entitled to the article free of charge. This happens because there is more than one source for the same item of content, but all users are directed to a fixed destination by the URL returned with the search result. The OpenURL framework addresses this problem by providing links that are sensitive to the user's institutional affiliation and associated content access rights.
This is known as context sensitive linking. When an institution has implemented OpenURL, the user is presented with a 'button' alongside the search result. Selecting the button directs the user to the most appropriate source in accordance with their institutional affiliation and access rights.
Each institution needs a OpenURL resolver; some choose to implement a commercial solution, for example SFX® link server. A resolver extracts metadata (descriptive information) from the OpenURL generated by the provider and then supplies a link to the most appropriate source of content for each user.
Links must be configured between the institution's resolver and each of its providers. The provider enables context sensitive linking to their products by returning OpenURLs, as opposed to conventional fixed URLs, in response to queries. Providers also need to maintain information that maps users to institutions and institutions to their resolvers. Thus implementing context sensitive linking does involve work for both providers and institutions.
JISC have sponsored a new service to make it easier for content providers to implement context sensitive linking for the academic community. The OpenURL router provides a central registry of academic institutions' resolvers which means providers are no longer required to maintain information about institutions and users, and their respective resolvers. Instead, providers simply use the router address as the base URL for all institutions.
Content provider benefits
Enabling context sensitive linking to your products from academic institutions who have implemented OpenURL, guarantees their users are directed to the most appropriate source every time. This adds value to the institution's subscription and can increase use of your resource. The new OpenURL router service makes implementation easier for both academic institutions and their content providers. This is likely to increase institutional implementation in the academic sector. Consequently, providers who support OpenURL may be looked upon more favourably by implementing institutions.
Colleges and universities are acquiring an ever-increasing number and range of online resources. Consequently, most students and staff are unable to keep up to date with the details of institutional acquisitions. Context sensitive linking ensures they benefit from their institution's investment in external online resources without having to become experts on their library's subscriptions.
References and further information