Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Issues in URL Management for Digital Collections

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Issues in URL Management for Digital Collections

Article excerpt

As library holdings evolve from print-based to hybrid collections that also encompass networked digital materials on the Web, uniform resource locator (URL) management has become a defining feature of the access to library resources. This article enumerates issues in the management of URLs pointing to local and remote resources in the digital collection,focusing on those URLs created and maintained by librarians.


The modern library typically maintains a hybrid collection of print-based materials along with digital sources. While standards and practices for maintaining print-based collections have a long history, libraries are faced with a myriad of new issues in the management of networked digital collections. As Casserly notes about remotely held licensed resources, "libraries must lease rather than purchase, access rather than house, and develop ways of evaluating, describing, and maintaining the accessibility of dynamic content." (1)

Networked local content is also a part of a library's digital holdings. In its broadest context, this can include such items as archival and other scholarly content, locally produced databases, and the contents of a library's Web site.

Networked digital collections are located primarily on the Web. Since access to Web-based materials is carried out by the apparatus of the link, it follows that link creation and maintenance is a major component of managing access to this content.

The mechanism of the link has its foundation in the uniform resource locator (URL). This article addresses practical aspects of providing access to Web-based digital content through the management of URLs created and maintained by librarians. These URLs may be pointers to both free and licensed resources, either local or remote, and be linked from the library's Web site and its online public access catalog (OPAC).

A New Enterprise

URL management has become a paramount activity in libraries, but it has not received focused attention in the scholarly library literature. The literature is replete with articles about the management of database and e-journal collections, digital repositories, Web-enabled local databases and library Web sites. The backbone of these activities, the construction and maintenance of URLs, and the everyday challenges these pose for librarians, has not been closely addressed. The literature lacks a coherent acknowledgement of URL management as a seminal and distinct activity of modern librarianship. This is surprising, given the centrality of linking activities in libraries that maintain Web-based OPACs and institutional Web sites--in other words, the vast majority of libraries.

The advent of networked digital collections has changed the way in which libraries provide access to their materials. In a print-based library, the catalog is the definitive pointer to the institution's holdings. Records that are representations of the library's physical holdings are provided by the card catalog, and in recent decades, OPAC. There is no direct access from the catalog record to the holding itself. Users consult the record, note the classification number, and visit the physical location where the item is housed in order to gain access.

Once networked digital resources are added to a library's collections, the picture changes considerably. The library is becoming an information gateway that employs URLs in the Web environment to provide access to this content. Regardless of the type or location of digital materials, both the creation and maintenance of URLs that link to them raise a number of issues. A new knowledge base of best practices needs to be identified within the library community. These practices must be grounded in an understanding of linking technology and the relationship between URLs and the infrastructure of the Web.

This article focuses on those URLs created and maintained by librarians. …

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