This chapter of "Rethinking Library Linking" introduces the concepts and purposes of link resolver software and the OpenURL standard and how current user behavior and new tools worked in tandem to create change in what is required for an effective link resolver.
Scope of This Report
The January/February 2006 issue of Library Technology Reports (1) introduced the OpenURL standard, its history, and its purpose for addressing the "complexity inherent in having multiple online copies" of an article or other item, often in multiple sources. (2) An OpenURL link resolver is a software product that takes advantage of this standard to link a citation in one product to the item's full text, even if that full text exists within a different product. This report builds on its predecessor by outlining issues common to OpenURL resolver products and suggests ways that libraries can address them. This report is not an introduction to link resolver products and assumes basic knowledge about library databases and the online research process.
It's important to note that the authors' perspective is that of librarians passionate about enhancing the user experience by improving the tools that our libraries purchase, license, or build, not that of experts on link resolver software or on the OpenURL standard. The principles guiding this report include these:
* The resolver's main purpose is to "shorten the path" between citation and item. (3)
* The relationship between the library and the open Web, especially Google, must be complementary, not competitive.
* OpenURL and related or successive linking initiatives must be widely adopted inside and outside libraries to facilitate the best user access to scholarly content.
* OpenURL and other linking technologies must be efficient, effective, and transparent to the user.
This report provides practicing librarians with real-world examples and strategies for improving resolver usability and functionality in their own institutions. To prepare this report, the authors tested and evaluated link resolver installations at their own libraries. The Claremont Colleges Library subscribes to Serials Solutions' 360 Link, and EKU is a long-time customer of SFX, an Ex Libris product.
OpenURL was devised to solve the "appropriate copy problem." As online content proliferated, it became possible for libraries to obtain the same content from multiple locales: directly from publishers and subscription agents; indirectly through licensing citation databases that contain full text; and, increasingly, from free online sources. Before the advent of OpenURL, the only way to know whether a journal was held by the library was to search multiple resources. Libraries often maintained direct links to electronic journal websites, either in the library catalog or in a simple HTML list. Potentially relevant citations were found in print and electronic indexes. Libraries have many indexes, referred to here as "citation databases," some of which may contain the full text of the items indexed therein. Full text items contained in a citation database are referred to in this report as "native full text." An OpenURL link resolver accepts links from library citation databases (sources) and returns to the user a menu of choices (targets) that may include links to full text, the library catalog, and other related services (figure 1). Key to understanding OpenURL is the concept of "context-sensitive" linking: links to the same item will be different for users of different libraries, and are dependent on the library's collections.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
These are some basic terms used in the discussion of OpenURL:
* Aggregated database--a citation database, often covering a wide or general subject area, that contains full text of some titles. The full text contained in such a database is negotiated by the database company (the aggregator) and is completely out of library control. …