Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Broken Links and Failed Access: How KBART, IOTA, and PIE-J Can Help

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Broken Links and Failed Access: How KBART, IOTA, and PIE-J Can Help

Article excerpt

This paper highlights three industry initiatives currently working on ways to improve access to licensed electronic content. The three initiatives are KBART, IOTA, and PIE-J. Background information on OpenURL, link resolvers, and knowledge bases, as well as detailed descriptions of the access problems the initiatives were developed to solve, is provided. Understanding these initiatives can help those involved in the electronic serials supply chain improve their own work, communicate effectively with others, and advocate for adoption of best practices. Together, these initiatives hold great promise for a future with fewer broken links and improved access for users.

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Libraries today rely heavily on electronic full-text content. Users like electronic access, but become frustrated when links to content do not work. The OpenURL standard ushered in a new and much improved way of linking to licensed electronic content, but despite broad adoption of OpenURL, links still fail and access to licensed content still eludes users more often than librarians would like. Even when links resolve correctly, users sometimes are unable to find what they seek because of how journal content is displayed on provider websites. This paper discusses some of the reasons behind failed access and describes in detail three industry initiatives currently working on ways to improve access to electronic content. The three initiatives are recommended practices for Knowledge Bases and Related Tools (KBART), a two-year research project aimed at Improving OpenURLs Through Analytics (IOTA), and recommended practices for the Presentation and Identification of E-Journals (PIE-J). While these initiatives will not solve all access problems, they offer solutions to specific, known causes of electronic access failure. Understanding exactly what they do can help those involved in the electronic serials supply chain improve their own work, communicate effectively with others, and advocate for adoption of best practices by publishers and other content providers. To fully understand the initiatives, background information is presented on OpenURL, link resolvers, and knowledge bases, as well as detailed descriptions of the access problems the initiatives were developed to improve. The ultimate goal of this paper is to enhance understanding of the work being done by KBART, IOTA, and PIE-J to provide those who deal with electronic access issues with the information they need to effect change and ultimately bring better service to users.

Literature Review

OpenURL Linking

The initial (version 0.1) OpenURL syntax was developed in the late 1990s by Herbert Van de Sompel, who introduced it with Oren Beit-Arie in 2001. (1) The current version, version 1.0, became a National Information Standards Organization (NISO) standard in 2004 and was reaffirmed in 2010. (2) OpenURL was developed to solve the "appropriate copy" problem. The appropriate copy problem refers to the need to link users to incarnations of content to which their institution subscribes. (3) Electronic content may be available in more than one place (publisher website, electronic journal aggregator, etc.). End users need to be directed to the copy they have permission to access (i.e., content licensed through their institution). Before the creation of the OpenURL framework, reference linking "involved hard-coding links between one content provider and another." (4) Such linking was referred to as "non-context-sensitive" linking and was problematic because it did not take into account the context of the user who followed the link. (5) As a result, users were sometimes linked to the "wrong," or "inappropriate" copy of an article, i.e., one that they did not have permission to access.

The system of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) was being developed around the same time as the OpenURL and led to the formation of the International DOI Foundation (IDF) in 1997. …

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