Ever in search of library success stories, I found myself on the Stanford University campus on an especially warm, early spring day looking for a parking space. Surely, these are the days that people remember fondly about campus surroundings--the winter work of the ground crew exploding into the colors and smells of well-kept plant life. I wasn't there to admire the flora, however. I'd heard from Linda Yamamoto, head librarian and bibliographer at Stanford's Mathematical and Computer Sciences Library, that the university had recently launched a link resolver that enabled patrons to seamlessly link from bibliographic databases to a wide variety of full-text resources. Yamamoto said that the service "was implemented in a very short time frame and involved high levels of cooperation between the vendor, library staff, and a variety of technical teams at Stanford." She arranged a meeting for me with Chris Bourg, associate director for communications and associate publisher for Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources (SULAIR) and Sue-Ellen Johnson, the librarian who served as project manager for the link resolver implementation.
How did Stanford first hear about link resolver technology? The answer holds lessons for both vendors and practitioners. Kathryn Kerns, head of the Information Center at Stanford's Cecil H. Green Library, learned of the technology when she attended a panel session at the June 2001 American Library Association conference in San Francisco. Kerns became the driver of using link resolver technology at Stanford and had numerous conversations with colleagues. She mentioned link resolvers at appropriate meetings and generally continued to champion the idea whenever possible.
APPROPRIATE LINK RESOLUTION SOFTWARE
The concept gathered steam. Since 2001, one software package had emerged as the market leader in link resolution. Sensitive to the benefits to patrons, SULAIR staff began to consult with other librarians who had installed the software and to review library literature on the topic. Stanford had an added advantage in considering the marketplace for linking software--Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) provides the interface to many SULAIR databases and had implemented the software several years ago. SULAIR staff could search selected databases and resolve to their locally selected titles as a means of testing the software for purchase and wider implementation.
Two senior members of the Stanford team, Christa Easton, head of the acquisitions department, and Catherine Tierney, the associate university librarian for technical services, attended the June 2004 ALA Conference in Orlando, Fla. Easton and Tierney stopped by the market leader's booth. They were impressed with the representative who spoke to them as well as with the product she demonstrated. Easton and Tierney followed up on this encounter by contacting colleagues at other universities and consulting with staff at a campus coordinate library that was in the process of implementing the same software package. They focused on how this vendor stacked up in terms of effectiveness of implementation and technical capabilities. Once the vendor passed these tests, a core team was assembled to bring link resolution to the Stanford community at large.
Why did SULAIR feel this service was needed? From the perspective of the acquisitions department, Johnson pointed out that Stanford "has a significant investment in electronic materials, especially e-journals and online bibliographic databases." Link resolver technology would "enable Stanford to obtain more value from these investments by linking the databases to one another, where one product has full text and another doesn't, as well as to the e-journal collection." Both pointed out that, if done correctly, the link resolver could enable a more satisfying patron experience by easily locating available full text.
Johnson provided me with a copy of the implementation plan schedule, which included 22 milestones. …