Open OpenURL Resolver

By on September 13, 2005
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This is a bit far afield, but it got me wondering (not always a good thing).
OCLC has launched an alpha version of an OpenURL resolver. The idea behind this is fairly straightforward, but the devil, as always, will be in the details. OpenURL is a standard for formatting citations (of books, journal articles, etc.) in a URL format that can be passed between a citation database and a full text service for which the user (or the user’s library) has obtained access. For example, if you do a search in a database that your library has access to and has activated OpenURL links in, you would see a link after each citation to find the full text. That link would take you to a “link resolver” provided by your library. The link resolver would determine, based on the citation information provided in the link, the best full-text source for that particular item. It might be a full-text database, it might be a paper copy of the journal in the library stacks, or it might be interlibrary loan. You’d see a list of possible sources of the full text, which you could click through to.
Where this great system falls apart, a bit, is if you do not have access to a link resolver or if you are providing citations of one kind or another to people who are not part of your library’s licensing arrangements for full-text resources. For example, to bring it back to RSS, if you maintained a list of publications by your patrons (or your library staff) and published that list of citations by RSS, you’d want to make it easy for your RSS subscribers to get to the full text. Since you don’t know the URL of the link resolver each of your RSS subscribers uses (if they even have access to one at all), this becomes difficult.
Hence the OCLC OpenURL resolver. The idea is to provide a central resolver that will guess, based on the IP address of the particular user clicking on the link, what the appropriate link resolver might be. So if you are on the Tufts campus, for example, it will know (because Tufts told OCLC) that the resolver address is whatever. Or if you’re in another similar environment, the OCLC link resolver would know where you are. This works less well, at least initially, for home users on broadband, but I’d guess it would still be possible to make good guesses based on cities what the public library link resolver would be (assuming cable and telephone companies assign blocks of IP addresses in a somewhat systematic way).

Entry filed under: Non Sequiturs. Tags: .

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