When you see a lot of library technology (or read a lot of press releases about library technology), you tend to get slightly jaded about the next great new thing. One of the phrases that makes me cringe (and I hear it nearly every day) is “Do you wanna see something cool?” Worse yet, if one is a so-called “trend-spotter,” then there is no time to linger on the day’s coolness before looking for new technological pastures to mow down.
I think I have earned a reputation for lingering. Maybe it’’ my Type ‘A’ personality or twisted practicality, but I like to solve one problem before moving on to the next one. Hence my obsession with improving the catalog, or fixing the homepage, or heck, just making sure I can generate an alphabetical list of something (someone once told me that the best thing about the alphabet is that it’s the one classification system that everyone knows).
So what’s the thing that I wish we could linger on, improve, and finish? How about link resolvers? The introduction and subsequent widespread use of link resolver software (simply put, the knowledge-base service that gets patrons from citations to full text) is one of the greatest library technologies of the decade. Based on the OpenURL standard (Z39.88), nearly every kind of library can benefit from link resolvers, and even Google Scholar employs them as “Library Links.”
Wanna see something cool? The U.K. Serials Group has issued an RFP (or “tender” on their side of the pond) to study maximizing the benefits of OpenURL linking in the serials supply chain.
“The traditional serials supply chain of publishers, subscription agents, and librarians has become more complex with a new player—companies providing resolver software and the knowledge bases behind them. By studying the roles and expectations of the various parts in the supply chain we should be able to identify and clarify the expectations, performance issues, and barriers that need to be overcome to ensure a smooth supply chain to the end user.”
In other news, OCLC has been designated the maintenance agency for the OpenURL standard. OCLC has been building a registry of library resolvers in hopes that services such as Google could use them to determine the proper local resolver to which it can send searchers, and also owns Openly Informatics, a link resolver software company.
Getting patrons to the stuff they want is indeed pretty cool. And the good news is that OpenURL in its infancy is so much better than the OPAC was in the early days. It is, nevertheless, hereby resolved that everyone on the supply chain can make it even better.
[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]