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OpenURL, Insert Book

Lorcan Dempsey responds to Tom Dowling’s critique of Open Worldcat by saying that the Big O will make Open WorldCat OpenURL-compliant “in due course. … The current syntax is simple, human-readable, and human-constructable. We will complement it with OpenURL-based access which will allow additional service possibilities.”

I’m glad Lorcan addressed the question head-on, but I also task Tom Dowling–and anyone else who made this point–to explain to us little people why OpenURL is important, how it works, and exactly what we should be asking /demanding/begging the Big O or any other organization to do about it. I’m all ears, but I have to understand what I’m hearing.

Let’s say you were doing a demo at PLA next year (it’s in Boston–fun stuff!), and you were facing a room filled with public library administrators. You say, “Open WorldCat should be OpenURL-compliant” (or however you want to make the declarative statement). Then you say:

1. OpenURL means…

2. It would look like this…

3. The short-term and long-term benefits to you would be…

4. Open WorldCat would be improved by this because…

Maybe I’ve been distracted by other things, but I have yet to see OpenURL spelled out in a way that was extremely clear to me, one of the simple folk, a mere administrator. Not that I’m any guru, but if I’m hazy on OpenURL–what it is and why we need it and where we need it–then I can only imagine how unclued-in my less technically-inclined peers are on OpenURL.

C’mon, share…

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  1. Ted wrote:

    I’ll let someone else explain the benefits of OpenURL; they can probably do it better than I can.

    My problem with OCLC’s approach is that doesn’t go far enough. Sure, you get an abbreviated bib record on the screen (with a Yahoo logo!), and then you’re prompted for a zip code to check local holdings. OK so far.

    But let’s go full circle. Let’s have that process initiate an NCIP (or god forbid, a SIP2) set of messages that places a hold on the item at that local library that was identified by zip code. (Yes, that means asking for a library card number on Yahoo, but … they already know how to pass data securely).

    Finding books online is one thing – getting them in your hot little hands is the real goal.

    Friday, August 5, 2005 at 6:12 am | Permalink
  2. Jane wrote:

    At MPOW, we are looking at some different linking and EJM (Electronic Journal Management) systems, so we have had to study up on Open URL. Let me see if I can break it down for you.

    Open URL is a standardized code that carries metadata. The metadata is usually the citation of a book or an article. Because it is standardized, it is said to be “open” and it can be read by many different programs

    Structurally it looks like this: bone disks from Utah Valley: evidence of Basketmaker connections in North Central Utah&volume=68&issue=4&spage= 305&epage=22&pages=305-22&date=2003
    You can actually parts of the citation in the URL.

    Open URL is important for many, many reasons. First: Remember all those “silos” people kept bringing up in the Top Tech Trends panel at ALA? Open URL would allow those silos to share information. With Open URL, a link resolver program can go into multiple databases in search of a single article. On the web, it manifests itself by allowing Google, or another search engine, to present you with, not only a list of citations (think Google Scholar), but also with a list of libraries who hold that material. At the touch of a mouse! Beautiful! The implications for instruction and reference are HUGE.

    There is much more, but that is the basic jist.

    Friday, August 5, 2005 at 10:32 am | Permalink
  3. Meredith did a nice post on OpenURL a few months ago–and linked to a post I made after going to a workshop that covered the first couple of your questions….

    Here’s the link to Meredith’s:

    Friday, August 5, 2005 at 11:05 am | Permalink
  4. Take us a step farther and explain this: “On the web, it manifests itself by allowing Google, or another search engine, to present you with, not only a list of citations (think Google Scholar), but also with a list of libraries who hold that material.” I didn’t see that indicated in the OpenURL identifier. Where does that association happen? I checked out Meredith’s page, btw, and while I’m sure it’s quite accurate, it was more of an abstract discussion of how OpenURL works without a concrete illustration of OpenURL in action. Can someone mock it up, say in Flash, QuickTime, or even evil PowerPoint?

    Sunday, August 7, 2005 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  5. Jane wrote:

    How the internet search engine works with Open URL is thus:
    If Google knows, through cookies, IP, or whatever, that I am associated with University X or City Y, and the local library has enabled Open URL to work this way, Google will give the user a set of results that includes a link to the library’s Open URL enabled resources (that appear as results).

    Now for the actual mechanics of how that works, I am not your lady. I just know that it can be done. ;)

    Monday, August 8, 2005 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  6. Is there an example of OpenURL in action I could see?

    Monday, August 8, 2005 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  7. FRL asks:
    Is there an example of OpenURL in action I could see?

    The only way I have seen it in action is to go to a university that had it and play on their computers. There is open source OpenURL software, but to see it in action, you have to have access to the databases.

    But, surely, one of the universities has set up a nice tutorial with screen shots. There’s not one at the university where I saw it (if I get the job of web services librarian there, I’ll be sure to put one up….) Maybe a question for Web4Lib?

    Tuesday, August 9, 2005 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    RIT uses it as a way for students to get directly to the full-text article in various databases without having to log in to the database itself. I haven’t seen it in action, but thought the FAQ was an interesting read.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2005 at 7:28 am | Permalink
  9. Melissa Belvadi wrote:

    Example of OpenURL in action:
    There are several demos of openurl generally. One is:
    Usually it is used to link article databases across vendors. For instance, to get a patron from ABC-Clio’s “America: History & Life” citations to the library’s full text somewhere else, with just a few clicks.

    I did a powerpoint presentation for local librarians in St. Louis recently giving an intro to OpenURL. It includes a series of screen snapshots showing OpenURL in action – you are welcome to view the PPT at:
    I also included a page with test links to various openurl commercial products:

    I have also written my own openurl server (which I’m happy to give away if anyone wants it) so I can answer fairly technical questions about openurl. Feel free to contact me.
    – Melissa Belvadi, Maryville University, St. Louis, MO, USA

    Saturday, August 13, 2005 at 10:48 am | Permalink

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