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Version 0.1 of the OpenURL was introduced in 1999; version 1.0 became a NISO standard (ANSI/NISO Z39.88-2004, The OpenURL Framework for Context-Sensitive Services) in 2004. It has been adopted throughout the scholarly information supply chain to support improved linking between resources. A range of suppliers has developed tools that support effective OpenURL implementation, and a link resolver (whether licensed or homegrown) has become a key part of any research library's toolkit.

3.1 OpenURL Recap – Why? How?

Conventional reference linking initially involved hard-coding links between one content provider and another. As a result, users were often linked to the "wrong" version of an article, i.e., one that they were not licensed to access. In the worst case scenario, this would result in a user undertaking a document delivery or pay-per-view transaction to obtain an article that might actually have been licensed elsewhere by their library. This is known as the "appropriate copy" problem.

The OpenURL was developed to perform "context-sensitive" linking, whereby links are flexible and able to take into account the user’s institutional affiliations and the licenses of that institution. Following ratification as an ANSI/NISO standard, OpenURL linking has been widely adopted. A basic user journey via OpenURL is illustrated in Figure 1.

3.2 Why Knowledge Bases Matter

Knowledge bases are key to the process of OpenURL linking because they not only know where content is, but they also know which versions of specific objects a particular institution's users are entitled to access. Knowledge bases are the only means by which users can be sure to reach an "appropriate copy".

If data provided to knowledge bases is incomplete, inaccurate, out of date, or in some other way "bad", the efficacy of the OpenURL standard is undermined such that it can often become useless. As a result, the NISO/UKSG KBART Working Group was formed to analyze the problems within the supply chain and create guidelines to resolve the most common or high-impact problems. While the focus of KBART is on data exchange among and between knowledge bases, it is acknowledged that the inclusion and correct encoding of data within OpenURLs is equally critical to the success of OpenURL linking.