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The OpenURL supply chain includes many stakeholders with many connections in between them. Each stakeholder has specific responsibilities with regard to the data they share with other members and stakeholders. The data transfer responsibilities of parties within the OpenURL supply chain are mapped out in Figure 2.

In an attempt to identify what is expected of each participant of the supply chain, and to identify areas where confusion or inaccuracy can be introduced, we attempt to describe the expected responsibilities for each stakeholder here. At the basic level, the following stakeholders in the OpenURL supply chain—content providers, link resolver providers, and libraries—are required to carry out the following tasks, and in an efficient supply chain, would reap the following benefits.

3.3.1 Content Providers

Content providers can include publishers, online delivery providers, subscription agent gateways, full text aggregators, and others. But most metadata, like most content, originates from a publisher. In many cases, the metadata that is transferred in subsequent steps begins with the publisher, so if it is incorrect at the start, it will remain incorrect for most, if not all, of the remainder of the supply chain.

Role: Content providers can be both a source of and a target for OpenURL links. Adherence to the OpenURL standard requires a content provider to be able to create compliant OpenURLs from their citations. For other OpenURL sources to be able to create links to the content provider, that provider must also make available accurate metadata about its holdings. Currently there is no standard format for such data; part of KBART’s mission is to create best practice guidelines in this area.


  • Deliver articles—with appropriate metadata—for publication or hosting
  • Receive full-text content from publishers
  • Create metadata at full text or abstract level
  • Host full text for searching on behalf of publishers
  • Provide searching functionality on behalf of publishers
  • Create OpenURL links
  • Send holdings lists to knowledge base developers
  • Send holdings lists to libraries (for their unique holdings)
  • Provide MARC records to libraries

Benefits: Timely transmission of accurate holdings metadata to link resolver suppliers benefits content providers by creating a smoother user experience—thereby reducing the cost of customer service and improving the publisher’s reputation—and driving more traffic to their content. Increased traffic supports the publisher, editor, and author’s objective to ensure maximum visibility, usage, and reach of their content. It can also support usage-based revenue streams, and is a key factor in purchasing decisions when libraries come to renew or cancel content licensing agreements.

Key to knowledge base success:

  • Ensuring that accurate holdings data is provided to link resolver owners on a regular schedule and that known errors are corrected as quickly as possible.

3.3.2 Link Resolver Suppliers

Role: Link resolvers are configured to receive OpenURL links from content provider sources. They extract metadata about the target article (or other object) from the OpenURL, then compare this information to the knowledge base, which contains data about all the content licensed by the link resolver’s owner. The knowledge base indicates whether the article is available to individuals associated with the license-holding institution; if so, where it is hosted; and how to connect the user to it. The link resolver then puts together a link to the target article. This process is largely transparent to the user. The link resolver supplier maintains the technology of the link resolver, the data within the global knowledge base and creates or assists with localization of knowledge bases.


  • Regularly receive current holdings lists from online delivery providers for normalization and processing for inclusion in the global knowledge base
  • Receive details of inbound linking syntax to accompany collection data for link targets
  • Provide means for content providers to test their OpenURLs and their metadata supply and will make content providers aware of their link resolver syntaxes
  • Check (and possibly document) the level of OpenURL support
  • Generate and distribute MARC records for library’s holdings

Benefits: Timely transmission of accurate metadata to link resolvers, and good communication between link resolver supplier, library and content provider, enables the link resolver supplier to provide a more accurate and current service, and thereby to fulfill their goal of connecting users to licensed content. Timely transmission of accurate holdings metadata will also reduce any costs associated with checking, cleaning, and maintaining knowledge base holdings data.

Keys to knowledge base success:

  • Ensuring that knowledge base is regularly updated and incorporates corrections provided by other members of the supply chain.

3.3.3 Libraries

As the final presenter of data to the end user, the library has an important role in ensuring that the presentation of metadata is accurate and useable. In addition, it is the library and the end user who are most likely to notice errors in OpenURL data or in citation data, and are therefore best placed to notify other members of the electronic resources supply chain about those errors.

Role: Libraries build, purchase or license link resolvers in order to maximize efficient access to all the electronic resources they license. A library registers key identifying information about its link resolver (such as the base URL) with those content providers that it wishes to act as a source of OpenURL links. It is likely that each library will need to customize the knowledge base consulted by its link resolver in order to reflect its own print and online holdings.


  • Receive and apply knowledge base updates on a regular schedule
  • Register the library’s link resolver details accurately with each content provider
  • Where the link resolver is hosted by the knowledge base developer, supply collection holdings data to knowledge base developer to enable customization of the knowledge base
  • Activate link targets in the link resolver supplier’s knowledge base. The library must collect details of collections for updating the knowledge base. The updating is done manually using tools provided by the link resolver supplier and, where applicable, by customizing the holdings list provided by the Online Delivery Provider
  • Notify the link resolver supplier if the knowledge base data is inaccurate.

Benefits: Effective link resolver deployment benefits libraries by maximizing the usage (and therefore the return on investment) of the content they license, and improves the experience and success rate of their users as they navigate the research network. This can reduce reference and e-resource support queries. Timely transmission of accurate holdings metadata will also reduce the current costs and burden of checking, cleaning, and maintaining knowledge base holdings data.

Keys to knowledge base success: