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General questions
Questions that a content provider or publisher might ask
Questions that a librarian might ask

General questions

  • What is an OpenURL?
    The OpenURL standard specifies the syntax for transporting metadata from information resources (sources) to an institutional link resolver and thence to library services (targets). The OpenURL standard is also known as NISO Z39.88 (2004).
  • What is a link resolver?
    A “link resolver”, or “link server”, is a software tool that deconstructs an OpenURL, separates out the elements that describe the required article and uses these to create a link to the “appropriate copy” of the resource (one that the user can access).
  • What is a knowledge base?
    An extensive database maintained by a knowledge base developer, containing information about electronic resources such as title lists, coverage dates, inbound linking syntax, etc.. The knowledge bases can be customized by individual institutions to reflect their local collections, for example, which titles can be accessed electronically and which resources are owned by the library in print format. This is typically referred to as the local knowledge base.
  • What is a link source/link target... what’s the difference?
    Link Source: The resource that creates an OpenURL and thereby links to a link resolver. The source can be understood as the overall website (database, publisher platform etc.) or as a specific citation within it.
    Link Target: The resource that receives a link from a link resolver. Example targets include content in publisher platforms, institutional catalogues or repositories and content gateways.

Questions that a content provider or publisher might ask

  • How do I make sure that customers utilizing link resolvers and knowledge bases can link to my content?
    Your website needs to become a Link Target. You need to ensure that you have a predictable way to link to specific publications and specific articles on your website (e.g. using an ISSN or ISBN and volumes, issues and page numbers in the URL). You need to tell knowledge base vendors and libraries how to construct these links and what content is available on your website. Section 4 of this report advises how this can be done.
  • How do I help my customers link from my site to other content?
    Your website needs to become a Link Source. To do this, you need to enable customers to register their link resolver with you*. You also need to provide an OpenURL style link from citations on your website. This will send the metadata from your website to the link resolver owned by the library and allow them to direct their patrons to appropriate copy.
    *If you do not want to maintain a list of your customer’s link resolvers you can link to the OCLC Registry Gateway by creating an OpenURL with the following BaseURL: If the user's institution is registered in the OCLC Registry, then this URL will redirect to that institution's resolver.
  • What kind of information does a knowledge base need in order to ensure my customers see my content?
    A knowledge base needs to know what content you have, and how to link to it. Section 4 provides detail on information and how to supply it.
  • Who maintains knowledge bases and how do I contact them?
    There are several commercial link resolver and knowledge base developers, as well as libraries that have developed and maintained knowledge bases of their own. At present there is no definitive listing but Wikipedia offers some points of reference.
  • Do all knowledge base developers need the information in the same way?
    No. It is possible to discuss and adapt your information for each knowledge base and customer. However, the KBART report recommends a standard so that this is not necessary.
  • Should I include information about my package offerings?
    Yes. It is important to provide clear information so that knowledge base developers and libraries can utilize accurate information. A file of information for each package is required. More detail is provided in Section 4.
  • Do I need to provide information on all the content available, or on the content that is licensed? What if there are different license models?
    It is recommended that you provide a file of information for your complete offering, and one for each of your standard packages or license models. This provides knowledge base developers with a good amount of data. They will then decide which information is applicable to each library based on the license the library has agreed with you. At present there are no recommendations for providing information for customer specific or non-standard packages.
  • When describing the range of content available for journals, should this be done with dates or volume/issue ranges?
    Both. To ensure that a researcher with only one of these pieces of information can find your content, it is important to supply both dates and volume and issue information for journals.
  • Can I provide data about my ebooks as well as my journals?
    Yes. It is recommended that you include all of your online resources to maximize their potential usage. Some knowledge bases may not yet support ebooks, but there is no reason to remove them from your data for specific knowledge bases.
  • How often should I provide new information about my content?
    It is recommended that you provide information as frequently as possible so that recently published content can be accessed. However, a minimum of once a month is recommended.
  • If I supply knowledge base developers with information, do I still need to give holdings and linking information directly to librarians?
    Some libraries have “home-grown” systems and they would require you to provide this information directly. It should be possible for them to use the recommended standard as detailed in the report. The report does not include recommendations for customized holdings so you may need to assist libraries if their holdings differ from your standard packages. You may also have customers that do not have link resolver systems and require holdings files for rudimentary cataloguing purposes.
  • I have provided information on my content, but I am told customers still can’t reliably link to my content. Why is this?
    Assuming that there are no problems with your website or availability of content it is possible that the knowledge base has not been updated since your last supply of data, or that the library’s knowledge base hasn’t been correctly customized to reflect their subscribed packages. It is recommended that you provide data once a month and that knowledge base developers update their products once a month. It is worth speaking with your customer’s knowledge base developer to understand where the problem lies.
  • My customers are registering their link resolver prefixes and they all look slightly different. Is there any standard I should expect for the entry of this information and how can I validate whether they are correct?
    Currently, there is no standard format for link resolver prefixes. How is the information about my content displayed to the user of a library system? Library systems may be different, but the typical information displayed will be the name of the publication, the range of content available, the range of content that can be accessed under that organization’s license, and a link to the content. Ask your customers to show you how their library system works.

Questions that a librarian might ask

  • What are the benefits of having a link resolver?
    There are many benefits to libraries purchasing or developing a link resolver. Some of the major benefits include optimizing the accessibility and use of electronic resources and providing seamless and intelligent linking between library resources.
  • What are the implications of local hosting or vendor hosting of the link resolver?
    Vendor hosting means that the vendor takes responsibility for the server on which the link resolver is running, including any hardware/systems issues, and installation of Knowledge Base updates. With local hosting, the subscribing institution runs the link resolver on its own hardware and is responsible for its maintenance.
    Vendor hosting may involve an additional fee, since more services are being provided. Of course, often vendor hosting means issues can be fixed quickly and effectively by those familiar with the software.
    However, if the subscribing institution has a responsive IT staff, it may find that it is easier to host the resolver locally and troubleshoot its own problems. Local hosting will also likely result in quicker response times by the software, and is not as subject to the vicissitudes of internet connections.
  • What information do I need in order to configure my link resolver?
    The supplier will specify the technical requirements for installation, configuration and set up of the link resolver - these requirements will vary depending on whether the link resolver is hosted by the supplier or the customer.
    Once the system is installed and configured, customization of the interface and display options can be finalized
    A link resolver will need a comprehensive knowledge base of title-level holdings information, including details of the coverage of individual packages or bundles, as well as single titles, both free and purchased, with date coverage. Aggregated collections or databases should also be included. This knowledge base can be supplied and customized by your knowledge base developer who is often the same supplier as your link resolver supplier. Your knowledge base will need to be maintained to enable up to date and accurate linking.
  • Is there a list of OpenURL compliant (as in, I can register my link resolver) platforms available?
    No, there is not one centralized registry of OpenURL compliant providers. However, most developers now offer this information directly on their websites. Alternatively, you may choose to contact your electronic resource account manager.
  • Which is the best source of accurate data about my holdings?
    Once your holdings are set up, your knowledge base developer should accurately aggregate the data from the publishers of your licensed content. Each publisher should have accurate data on your entitlements. It is recommended that you report errors to both parties.
  • Can I upload data to the knowledge base, or must changes be made manually?
    Yes, most, if not all link resolvers have the capability of doing batch loading.
  • Do all Link Resolvers use the same collection profiles and knowledge base? If not, how can I assess the coverage of different services?
    No. The best way to assess coverage is to work directly with the knowledge base developers and electronic resource providers.
  • Why can’t content providers provide reliable information on their holdings? I buy what I was told was a standard collection from Publisher X, but I find that I still need to customize the holdings information.
    It may be that in addition to a standard package, you are entitled to additional content through legacy subscriptions, a consortia license agreement or organizational mergers. There are no current recommendations for supplying customized metadata files however, the content provider may be able to supply a customized holdings file to your knowledge base developer for them to work from. Explain to your content provider how your system works and what information you require from them so that they can work toward assisting you.
  • When a journal changes title, do I need to amend my holdings in the knowledge base, or is this done automatically?
    Resource providers and link resolver vendors work directly together to update the knowledge bases. The time interval between when a journal title changes and when the information is updated in the knowledge base may differ. Depending upon the needs at your institution, you may opt to make these changes locally prior to the update being released from the link resolver vendor.
  • When a journal moves publisher, do I need to amend holdings manually?
    Please see above response. Also note that a change of publisher may mean that your subscription does not continue automatically e.g. if the pricing or licensing is not acceptable, so it is recommended to amend holdings manually.
  • When I make changes, does the knowledge base update dynamically?
    When changes are made to the local instance of a link resolver knowledge base, changes are reflected without time delay.
  • I have just licensed a new full text database or a new ejournal, but it does not appear in the knowledge base.
    In instances such as this there are a couple of options. The first is to notify the knowledge base developer and ask them to add the resource in the next knowledge base update. The second option is to identify the steps necessary to add the resource to your local knowledge base. This is the more complex option and depending on both the resource and the link resolver, may require involvement of staff with programming knowledge.
  • Can I include information about print journal holdings?
    Yes, link resolvers can include print journal holdings. In many cases you will need to work with your integrated library system staff to export the information from the catalog first and then import the data into the link resolver.
  • Is it possible to customize the interface? e.g. can we provide links to other library services, like Inter Library Loans?
    Yes, link resolvers are highly customizable and can include links to a variety of sources including ILL services, web searching, ability to download citations into bibliographic management software programs, and more.
    It is also possible to include the option to automatically search the library catalogue, or other union catalogues, for print holdings.