It's a pretty widely accepted fact here at K-State Libraries that SFX, aka Get It, plays a huge role in the services we provide for our users. Inevitably, and partly because SFX is so heavily used, we encounter problems with how SFX directs people to resources. Such problems, for the most part, have one of three possible causes:
- The data we put into SFX is wrong. Once we know about them, we fix these errors pretty quickly.
- The data contained in an incoming OpenURL is wrong. Information providers have to fix these errors; depending on the provider a fix can take anywhere from a day to a month or even longer.
- The incoming OpenURL itself is wrong, i.e.: it is incorrectly formed according to the rules for OpenURLs.
You'll notice I didn't mention a fix for the third cause? Right. That's because there isn't a good fix just now. Libraries have no control over how an individual information provider chooses to form the OpenURLs destined for a library's link resolver. Information providers have little incentive, other than a wish to do the right thing, to conform their OpenURL practices to the published standard. This unfortunate situation is about to change.Since the form of an OpenURL and the data descriptors it contains are prescribed by a published standard (ANSI/NISO Z39.88), you'd think malformed OpenURLs almost never happen. After all, the point of an information standard is to give everyone using a technology the same set of rules. But badly-formed OpenURLs arrive at libraries' link resolvers all the time and, until recently, there was very little we could do even to prove it was happening because much of the evidence was anecdotal.
Enter the OpenURL Quality Metrics project, run by Adam Chandler at Cornell University. The idea behind this project is to examine the incoming OpenURLs sent to link resolvers by information providers, identify OpenURLs that cannot result in delivery of the requested service (full text linking, library catalog, etc), and determine whether specific information providers routinely send malformed OpenURLs. The eventual goal of the work is to create an ongoing set of measurements that libraries can use to evaluate information providers' effectiveness as sources of OpenURL linking. Adam's blog, presentations about this project, and link to the current reporting system are at http://openurlquality.blogspot.com.
K-State has contributed incoming OpenURL data to this project. I haven't yet begun to analyze it using the reporting system's tools; I'll report more about the data itself as soon as I have. For this post, let's go back to the phrase, "K-State has contributed...data." I'll tell you a story about the work behind those four innocent-sounding words.