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Monthly Archives: May 2011

I’ll flesh out this blog post later on today, but just wanted to post some screenshots (partly as a rebuttal to Nicole’s blog post “Some thoughts about (authentication) discovery aimed at librarians“) to show how well EZproxy fits as the authentication layer between a discovery service (such as Summon) and journal articles on publisher sites.

As Nicole well knows, I’m not a librarian and I couldn’t give two hoots about the “official CILIP endorsed librarian way of doing things” (n.b. my quote, not Nicole’s) when it comes to e-resource access. All I care about is trying to get the user to where they want to be (e.g. the full text of a journal article) with the least number of mouse clicks, and the least amount of swearing, frustration and death-threats against the library for making it so flippin’ difficult ;-D

[edit] Apologies — I didn’t mean to imply that librarians don’t care about users. I just took offence when I felt Nicole’s post implied this was a librarian problem and/or that librarians were the root cause of the problem. As I’m not a librarian myself, I felt it was wrong to infer that anything I say or do is endorsed by, or represents, librarianship in general, or is the way a librarian would choose to do it. To the best of my knowledge, librarians perfer not to have barriers (such as stupidly complicated publisher log in pages) in the way when it comes to accessing information.

This first example is about as good as it gets. A student uses Summon to locate an article (“Ethics, Public Policy, and Global Warming”)…

…when they click on the article link, Summon opens a new browser window and passes the OpenURL details for the article to the link resolver (360 Link). If the user isn’t already authenticated (e.g. by accessing Summon via the University Portal or via the VLE), they’ll need to log in. If they have already authenticated, then they don’t see this screen at all.

The login process logs the user into EZproxy, and also establishes an Athens session in the background (which isn’t required to access the article, but might be useful it they end up wandering off to look at other resources)…

…as this particular article is on JSTOR, the user is able to view the article straight away (via the “Page Scan” preview) or they can choose to download the PDF…

So, from Summon, there’s either a single click (if the user has already authenticated) or two clicks (if the user needs to log in) to get to the full-text (or a page that has a link to the PDF). Ignoring the ethical/moral/technical/philosophical issues of using a proxy solution instead of Shib, I think this is as good as it gets for students.

If they do have to authenticate, it’s a familiar login page and they’re not having to figure out which link on the publisher’s web site to use — do they try putting their university network login details into the username & password fields (1), do they scroll through a list of nearly 200 institutions (2) to find Huddersfield (and are we “University of Huddersfield” or “Huddersfield University”?) …or can they remember that the librarian told them to look for the “Athens” link (3) during the library induction all those months ago?

Plus, if they’ve found this article via Google Scholar, how do then even know if they have access to it? If you want to frustrate a student, nothing does it better than pointing them at a useful article that they can’t access ;-D

This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a role for Shib/Athens, but I feel it’s a different part of the jigsaw puzzle. If I’m an off-campus Huddersfield student wanting to get to ScienceDirect, there’s lots of ways to get there, but one of the simplest is to just Google “science direct huddersfield” (we don’t tell students about EZproxy, so they would never include that as a search term on Google)…

…where the first result takes them through to our electronic resources wiki page for ScienceDirect (which is where most of the other routes end up)…

…the first “Access Link” is the Athens link to ScienceDirect and the (slightly superfluous) note beneath is really just for students who’ve gone directly to ScienceDirect and who aren’t sure which of the various login options to select on the site.

I’m journeying down to Llandrindod Wells tomorrow to give a presentation about usage data to the Welsh Libraries, Archives and Museums Conference (hashtag #cilipw11). I’ve been promised that there’ll be real ale there :-)

You can grab a draft copy of my presentation (“If you want to get laid, go to college…”) from here (15MB).

The main web links in the presentation are:

- JISC Library Impact Data Project
- JISC Activity Data Programme (including a list of the projects)
- Rufus Pollock (Open Data and Componentization, XTech 2007)
- Paul Walk (“The coolest thing to do with your data will be thought of by someone else”)
- University of Huddersfield – Open Data Release (from Dec 2008)

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