Technology & Libraries, Part 4

OpenURL

This technology is all about connecting resources. For example, instead of first searching a library database to find a citation, then opening a new screen and searching the OPAC to see if the library owns it, OpenURL technology allows the searcher to simply click on a link from the citation to get to the library’s holdings. In its databases, the UA Library uses this technology with “Article Linker;” while most library staff would agree it can have its difficulties, when it works well it is a great help to customers in navigating where they need to go next.  OpenURL can serve many other functions; at the UA Library a user can search in WorldCat for an item then simply click a link to request it through Interlibrary Loan; the fields on the online form will be populated automatically with the item’s information.  Connecting information in such a way makes searching through library resources and performing other sorts of tasks a heck of a lot easier.

As OpenURL becomes more mainstream, it certainly has its share of effects on social behavior, particularly information seeking behavior. As mentioned in my previous post, the public are now expecting things to be as convenient and easy to use as possible. OpenURL is a tool to help make searching library OPACs and databases much easier and less frustrating for the user. Searchers’ information seeking behavior is evolving as searchers are becoming used to streamlined information access. Further, as it makes things easier OpenURL has the potential to improve overall access to information; the hope is that searchers will have greater success in finding what they are looking for. And like many other technologies, OpenURL can encourage disintermediation, since it is less likely a library user will have to speak with a library staff member in order to do their research. Again, making things easier means the user should have greater success in their searches, therefore not having to ask for help.

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