Tuesday, November 20, 2012

6 Library related services online that use your library holdings

There's a fascinating discussion going on now (Nov 2012) at the NGC4LIB (Next generation catalogs for libraries) Listserv about the value of cataloguing, RDF, Linked data etc.

First the thread, "Authority in an Age of Open Access" links to a talk given by Clay Shirkey  and there is a brief interesting discussion about how the Smithsonian Institution crowdsourced tags for photos on flickr on the list.

At roughly the same time Karen Coyle (who was also posting on the above thread) posted  also a video of her talk entitled Think Different , there's also a text version. You can find the resulting discussion here

It's a great discussion about the love affair librarians have with alphabetical order (and why it occurred) and why it makes very little sense most of the time now.

She makes to me in the talk a very clear case on how libraries should move away from being “thing” oriented to focus on relationships and supporting knowledge discovery, without referring to buzz words like link data, RDF etc. This is a great quote

"The mission of the library is not to gather physical things into an inventory, but to  organize human 
knowledge that has been very inconveniently packaged."

I also found the following interesting.

"One strong assumption in the library field is that what we have to contribute to the Web and the greater 
information world is the contents of our bibliographic databases. Yet there would be little to be gained by flooding the Web with hundreds of millions of records, most of which already exist. In fact, the Web is awash in bibliographic data, from booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble, to Google Books, which is a mix of actual books and bibliographic data, to book fan sites like LibraryThing and GoodReads"

She goes on to say with the exception of a few special collections, the web mostly does not need our bibliography, what they need among other things is holdings (which she clarifies in the thread is not the only thing we can contribute but is the lowest hanging fruit).

This led me to think not just about books but also about our journal holdings, how easy it is for web services to get at it? Karen mentions openURL of course as one way but that doesn't seem sufficient.

Interestingly enough  I am now aware of the rise of a fairly new group of services that actually use library holdings data. Here's a list


This service is described as "the largest, free collection of scholarly journal Table of Contents (TOCS)".

Also known as a current awareness service, there are over 20,000 journal titles (including 4,852 open access) from over 1,000 publishers included in one place.

It's a free service that researchers can use to create accounts to track journals of interest to receive email alerts or RSS feeds.

You might wonder why a researcher wouldn't go directly to each ejournal site to grab the rss feed or setup an email alert. The answer is simple, it's too much work to figure out with dozens of different interfaces where the rss feed link can be found differs from journal to journal. A single aggregation site makes a lot of sense.

While usage is free for researchers, libraries can customize the service for a fee , this includes the ability to add their openurl settings and gives users more search options including

- in the journals subscribed by your library/institution
- in Open Access journals
- in Open Access journals and your subscribed journals
- in the journals that a particular user is following

For more information about customization see this post

The first is particularly interesting, but requires that the institution send JournalTocs their online holdings as they will need to know in advance what journals you have access to.

As pointed out by some, this has the potential to become a poor's man discovery service, assuming the Tocs go back far enough, as one can search and setup alerts for those searches over tocs of journals subscribed though obviously this search will cover only TOCS and not full text.

Image via http://www.journaltocs.ac.uk/API/blog/?p=899

In addition , with a institutional license, you can also see what journals researchers from your institution have added. So for example, if NUS had a license, we could see how popular Journal of Academic Librarianship is by all researchers with @nus.edu.sg addresses. Other Statistics you can see include

- Number of journals that each user is following
- List of journals for which the user has click-through their websites
- Number of articles per journal for which the user has tried to view the full-text

Google Scholar , PubMed & PubGet

In fact, services that need your holdings in advance to display appropriate results to users isn't new. While most referring sources that support OpenURL do not require knowledge of your holdings in advance to register with Google Scholar's library link programme, you need to send them your library holdings.

This is used to selectively display the "Find it!" (or equalvant link) only when the holdings given to Google Scholar indicate that the article is available.

Google scholar link to full text shown selectively based on holdings 

Pubmed has various options for implementing of full-text linking but two options "Link out local" and "Linkout" , require that they have a copy of the library's holdings (the third option, outside tool works like a normal Openurl option and does not need your holdings).

Similar to Google Scholar, the fact that Pubmed has your holdings will allow them to selectively show the button to link to full text only if you have access to it.

Unlike Google Scholar, but like JournalTocs , it allows makes good use of the holdings given to them to allow users to restrict searches to the library's collection.

Pubmed and holdings filter

Another new service that I am not that familiar with is Pubget, it's like Google Scholar/Pubmed to some extent but currently restricted to life science and it's main selling point is that it can link directly to the pdf from the search results, so you could in theory just download the pdf without even hitting a single page on the ejournal site.

If the library is participating , researchers can use it to get access to full text available only to their institution.

It's unclear to me how the holdings get transferred, the signup page seems to suggest it is automatic? Still it is using your holdings... 

Related to Pubget is Paperstats  a way to track usage of eresources which aggregates usage data from different publishers. Somewhat similar to Serialssolutions 360counter service I think.

Watch the webinar, there's a interesting slide entitled holdings are the cogs.. and talks about the importance of holdings...

Mendeley Institutional Edition

Mendeley is known to many librarians as a reference manager/pdf management, but I have argued (with a bit of hyperbole) that's it has greater ambitions than that.

In case you are not familiar, in a nutshell, because so many researchers are using Mendeley to add documents in their libraries for pdf and reference management, Mendeley has plenty of data, they can exploit.  150 million unique items (as of Jan 2012) are searchable in Mendeley thanks to the items imported by users, information about what researchers add to their libraries also allow smart recommendations etc.

Users can add openurl setting on their own (endnote, zotero and other reference managers are similar) without libraries having a institutional version.

I added my OpenURL setting to Mendeley

 However, if libraries sign up to the institution versions , libraries can obtain usage data of their researchers. For example what journals are being added to their mendeley libraries.

I am informed Mendeley needs to know your holdings for certain statistics.

I believe, Mendeley currently doesn't do this, it could in theory use your holdings to show only results you would have access to (like Pubmed, Journaltocs, PubGet)


The newest of the services listed here is a very new service that targets the iPad and tablet using researchers.

The idea is simple to provide a one-stop app for researchers who want to access all their journals from one app. The company has approached various publishers and obtained permission to feed the table of contents into their app.

Libraries will then indicate to Browzine what their holdings are. When researchers login, they will be presented only with the journals they have access to , which they can add to their favourites/book shelves.

Add a couple of niffy features such as a ability to export to reference managers (Mendeley, Zotero and dropbox ) and push alerts of new issues you have a fairly compelling service.

This idea is in many ways remiscient of JournalTOCs and web discovery services except this aggregates ejournal content on tablets.

Rather than dealing with multiple apps each with its own quirks in interface and worse yet differences in authentication (which currently there is no standard way of doing so, though I would like the way Browzine does it to become standard), Browzine simplifies everything.

Again similar to the other services in the list, browzine needs your holdings for this to work.

Bonus LibX

Libx is of course a well known browser tool/plugin that many libraries support. When installed it gives the user a host of library related functions including but not limited to

  • hotlinking of issn/isbn/pmids/doi , so when you click on it, it will use the appropriate library service (library catalogue search, A-Z list, Openurl resolver) to try to find the item.
  • Ability to highlight any text and right click to search using library services
  • "Cues" on papers like Google, amazon that you can click to go to library services
  • authenticate on ejournal pages with ezproxy or WAM
  • support for sites that embed their metadata using COINS

Via http://libx.org/how-to-set-up-libx-with-the-summon-api/

This is very close to what Karen was talking about I believe about enhancing web data with our holdings though this does not use Rich snipplets  and arguably relying on users to install plugins isn't scalable.


As it stands now, our holding data is starting to "leak out" into other services. The simplest way of course which requires no co-operation from libraries is simply for services to construct urls that search our catalogues, discovery services, A-Z services, OpenURL (with COINS) with the right settings.

But as we can see, some services like PubMed, Google Scholar, Mendeley for institutions, Journaltocs, prefer to have library holdings in advance so they can scope out results. The main issue here is that there doesn't seem to be a automated way to handle this, and librarians end up having to export their holdings from their knowledgebase and sending it manually to each provider.

Leaving aside issues on whether this is allowed by the knowledge base vendors , this doesn't seem to be sustainable to maintain manually so many different silos of holdings.

What about APIs? This seems promising, with so many of the web scale management systems putting "open APIs" in their feature set.... , APIs would seem to be a way for libraries to enable other services outside the library to use it to enhance their services with our holdings, though whether Google would bother beyond a niche service (in Google's eye) like Google scholar is unclear.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Share this!

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...