Posts Tagged ‘OpenURL’

Linking to different parts of a reading list from Blackboard

Posted on September 12th, 2013 by Paul Stainthorp

All 2013-2014 Sites in the University of Lincoln’s Blackboard VLE contain a menu button which links to a reading list page for that module (or award, etc.)

Blackboard button image

When a user clicks on this button, Blackboard checks the reading list system for available lists, by taking the Blackboard Site ID (e.g. SOW3007M-1314), stripping off the academic session suffix (-1314) and polling to see if one or more reading lists is associated with the module/award code (SOW3007M).

The lists are then displayed in a table, with links out to the reading lists themselves – these links open in a new browser window, rather than within a Blackboard frame.

Screenshot from Blackboard showing available lists

As well as these standard menu buttons, it’s possible to add direct links to reading lists or parts of reading lists, from within a Blackboard “Learning Materials” section or similar.

General points:

  • Pretty much all internal URLs in the reading list system are stable – so if you find a URL which begins “…” you’re pretty safe to link to it from Bb.
  • It’s better to set links to open in a new window. Reading list pages within a Blackboard frame don’t always display very nicely: it can also sometimes cause problems with authentication.
  • See the Blackboard help guides page for instructions on adding links to Bb.

Here are 6 different things you can link to in a reading list:

  1. Directly to the whole reading list itself, bypassing the information page that you see when you click on a Bb menu button. Just go to the reading list (via the Blackboard menu or by searching, and copy the URL from the address bar. This can then be pasted into Blackboard.
  2. A section of a reading list, where the list is divided into sections. This might be helpful with linking to week-by-week reading from different parts of the Bb site. To do this:
  3. An individual item on a reading list. Within the reading list, right-click on the link to the item and select “Copy link address” (Google Chrome) / “Copy Shortcut” (Internet Explorer) – or navigate to the item page and copy the URL from the address bar. Then paste the link into Bb. You will see that it’s made up of two parts: the URL of the item itself, and a referrer back to the whole reading list.
  4. For journal articles* where an “Online Resource” button exists, you can copy a direct link to the full text of the article. These links are a useful way of creating a stable URL to a full-text article which can be used outside of the reading list itself. *Don’t use this method to link to ebooks. Ebook links aren’t constructed in the same way as article links (which are OpenURLs) and are not as stable. Link to the item page (point 3) instead.
  5. A downloadable “RIS” file of all items on the reading list which students can import into their RefWorks account. This will provide a much more accurate bibliography/citation style than the reading list software itself provides. To get this link, go to the reading list and click on “Export“, then right-click on “Export citations” and select “Copy link address” (Google Chrome) / “Copy Shortcut” (Internet Explorer). Paste the URL into Blackboard. Alternatively, just stick “.ris” on the end of an existing reading list URL instead of “.html”
  6. A downloadable PDF version of the reading list, better for printing off. Go to the reading list and click on “Export“, then right-click on “Export to PDF” and select “Copy link address” (Google Chrome) / “Copy Shortcut” (Internet Explorer). Paste the URL into Blackboard. Alternatively, just stick “.pdf” on the end of an existing reading list URL instead of “.html”

Has anyone got any other ideas of useful parts of a reading list that can be linked to from Blackboard?

I’ve deliberately left out the “View bibliography” option (which is still in beta) because we’re not happy with the citation style. Instead, use point 5 above, and refer your students to use RefWorks and the new referencing guide and app.

New content on the e-journals A-to-Z

Posted on October 10th, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp

A few things that have been added/updated recently on the Electronic Journals A-to-Z. New and updated full-text holdings should shortly be reflected in Find it at Lincoln.

Brand-new e-journal packages and titles:

Holdings updated:

Authentication changes:


[1] I’ve not been able to find (by searching through Cambridge’s “Account Administrator” pages) a holdings file for our Cambridge University Press subscriptions—at least, not in a format that we are able to use in the A-to-Z—so the 40-odd titles in this package have been checked individually against the Cambridge Journals website. For that reason, I can’t guarantee that they are 100% accurate.

[2] The ScienceDirect Freedom Collection package in the A-to-Z knowledgebase does not have any holdings defined – libraries have to add their own custom holdings dates. I added ours this by ordering an “Electronic Holdings Report” from Elsevier’s admin tool, then downloading the A-to-Z holdings and using an Excel =LOOKUP() formula to match against ISSNs common to both spreadsheets. This is very fiddly and unfortunately will have to be re-done at intervals.
Screenshot from Elsevier

[3] Created using SwetsWise’s “Download Publication List” feature, re-formatted for the A-to-Z. Again, this has to be re-done at intervals as our Swets subscriptions change.
Screenshot from SwetsWise

[4] Links to HeinOnline journals/articles will now automatically log the user in via OpenAthens (federated access). However there are a couple of residual problems with these links: some of the OpenURL data for an individual article is not being passed through correctly (leading to the occasional error), and also the authentication does not work properly in non-Microsoft browsers – e.g. Chrome, Firefox. For the time being (while HeinOnline technical support address the issue) there is a note on the A-to-Z advising people to use Internet Explorer if they can. This is obviously not ideal.
Screenshot from the A-to-Z

Article finder form on the e-journals A-to-Z

Posted on May 11th, 2012 by Paul Stainthorp

The e-journals A-to-Z website now includes an article finder.

Fill in the form with the details of the article you are trying to locate, and the A-to-Z will display links to available electronic full-text copies (or—if the full text isn’t available at the University of Lincoln—information about inter-library loans and other services).

Screenshot of the A-to-Z article finder

If you are presented with a login screen and the message: “We could not authenticate your request. Please sign in“, please click on the ‘ATHENS Login’ link to see the links to available full-text copies. If you access the A-to-Z via the University Portal, you should not see this message.

Screenshot of the login page

If you have any problems accessing or using the article finder service, please let the Library know.

Ook Nog! Ook Nog! University of Liverpool student team win #DevXS library activity data prize

Posted on November 19th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

Four students from the University of Liverpool calling themselves Team Ook Nog took the prize for the best use of library activity data at last weekend’s DevXS student hackathon in Lincoln. Their application used the openly-licensed national OpenURL router data from EDINA and used it to build a search/recommendation tool for scholarly journal articles. You can see the fruits of their labour here

#DevXS - Team Boss Ook Nog

Jude-Thaddeus Ojiaku, Andrew Collins, Arnoud Pastink and Thomas Gorry built the Ook Nog site in a marathon development session over 30 hours in the Engine Shed. A simple Google-like search box (very Google-like!) displays results of articles and books derived solely from the OpenURL router data (example); each result has context-sensitive links out to, OCLC firstsearch, CORE repository search, and Google Scholar. Clicking on any search result shows a chart of activity for that article, along with “See Also…” suggestions for other articles accessed by the same user in a similar timeframe. Take a look at the results.

From the DevXS wiki:

“Ook Nog is an interface for the data provided by openurl allowing you to search all of the data for any term and find search terms within their archive. By selecting any prior search term, you can then browse all search terms that were also performed by that user(s) within a small time period.

“All publications/searches are nodes. A node shares an edge with another node if a user has searched both nodes. We try to increase the chance of relevance by only showing neighbours of a node that were formed +- 90 days (a semester!).

“Despite no further tests of relevancy, the searches/publications found can be surprisingly similar (or amusing).”

The team from Liverpool pipped their traditional regional rivals to the library prize – Team MCR, made up of student developers from 3 different Manchester universities (University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Salford). Team MCR built a working DevXS library app based around course reading lists with some interesting social ranking features, designed with great care using the Balsamiq wireframe UI tool, and making use of several open bibliographic datasets including the MOSAIC project data and Cambridge University Library’s search APIs. For their trouble, they picked up the #DevXS ‘social’ prize, awarded by the University of Lincoln Social Research Centre (LiSC).

DevXS was brilliant. Thanks again to Ian Snowley for the idea of donating a University of Lincoln Library prize. £250 in Amazon vouchers are on their way to Liverpool now.

Creating stable links to e-journal articles by hand (Blackboard / OpenURL / “Find it @ Lincoln”)

Posted on September 23rd, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

It can be maddeningly difficult to create stable, persistent, reliable links to articles in e-journals from Blackboard. Links copied from publishers’ websites sometimes don’t include all the information needed to locate the article properly, or else they bypass the authentication processes needed to access an electronic journal: meaning that students aren’t logged in correctly, especially when using Blackboard off campus.

These sorts of links also break very easily – if a publisher alters its website, or if the Library changes its online database subscriptions.

Below is a reliable—albeit long-winded—way of creating persistent links to articles that should always work when placed in a Blackboard site. This method routes all links via “Find it @ Lincoln“, the University of Lincoln’s OpenURL link resolver software (provided by EBSCO). This software will present the user with links to the most appropriate [electronic] copy/ies of an article available.

Find it at Lincoln button

For example, taking the journal article:

  • Martin, J., et al. (1993) An accurate ab initio quartic force field for formaldehyde and its isotopomers. Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy, 160(1): pp.105–116

[N.B. Lincoln doesn't actually have electronic access to that article!]

We can build up a stable URL (web link) out of the following building blocks: up to 12 elements, strung together to form a great long link containing the citation details:


This is the ‘base’ for the URL, routed through the national EDINA OpenURL Router service, and authenticating the user via the UK Access Management Federation. The national router service logs requests and provides a standardised, platform-independent web address at

[2] ?url_ver=Z39.88-2004

This tells our link resolver, a.k.a. “Find it @ Lincoln”, what version of the OpenURL standard (ANSI/NISO standard Z39.88-2004) to expect.

[3] &genre=article

This tells the link resolver to expect a journal article, rather than some other sort of publication.

[4] &rft_id=info:doi/__________

Fill in the blank space with the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) of the article, if one exists. For example: &rft_id=info:doi/10.1006/jmsp.1993.1161

[5] &issn=__________

Fill in the blank with the ISSN. For example: &issn=0022-2852

[6] &volume=_________

Fill in the blank with the volume number. For example: &volume=160

[7] &issue=__________

Fill in the blank with the issue number. For example: &issue=1

[8] &spage=__________

Fill in the blank with the number of the first page of the article. For example: &spage=105

[9] &aulast=__________

Fill in the blank with the surname of the lead author. For example: &aulast=Martin

[10] &aufirst=__________

Fill in the blank with the first initial of the lead author. For example: &aufirst=J

[11] &atitle=__________

Fill in the blank with the title of the article. Replace any spaces with a ‘+’ character. Percent-encode any nonalphanumeric characters (&%*/!£$, etc.). For example: &atitle=An+accurate+ab+initio+quartic+force+field+for+formaldehyde+and+its+isotopomers

[12] &title=__________

Fill in the blank with the name of the journal. Replace any spaces with a ‘+’ character. Percent-encode any nonalphanumeric characters (&%*/!£$, etc.). For example: &title=Journal+of+Molecular+Spectroscopy

…stringing all of the above together gives a finished URL which looks like this:

Once you’ve built it up, you can take the finished link and add it to a Blackboard Site by using the ‘Build Content’ menu to add a URL.

Screenshot from Blackboard

Paste your link into the URL box on the ‘Create URL’ page, and give it a Name (that’s the text the student will see, and the bit they will click on to access the article) and a Description.

You should also scroll down to the option marked ‘Open in New Window’ and select ‘Yes‘. If you don’t do this, your students may not be able to log in to the journal article. Then hit ‘Submit’.

Screenshot from Blackboard

It will then appear on Blackboard as hyperlinked text. When students click on the link, they will be asked to log in via Athens, then will see options for accessing the article online (or in print, if an e-version is not available).


  • Don’t worry if you don’t have all the details of the citation: just leave out the elements you’re missing. Find it @ Lincoln will do its best to locate the article from even a partial citation.
  • If your link is very long, Blackboard may truncate it – breaking it in the process. If this happens, reduce the length of the URL by passing it through a link shortening service such as Linking You (for example: the shortened link for the article above is, then add that URL to Blackboard instead.
  • You should percent encode any nonalphanumeric characters—i.e.many of the characters or symbols which appear in this list—that appear as part of the article title, the name of the journal, and potentially even accented letters in the name of the author. Doing so makes it much less likely that your link will break.
  • Remember to set the link to ‘Open in New Window’ from within Blackboard. This ensures the authentication processes will run correctly, and is also good practice from a copyright perspective.
  • A very small number of electronic journals do not permit you to link to them from Blackboard; the most notable being the Harvard Business Review (issn:0017-8012). The terms of use of that e-journal specifically prohibit your linking to it in the course of your teaching. (Crazy, I know.)
  • See the ANSI/NISO standard Z39.88-2004 documentation for more information about the OpenURL standard. Or read this Library Journal article (from 2004 but still relevant) or the Wikipedia page.
  • If you need any help with creating these links and adding them to Blackboard, please contact your subject librarian, or email:

Managing e-journal holdings: different types of package: any tips?

Posted on June 9th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

The University of Lincoln Library provides access to lots and lots of electronic journals72,000-odd unique e-journal titles, at last count.

Some of these 72,000 titles are individual subscriptions – that is, journals that we pick off the shelf and pay for one-by-one – because they’re particularly appropriate to the teaching/research of the University. Many, many more of them are journals that come to us as part of a one-size-fits-all “Big Deal” database package, where we have little or no control over the titles on offer, but where there’s a critical mass of valuable content with makes it worth our while to subscribe to the whole thing. Yet more are freebie and/or Open Access titles available on the Internet which we list to make it easy for our users to find them.

In all, we maintain access to 73 separate e-journal packages (plus a handful of individual oddities that don’t form part of a package), and nearly 110,600 e-journal links (a fair number of titles are duplicated across packages).

Screenshot of the A-to-Z

To help us keep tabs on all this content, and to make sense of the many different e-journal access points on behalf of Library users, we make use of a nifty tool called the Electronic Journals A-to-Z, which is provided and maintained by a company called EBSCO Information Services. The A-to-Z consists of:

  • A hosted e-journal ‘knowledgebase': a directory of all the possible e-journals available, from which we can select those titles to which we have access;
  • A public, searchable journal listings site, with tools for customising the display of particular e-journals (or entire packages), including the holdings data (i.e. the start- and end-dates of full-text holdings) for each title;
  • An OpenURL link resolver, which we brand as – Find it @ Lincoln
  • Various admin services including usage reports.

Even with the tools that the A-to-Z provides, it’s still a lot of work to keep on top of so many e-journals from so many different sources. To help us (“us” being me and two colleagues from the E-resources and Acquisitions teams), we maintain an ERM spreadsheet in Google Docs: this contains details of all the acquisitions & technical information we need to manage each package in the list.

The packages fall into four distinct categories [below]; each category has to be maintained in a different way.

  1. Big Deal“-style databases, to which we subscribe in toto. These cause little or no bother. EBSCO do most of the work for us. Their A-to-Z knowledgebase contains details of all the titles in the database; EBSCO add new titles and remove old ones for us; we can be reasonably confident that their holdings data accurately reflect the database. The only real problems we have with these (and all) packages are around authentication – but that’s another story. This class of packages includes all the EBSCOhost databases (such as Academic Search Elite), most business databases, quite a few packages from JISC Collections, and all Open-Access platforms.
  2. “Vendor packages”, made up of a selection of individual titles from a single publisher or journal aggregator. Although all the titles exist within the knowledgebase, ready to be selected, EBSCO have no way of knowing in advance which titles we hold (save for a few titles for which EBSCO Information Services act as our ‘subscription agent’ – keeping up with all this?), nor the details of our full-text holdings. These packages (which include most of the high-impact scholarly journals from recognised academic publishers; those which—by definition—the Academic Subject Librarians have chosen on their constituencies’ behalf) are hard work to maintain, as well as being very prone to error. For any more than a small handful of titles, we can’t possibly keep on top of them ‘manually’, and must rely on downloaded publishers’ holdings reports, which we then have to process into an EBSCO-friendly, tab-delimited format before uploading them to the A-to-Z. Publishers rarely make their holdings reports available in an immediately usable format, and subscription holdings tend to be irritatingly regularly subject to change, making this the Forth Bridge (Sisyphean task for non UK-ers!) of e-resources admin. We’re starting to try and reduce the size of the job by looking to see if all of these packages are absolutely necessary: I’ve a suspicion that some of the smaller publishers could be rolled up into the larger ‘aggregator’ packages with no loss of access.
  3. “Other” titles that don’t belong to any package. These represent a tiny proportion of our e-journals (we currently list 45 “Other” titles out of 72,000 = 0.06%) and an even more minuscule proportion of our overall usage… BUT are responsible for a disproportionately large amount of work: especially around authentication. For that reason, I try and keep the number of “Other” titles to the absolute minimum possible. I’ll use any excuse to drop one :-)
  4. Finally, what EBSCO refers to as “Custom” collections (we have 13 in total): ‘local’ packages (for local people?): stuff that doesn’t appear in EBSCO’s knowledgebase at all. This is a grab-bag of oddities, experiments, print holdings (surprisingly popular), RSS feeds, and packages with really, really funky authentication requirements. Same as for the Vendor packages in 2, we have to add these to the A-to-Z by constructing and uploading a tab-delimited file. Again, I battle to keep these “Custom” packages to a minimum: but in actual fact they’re less trouble than they might be. We have complete control over the data, so they’re relatively easy to update, and they tend to be fairly low-maintenance once they’re up and running.

You can browse a list of our current e-journal packages at:

I’d really, really like to simplify things, especially for classes 3 and 4. Question for fellow e-resources librarians: what tricks do you have for managing your e-journal packages and holdings information?

Taking the register

Posted on May 23rd, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

In talking about authentication issues, the notion kept coming up that single, central, shared registries of information about libraries (e.g. the WorldCat Registry) could be valuable in helping publishers to make it easier for users to navigate to subscribed content via their own institution’s login option(s).

This spurred me to thinking: in what central/shared registries are our library details held, and what use can I [and our students/staff] make of this information?

This’ll be one of those blog posts that I’m still adding to in a year’s time, as I remember more stuff. I’ve(And a passing thought – wouldn’t it be cool if there was a single über-registry for libraries that brought all of these details together using a single API? Anyone?)

The University of Lincoln has library information registered with:

1. ISIL – International Standard Identifier for Libraries

An ISIL is like an ISBN or ISSN for an entire library: a way of uniquely and unambiguously identifying “an organization, or one of its subordinate units, throughout its life“. We have an ISIL for each of our five libraries, assigned to us a year ago by the British Library (the UK national agency for the ISIL). We use them for RFID stock control; to associate a copy of a book with its home library. The ISIL standard is ISO 15511:2009. Our five ISILs are:

GB-UkLiUGCW University of Lincoln: Great Central Warehouse University Library
GB-UkLiUTRR University of Lincoln: Theology Reading Room, Chad Varah House
GB-UkLiURPC University of Lincoln: Riseholme Park Campus Library
GB-UkSnHOC University of Lincoln: Holbeach Campus Library
GB-UkHlHUC University of Lincoln: Hull Campus Library

2. LibraryThing local

LibraryThing local ( is a user-maintained directory and “gateway to thousands of local bookstores, libraries and book festivals“. LibraryThing users can create and edit entries for individual libraries, browse libraries by geographical area (including via a nice Google Maps display), add libraries to a list of favourites, and subscribe to RSS feeds of library events in their area (e.g.). We don’t really make use of these features – we don’t run a lot of ‘public’ events at the moment.

We’ve had directory entries since 2009 for four out of our five libraries, which I’ve “claimed” using my own LT account – writing this, I’ve noticed that the Theology Reading Room doesn’t have an entry.

  1. University of Lincoln – GCW University Library
  2. University of Lincoln – Theology Reading Room [no entry]
  3. University of Lincoln – Riseholme Park Campus Library
  4. University of Lincoln – Hull Campus Library
  5. University of Lincoln – Holbeach Campus Library

3. OpenURL registry

Our OpenURL link resolver (EBSCO LinkSource) is registered with the OpenURL Router service, maintained by EDINA for all UK HE and FE institutions. The registry holds details of our base URL for constructing links, our preferred link resolver button image Find it @ Lincoln, and our authentication details (UK Federation scope and IP ranges).

Registry entry at:

Service providers can construct OpenURLs for our users with the base URL:

4. Talis Silkworm Directory

We have (had?) entries in the Talis Silkworm Directory (directory.­talis.­com) for all five of our libraries. This is (was?) a community-driven open directory of information about libraries, that powers (powered?) mashups like Philip Adams’ SCONUL Access libraries maps on the De Montfort University library website.

As you can probably tell from my present/past tense confusion above, I don’t know if this directory is still operational. I’d heard it was defunct some time ago, and it now appears that the subdomain has been switched off.

5. Social networking websites

The GCW University Library has a page on Foursquare, the “location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier to use and more interesting to explore”. An interesting one this – it’s not a library-focused service, and not one we ‘control’ (though the official @unilincoln Twitter account is listed as ‘staff’), but probably the site that most of our users will interact with.

We also have a Flickr profile: I used it to upload a set of (mainly) historical photos of the GCW building, back in October/November 2008. I haven’t used it since. We’ve never bothered with specific Library accounts on Twitter or Facebook*.

6. UK Access Management Federation

We’re a member of the UK Access Management Federation: this controls all sorts of authentication to third-party electronic resources and comes with its own set of jargon:

7. WorldCat Registry

This is the newest one on me: although I think I remember someone from OCLC (Mark Allcock?) talking about it at the first UK Mashed Library event in 2008; it was only a Twitter conversation last week that promopted me to look at it in earnest.

Again, four out of our five libraries already have profiles (which I’ve now “claimed”). I’m still exploring the site, and I haven’t yet updated/registered all of our details, so I’m not entirely sure what benefits we can get from it – I’d appreciate any advice from WorldCat Registry old hands. I don’t understand how the WorldCat Registry relates to the WorldCat Affiliate Tools—if at all—either.

  1. University of Lincoln, GCW University Library
  2. University of Lincoln, Theology Reading Room [no entry]
  3. University of Lincoln, Riseholme Park Campus Library
  4. University of Lincoln, Hull Campus Library
  5. University of Lincoln, Holbeach Campus Library

8. Document supply (added 23 May 2011)

Owen Stephens suggested this one. We’re listed in the British Library’s Directory of Library Codes for document supply, where we have our own identifier (it’s HL/C-3). I’m sure my colleagues in inter-library loans won’t hit me for not knowing that off the top of my head.

LibX browser toolbar for libraries

Posted on April 14th, 2011 by Paul Stainthorp

Following a tipoff from fellow URL-botherer Chris Keene of the University of Sussex, I’ve started to take a look at LibX.

LibX ( is a browser plugin for Firefox (and IE) that provides direct access to a library’s resources. A library creates an ‘edition‘ of LibX, registers the details of the library’s catalogues, OpenURL resolver, proxies etc., configures text and images, and ends up with a personalised browser plug-in which (once the user has installed it) provides a toolbar search box and all sorts of page enhancements including “embedded cues” for book titles and ISBNs within a web page.

See their screenshots and screencasts at:

I’ve registered a draft University of Lincoln edition (“Revision #1″) of LibX. You can install the plugin, for Firefox and IE, from this draft edition page.

Screenshot of the University of Lincoln draft LibX toolbar in Firefox

If you’re interested in helping me to build and test it, let me know.