Getting a user from an identified citation to access

On 2/23/2012 2:45 PM, Karen Coyle wrote (on Code4Lib listserv):

This links to thoughts I’ve had about linked data and finding a way to use library holdings over the Web. Obviously, bibliographic data alone is [not] a full service: people want to get the stuff once they’ve found out that such stuff exists. So how do we get users from the retrieval of a bibliographic record to a place where they have access to the stuff?

Emphasis mine. I think that emphasized sentence is exactly right as a problem libraries (which provide various methods of access to items people may find out about elsewhere) should be focusing on more than they do. And not just “bibliographic record”, but from retrieval of any scholarly/documentary/published citation to a place where they have access to it?

I’ve mentioned before that this is in fact exactly the mission of the Umlaut software.

It’s definitely a work in progress, I’m not saying Umlaut “solves” this problem, for anyone let alone for everyone.   But Umlaut’s totally targetted at this problem.

My thinking behind Umlaut’s architecture these days is that you’ve got to have software which can take a machine-described “thing someone is interested in” and tell them everything that your institution (which they presumably are affiliated with) can do for them for that item. That’s exactly what Umlaut tries to do, providing a platform that you can use to piece together information from your various silo’d knowledge bases and third party resources, etc.  And including ALL your stuff, monographs etc., not just journal articles like typical “link resolvers”.

After that (and even that is hard), you’ve got to figure out how to _get_ people from “where they’ve found out about something” to your service for telling them what they can do with it via your institution. That’s not an entirely solved problem. One reason Umlaut speaks “OpenURL” is there is already a substantial infrastructure of things in the academic market that can express a “thing someone knows about” in OpenURL and send it to your local software (including Google Scholar). (It’s not because I am particularly fond of OpenURL as a standard or a metadata vocabulary).  But that academic market infrastructure is still not nearly enough.

Ultimately some kind of LibX approach is probably required — whether a browser plugin, or a javascript bookmarklet (same sort of thing, different technology), a way to get someone from a third party to your ‘list of services’, even when that third party is completely uninterested in helping them get there (Amazon doesn’t particularly want to help someone who starts at Amazon get somewhere _else_ to buy the book! Others may be less hostile, but just not all that interested in spending any energy on it).

I haven’t spent as much time as I’d like to setting up a LibX that’s customized to work as well as possible with Umlaut. (Umlaut can do more than a typical link resolver, and is going to want more of LibX’s link-outs than is typical in LibX, and maybe some custom ones not yet in LibX). I also have some ideas about trying to create a pure-javascript bookmarklet solution inspired by LibX, but perhaps more maintainable/portable (famous last words), but we’ll see.

(Another thing that would be really nice in the ‘getting from where you are to Umlaut’ category is a reliable human citation parsing function, so someone can just cut and paste a cited work from wherever, and get the menu of what access and services the institution can provide for that item.)

See also What is Umlaut, Anyway? on the Umlaut wiki, for more info on Umlaut’s goals and perspectives.

Umlaut 3.x is currently in alpha testing, but if you’re looking to try it out or get started, definitely start with Umlaut 3.x on that github, don’t even bother with Umlaut 3.x on rubyforge/svn, is my current recommendation.

[And incidentally, just as a tag-on; I’ve certainly had many problems with various kinds of inter-operability and data access in implementing Umlaut. I haven’t had any that make me think “linked data would solve this”. Maybe it’s a failure of my imagination.]


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