Categorization of user-reported broken links in SFX

Kasper Løvschall from  Aalborg University in Denmark posted the following to the SFX user’s listserv. I thought it was interesting enough to deserve wider publication, so reproduce it with his kind permission here. The following text and the work it reports is not mine. 

Two months of broken links reports

by Kasper Løvschall with Lone Ramy Katberg
8 July 2013

Between April 22nd and July 5th we have been going through each and every broken link report reported from our SFX menu to Ex Libris (cc. to us) and have analyzed what was wrong – why did the user report the link as broken?

468 broken links were reported and it breaks down to the following scenarios:


SFX Admin error (6%): The error was corrected by us within SFX admin interface (target/portfolio was enabled/disabled or threshold changed from global to local)

Publisher (16%): The error was reported directly to the publisher (aggregator was informed that the publishing pattern was wrong, that an article was missing, that our access to Taylor and Francis was lost, that we for a period of time had limited access to Lippincott, that we were out of slots for Safari Books, that Ebsco had problems with a new version of Acrobat Reader, etc. etc.)

Insufficient reference (13%): Most often from Google Scholar so SFX is unable to guide the user to the reference or there is information regarding supplement/addendum which SFX is unable to handle

Remote access (5%): It failed (either we forgot to enable proxy in the SFX admin or the resource was missing or insufficient in the proxy configuration)

Pivotal PC (14%): Reported to Pivotal (most often Primo Central records with wrong information unable to guide the user to the correct resource)

Pivotal KB (7%): Reported to Pivotal KB (wrong URL to journal, wrong global thresholds, or journal just isn’t free)

Unknown (39%): We were unable to identify the problem (including links not linking directly to the article page but requiring user to search for the article, pop-up blockers, single-sign-on trouble, users lost overview of the landing page, etc.)

So what can we learn from all that then?

Many errors relate to local (mis) configuration and can be corrected right away. It takes a hell of a lot of time to check up on these errors but it could be well worth the effort as errors do exist on our side. References from both Google Scholar and Primo Central can be problematic and they are not easy for us or others to fix. Only 7% of errors were related to the actual SFX knowledge base. Also 39% of the errors looks as false negatives – e.g. users do not read our notes when SFX are unable to link directly to the article (they expect direct linking). We might be able to provide a better user interface experience or prioritize the targets we present better. We could hide free targets when paid are available but we would seriously disservice users outside the paywalls. So for us this is really not the solution.

Also when we enabled the report broken link functionality in SFX we saw a decline in the number of error reports by mail directly to us. If we just let Ex Libris handle this functionality and don’t look into the issues ourselves we will miss a lot of user requests. The user probably expect that things get fixed when clicking on the link which probably isn’t going to happen (at least within the foreseeable future). This could lead to some negative user experience with our electronic resources as they in these cases do not get fulfilment for their information request and at the same time we are unable to contact and help them directly.

Well, these are our immediate thoughts as of now. We hope that some of them could be of use to you.


One thought on “Categorization of user-reported broken links in SFX”

  1. This would be great if I could figure out how to add a local email address. The instructions in the User Guide simply don’t work :(

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