“Have you seen AccessMyLibrary?”

I got a note recently from a colleague with the subject “Have you seen AccessMyLibrary?”:

This is a Thomson Gale new thing: http://www.accessmylibrary.com/. I clicked on the link under the search box to view a list of publications, and then tried to drill down to a specific article. It identified me by zip code automatically, presented me with a map and a list of local public libraries so I could select mine, and then asked for my library card number. I plugged in my withheld library card number, and it came back with the full text of the article. It only works for those patrons of libraries who have subscribed to Thomson Gale’s proprietary Remote Patron Authentication system, but the aim is to put the discovery tool in front of the users on the open web. Then if they drill down far enough they either get the article via their library’s subscription or are given the option of plugging in a credit card number to pay for it.

It’s neat, but I get a very uncomfortable feeling from it. It is hard to put my finger on it exactly…part of it is the patronizing tone detectable in the help screens (“At some point in your life, there is a good chance you’ve had an opportunity to use a library. And if you haven’t used one lately, you may not recognize it.”1)…another part is the subtly crass marketing (“Now that you know a bit about us and our service, we hope that you will feel confident when you come across the Thomson Gale brand and products. We also encourage you to contact your local school or public library.”2 — contact my library…to tell them to buy more Thomson Gale products?).

They do have an interesting solution to solving the classic “Where Are You From” (WAYF) problem — that is when you reach a service provider that is demanding authentication/authorization, how does that service provider send the user to the institution holding the identity? Does the individual need to pick from a long list of institutions? Do you store a cookie in the user’s browser? How does the cookie get there in the first place? Looking up the general area of the IP address making the request 3 and plotting institutions on a map to select from is pretty clever.

There is also the “appropriate copy” problem, and Thomson Gale is telegraphing how they intend to solve it — by directing the user to the publisher’s site:

Looking down the road, Thomson Gale will soon introduce a complimentary program to make it easy for web searchers to connect seamlessly to your own web site, too, generating additional site traffic. Publishers will benefit from this web traffic in a number of ways as they gain support for their particular business objectives.4

We’re fortunate in Ohio to have an electronic journal center with 6.5 million articles in thousands of titles — works that have already been paid for by OhioLINK libraries — from a variety of publishers. But even in the absence of that EJC, perhaps the most appropriate copy is a pre-print or post-print in an open archives repository or an author’s own website.

I think this is the portal through which Gale was going to expose its content to open web search engines (a la OpenWorldCat), although I have yet to see any hits come up in Google or Yahoo. If so, ‘accessmylibrary.com’ is probably intended more as a destination of a search rather than a starting point.

I’d applaud Gale for making this attempt, but since Thomson Gale is not the entire world of “award-winning, comprehensive online databases and reference works”5 I’m a bit leery of this go-it-alone approach. If there was any mention of emerging standards like OpenURL or OAI-PMH or working with the major search engine vendors to derive an open standard to feed them information from the “dark web”, then I’d feel better about it.

Anyway, my two cents.

The text was modified to update a link from http://web.archive.org/web/20060426/http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/page_about_pub to http://replay.waybackmachine.org/20060426062011/http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/page_about_pub on January 28th, 2011.

Footnotes

  1. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/page_about_gen, accessed 26-Apr-2006, Internet Archive version (6-12 month delay) []
  2. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/page_about, accessed 26-Apr-2006, Internet Archive version (6-12 month delay) []
  3. http://www.hostip.info/ — although it should be noted that it guessed the OhioLINK office IP address ranges were in Florence, MS. []
  4. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/page_about_pub, accessed 26-Apr-2006, Internet Archive version (6-12 month delay) []
  5. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/page_about , accessed 26-Apr-2006, Internet Archive version (6-12 month delay) []
(This post was updated on 27-Jan-2011.)