In June, a new service that speeds access to life sciences literature reached a milestone. Called PubGet, it is a service that reduces the number of clicks to the full text of an article, and the milestone was activating the 50th institution using its service. Using its own proprietary “pathing engine”, it links directly to the full text on the publisher’s website. PubGet does this by understanding the link structure for each journal of each publisher and constructing the link to the full-text based on information from the citation. The PubGet service focuses on the life sciences journals indexed in PubMed — hence the play on names: PubMed to PubGet.
Earlier this week I received an e-mail from the director of the ISSN International Center announcing a session at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim to talk about the “linking ISSN”. Abbreviated ISSN-L, this is a new addition to the revised ISSN standard (ISO 3297, published last August) that allows for the collocation of separate ISSNs under a single ISSN-L. The ISSN standard now explicitly states that an
ISSN is a unique identifier for a specific serial in a defined medium. In other words, separate ISSN should be assigned to each different medium version of a serial. The ISSN-L table brings these separate ISSNs together.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It! “Explore History as it Happened: Google News Now Has Archive Search” Extra! Extra!
In my imagination I can see and hear the herald of the newspaper carrier on the street corner barking out this call. Except, Kids These Days would probably decry the use of dead trees to carry stale news and already be reading it on their PDAs and text-messaging each other on their cell phones. As it is, I found out about it through a story on Search Engine Watch (also found in Wall Street Journal and the U.K. Guardian and the New York Times) which itself touted Google’s “200 Year News Archive Search.” It is a nice service; I look at it, though, and have to wonder about the changing — if not outright diminishing — role of libraries as couriers of information. After all, couldn’t links to resources from the user’s local library be included right there next to the commercial article suppliers? If they could, why aren’t they? And what does it mean that they are not?
When it comes to seeking a full-text copy of that known-item citation, are our users asking “what have you done for me lately?” OpenURL has taken us pretty far when one starts in an online environment — a link that sends the citation elements to our favorite link resolver — but it only works when the user starts online with an OpenURL-enabled database. (We also need to set aside for the moment the need for some sort of OpenURL base resolver URL discovery tool — how does an arbitrary service know which OpenURL base resolver I want to use!) What if a user has a citation on a printed paper or from some other non-online form? Could we make their lives easier, too? Here is one way. (Thanks go out to Celeste Feather and Thomas Dowling for helping me think through the possibilities and issues.)