Archive for the ‘OpenURL’ Category

What is Umlaut anyway?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

What is Umlaut anyway?

From the webpage:

Umlaut is software for libraries (you know the kind with books), which deals with advertising services for specific known citations. It runs as Ruby on Rails application via an engine gem.

Umlaut could be called an ‘open source front-end for a link resolver’ — Umlaut accepts requests in OpenURL format, but has no knowledge base of it’s own, it can be used as a front-end for an existing knowledge base. (Currently SFX, but other plugins can be written).

And that describes Umlaut’s historical origin and one of it’s prime use cases. But in using and further developing Umlaut, I’ve come to realize that it has a more general purpose, as a new kind of infrastructural component.

Better, although a bit buzzword laden:

Umlaut is a just-in-time aggregator of “last mile” specific citation services, taking input as OpenURL, and providing an HTML UI as well as an api suite for embedding Umlaut services in other applications.

(In truth, that’s just a generalization of what your OpenURL Link Resolver does now, but considered from a different more flexible vantage).

Reading under Last Mile, Specific Citation I find:

Umlaut is not concerned with the search/discovery part of user research. Umlaut’s role begins when a particular item has been identified, with a citation in machine-accessible form (ie, title, author, journal, page number, etc., all in seperate elements).

Umlaut’s role is to provide the user with services that apply to the item of interest. Services provided by the hosting institution, licensed by the hosting institution, or free services the hosting institution wishes to advertise/recommend to it’s users.

Umlaut strives to supply links that take the user in as few clicks as possible to the service listed, without ever listing ‘blind links’ that you first have to click on to find out whether they are available. Umlaut pre-checks things when neccesary to only list services, with any needed contextual info, such that the user knows what they get when they click on it. Save the time of the user.

Starts with a particular subject (nee item) and maps known services to it.

Although links to subscriber services are unlikely to be interchangeable, links to public domain resources or those with public identifiers would be interchangeable. Potential for a mapping syntax? Or transmission of the “discovery” of such resources?

Rethinking Library Linking: Breathing New Life into OpenURL

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Rethinking Library Linking: Breathing New Life into OpenURL Authors: Cindi Trainor and Jason Price


OpenURL was devised to solve the “appropriate copy problem.” As online content proliferated, it became possible for libraries to obtain the same content from multiple locales: directly from publishers and subscription agents; indirectly through licensing citation databases that contain full text; and, increasingly, from free online sources. Before the advent of OpenURL, the only way to know whether a journal was held by the library was to search multiple resources. An OpenURL link resolver accepts links from library citation databases (sources) and returns to the user a menu of choices (targets) that may include links to full text, the library catalog, and other related services (figure 1). Key to understanding OpenURL is the concept of “context sensitive” linking: links to the same item will be different for users of different libraries, and are dependent on the library’s collections. This issue of Library Technology Reports provides practicing librarians with real-world examples and strategies for improving resolver usability and functionality in their own institutions.


OpenURL (ANSI/NISO Z39.88-2004 archives


  1. OCLC says of OpenURL

    Remember the card catalog? Everything in a library was represented in the card catalog with one or more cards carrying bibliographic information. OpenURL is the internet equivalent of those index cards.

  2. True? 3-5 pages, no citations, or
  3. False? 3-5 pages, no citations.