If you use online research in preparing your blog posts for publication; if you’ve ever faced a news source that’s been closed to you due to restricted access; if you’ve ever searched for a magazine article to find the periodical didn’t even upload it to its server, then pay close attention. The walls are coming tumbling down…
An article by Mark Glaser in Online Journalism Review (Pay or Free: Newspaper Archives Not Ready for Open Web) about obstacles preventing access to online news sources sent me scurrying to Luke Rosenberger’s blog to learn more about OpenURL. It is a new protocol that collaborates with Google Scholar allowing an online researcher to access full text/image versions of periodicals (newspapers, magazines, etc.) and their content. If, like me, you use lots of news and periodical resources for your research in writing blog posts, this is a boon. From the warmth of your own home, you can query the world’s databases for whatever your heart desires. And you get it for free. No more paying $2.95 to access that archived New York Times article. No more hassle because Bernard Avishai’s new article in Harper’s Magazine isn’t even on its website. If it’s in the database, you can find it. There is also a Firefox extension that provides a seamless connection between OpenURL and Google Scholar.
But there are a few caveats: you need a library to provide you access through what’s called a Base Referral Link. This in turn means you need to find a participating library and not every library does. If you work for or study at a university you’re good to go. If you’re an independent researcher like me, you’re out of luck. Also, OpenURL (if I understand it correctly) doesn’t yet allow your blog reader to click on a link to the original source article so they can see it as you can. I don’t know too many blog readers who would be happy with my quoting an article, but not allowing them to read the entire thing if they so chose. So OpenURL isn’t (yet) fully functional as far as blogging is concerned.
In the process of doing OpenURL research, I discovered that while the Seattle Public Library doesn’t participate in OpenURL, it DOES participate in a joint database project which allows all library patrons to do virtually the same thing as OpenURL. All you need is a library card and PIN. Now, the Times can’t hide behind its ‘access firewall’ anymore. Now, Harper’s is open to me. In addition to being able to see the text of the article I can also see a pdf version which displays the article graphically just as it appeared in the publication. Though I haven’t yet confirmed this, I don’t believe that the SPL database access extends to my blog readers as well. I’m expecting that they’d need a library ID and PIN also to access the article URLs I’m seeing. So we’re back where OpenURL is as far as providing full access to our readers. But it is a step in the right direction.