Sunday, October 2, 2005

Thomson Gale's Access My Libary Beta Opens Up Premium Content to Library Patrons On the Web - Kind Of

The announcement of Thomson Gale's Access My Library project back in June seemed to sink into the background fairly quickly but with the fall trade shows beginning to gear up the buzz is increasing again. This is a foresightful project that aims to provide both its own native interface into its premium database online and allowing major search engines to crawl the content for placement in their indexes. Once you find an article you can click on a link, provide your library card number and personal coordinates and boom - you have access to news and journals in the Gale collection. After your first encounter with the library access validation interface the service tracks your identity so that you don't have to re-enter your personal data. Instead, you can go right to the article text, equipped with printing and email forwarding links. The text pages also indicate sponsorship branding for the institution through which access has been provided - a "best practice" suggested by Karen Andrews of UC Davis at the ASIDIC conference a few weeks ago.

Thomson Gale's Access My Library provides a simple but effective interface to locate premium content and to make access to it transparent to patrons of participating libraries and institutions. Making this content available via leading search engines is the beginning of a new era for content aggregation, allowing premium services to maximize their reach to intended audiences via popular Web search interfaces. This move away from proprietary interfaces and location-specific licensing to ubiquitous access via institutional licenses is one of the keys to making The New Aggregation a reality. In this model library licensing is going to play a very important role in increasing the exposure of premium content on the Web - and in increasing the importance of these premium services to their patrons.

However, there is still a fly in the ointment...how do you find this stuff via a major search engine? The native Access My Library search interface works fine enough but in searches on major search engines, including the new premium search interfaces offered by Yahoo! and Google, Gale content that comes up on their native search interface is not to be found. Even full titles of articles with very distinctive titles failed to surface a single article on a wide variety of topics. So as exciting as this is, the story is still incomplete. Hopefully the curtain rises on this story more fully via major search engines some time soon with a little bit of savvy online marketing. Otherwise it's not likely that this interface is going to make much of a splash with library patrons without a lot of hand-holding. In the meantime for those of with local libraries that subscribe to Gale resources (thanks, Westport Public Library!) it's a whole new era for accessing premium content online.
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