Library of Congress tries out Web services

The Library of Congress has begun using the OpenURL draft standard to deliver Web services for its Handbook of Latin American Studies Online.

OpenURL automatically hooks up online bibliographies and citations to Web services such as text databases, search engines, catalogs and other resources. OpenURL standardizes the syntax for metadata, unique identifiers and contextual information.

'It allows searchers to find full text much more easily,' said Katherine McCann, the handbook's assistant editor. 'Many people have asked for that.'

The Latin American handbook contains more than 300,000 citations of publications from 1935 to the present. To search the handbook, another library or institution would have to buy or develop an OpenURL link resolver to connect to HLAS Online by typing Hypertext Transfer Protocol characters.

Temporary cookies would then be embedded in that institution's browsers, and OpenURL links would appear in the search results.

Bibliographic citations commonly give only the author's last and first names, book title, place and year of publication, and publisher's name. But an OpenURL tag at the end of the citation could instantly link the searcher to related Web services: viewing full text of the book, placing an order for it, looking up the author and the author's other works, seeking online reference help and so on.

Organizations that use the library's Web services must configure their own OpenURL resolvers to display their own set of Web services'for example, a menu of links to online catalogs, search engines, tables of contents, abstracts, online reference and so on.

'It's a possibility that we could extend OpenURL use within the Library of Congress,' McCann said, but that is not yet certain.

OpenURL is a draft standard of the National Information Standards Organization, which is accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

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