Library Access

The Lean Library browser extension is a browser plugin for users of an academic or research library. It makes library services available right in the users workflow – where and when they are needed. One of those services is off campus access: the Lean Library browser extension simplifies the process of getting access to the e-resources that the library subscribes to.

The browser extension works autonomously. Installing it requires a ‘once only’ installation process of two mouse clicks. The extension functions without the user having to subscribe, or register for an account.

When used to simplify the process the process of getting access to licensed e-resources, it does not somehow provide ‘free’ access: users need to be affiliated with an academic or research institution that subscribes to those e-resources.

Access to e-resources

Most access to e-resources is provided through IP address recognition. Many libraries provide one or more of the following facilities:

  • On campus access
    Seamless, transparent access as long as one’s authenticated on the institutions’ network. Through logging in, the patron is assigned an IP address within a range that’s known and recognized by publishers, thus granting access.

  • Off campus access through a proxy server
    Besides automatic on campus access, many institutions operate a proxy server (mostly OCLC’s EZproxy). By accessing e-resources via that proxy server, patrons are perceived – by publishers – to be on their institutions’ network, which grants them access.
    For this to work, libraries need to explicitly instruct their users to not directly browse to sites with licensed e-resources (by, for instance, simply typing in ‘jstor.org’ in the address bar of their browser). Instead, patrons need to be told that, whenever they’re off campus, they should open those sites via specially crafted, ‘proxied’, links on the library website.

  • Bookmarklet
    Many libraries offer a so called bookmarklet that, with a push of a button, rewrites web addresses to proxied web addresses.

  • VPN
    Some institutions offer their users the possibility of starting a VPN (virtual private network) as a means to obtain an IP address within their institutions’ range.

The current solutions are not user-friendly

The before mentioned methods of letting users gain access do function, but merely in a technical sense: it is possible for end users to access licensed resources, either on or off campus, but these methods are not always intuitive, and may require knowledge of the inner workings of the library. For instance:

  • Not everybody is aware of the fact that the automatic on campus access is because of the library. Some users even think that the resources they have access to, are simply free of charge.
  • Not everybody knows that, in case of a proxy server, access to licensed resources is possible from anywhere, worldwide. When unaware of that, users may physically go to the campus to get access. Some even specifically go to the library buildings to access e-resouces, thinking that’s necessary.
  • Users who are aware of the possibility of getting by opening the special proxy-links on the library website, invariably face a few hurdles on their route to the full text:
    • It takes time to locate the proxied link to a specific database
    • Users need to know beforehand whether a specific database or e-resource is licensed by their library, and thus will be locatable on the library website. If it isn’t, they’ll search for it in vain.
  • Bookmarklet users have it a little easier, but they also need to know in advance whether a specific e-resource is licensed. Otherwise, clicking the bookmarklet becomes a miss or hit-game. After a few misses, users usually aren’t bothered checking anymore, causing them to unknowingly miss out on access to resources for which the library does have licenses.
  • With a VPN, users need to determine beforehand whether they will want to open licensed resources. When trying to open a licensed resource without having set up the VPN first, users will have to step back, start up the VPN and retrace their steps to the licensed resource.

Library Access: Simpler and easier

The Lean Library browser extension simplifies the whole process of getting access. The extension detects whether a user opens a website with material licensed by their library and – when the user is off campus – automatically notifies her of him, and immediately presents the correct proxy link.

Getting access is now only one mouse click away: in the example above, clicking the link would open JSTOR via the library proxy server, making all licensed material available to the user.

With the Lean Library browser extension:

  • users don’t have to know about the distinction between being on and off campus access;
  • users don’t have to know whether a website or database contains material licensed by their library;
  • the process of getting access is reduced from typically more than 10 steps across multiple systems, to just one. Users may even choose to automatically redirect any domain that contains licensed resources.

Advantages for libraries

The Lean Library browser extension isn’t only convenient for patrons. For libraries, there are various other benefits:

  • Extra insights into the use of e-resources;
  • Less time needed for library instructions;
  • Database or website specific instructions, for instance for e-resources that aren’t accessible via a proxy, or only on campus;
  • Better visibility of the library within the workflow of the patron;
  • Better statistics and higher security by phasing out all automatic on campus access, and routing all access via the proxy server.

Watch our animation and get a quick preview of how the extension works: 

Implementation

The Lean Library browser extension is useful for every library that wants to be more visible in the patrons workflow, and wants to present its services precisely when and where they are needed. Because the browser extension works in the patrons browser, no changes to the infrastructure or work processes of the library are needed.

More information

For more information, please contact Lean Library: johan@leanlibrary.com or +31 6 151 24 862.