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RedLink Network Helps Provide Seamless Access to Content
Posted On October 18, 2016
Academic libraries want to ensure that students, instructors, and administrators at their institutions can access the content they need for all of their scholarly endeavors without having to jump through hoops. RedLink Network, from a public benefit company of the same name, connects libraries with academic publishers and allows them to share basic contact information and technical details of access credentials—for free.

A Complex Process Made Simple

In recent years, access to authoritative resources has become more complicated, with researchers needing to use journals to which their libraries subscribe at all times of the day and night and often from off-campus locations. Librarians put forth considerable effort to keep publishers aware of changes in IP addresses, using link resolvers to verify an institution’s subscription to (or license for) a resource (and directing the user to it) and facilitating single sign-on to ease the path of scholars to the resources they require (e.g., Shibboleth authentication). It’s inefficient and costly for librarians to update each vendor separately, not to mention the fact that this process practically guarantees that an error will occur.

RedLink, Inc., which manages the RedLink Network, was established in 2013 to offer business intelligence solutions to academic publishers and academic libraries. The beginnings of the company are telling—it had a simple approach and a visual nature. In April 2016, Kent Anderson joined the company as its CEO, bringing with him more than 2 decades of experience in the scholarly publishing market, most notably as the founder of The Scholarly Kitchen blog.

RedLink Network replaces the need for librarians to contact each publisher every time they make a change. They don’t have to maintain massive spreadsheets and send multiple emails to people who may no longer be with a company (or who are no longer responsible for a particular activity). Now, librarians update the information once and share it with all publishers in the network, who make changes on their end to ensure that each of their platforms reflects the current information. This allows publisher support teams to resolve access issues in a timely manner. RedLink Network is an easy-to-use, secure environment. To date, the emphasis has been on academic institutions and academic publishers, but it’s easy to see how RedLink Network could include large city and county library systems, consortia, government libraries, and trade publishers.

How It Works

RedLink Network is a social platform built to instill trust in partnerships between libraries and the publishers from whom they purchase access to ebooks and online journals. Libraries send invitations to connect to publishers, and publishers send invitations to connect to libraries that are subscribing to their journals and ebooks. RedLink Network has seen steady growth in the more than 2 months since its launch. According to Nicola Poser, RedLink, Inc.’s managing director, “We have a half dozen publishers active in the Network who have invited thousands of libraries to connect with them. So far, about 100 libraries have joined and become active. The Network will only grow in strength and effectiveness as more publishers and libraries join and connect with each other, so we expect the numbers to continue to increase as awareness grows.”

RedLink Dashboards

RedLink Network has been developing several fee-based solutions for academic publishers and academic libraries. Its Publisher Dashboard is already in use, and the Library Dashboard launched this month. The dashboards can help libraries and publishers understand the resources being used at their institutions, as well as view underused resources and attempts to gain access to resources a library doesn’t own. Analysis of this data is vital for librarians as they make sense of their proposed budget expenditures (for themselves and others less familiar with their work) and for publishers, who can customize bundles of journal and ebook titles to suit the usage of each client’s library.

The dashboards are designed to help both seller and buyer visualize and analyze usage data. The intuitive interface permits publishers to see usage by institution for every title, tracking views-per-page and denials. This allows the publisher to alert institutions when their patrons are trying to gain access to titles to which the institution does not subscribe.

The Publisher Dashboard

To ensure a good rate of renewal, publishers must provide the hard data libraries need to validate decisions to purchase made on behalf of their institutions—especially in the face of shrinking operating budgets. Publishers of academic journals bundle their titles in myriad ways, using their own platforms (or those of other vendors and aggregators). The Publisher Dashboard offers the data needed for publishers to experiment with different configurations for bundling their titles in a way that makes the most sense for them and for individual institutions. More than 50 publishers have adopted RedLink’s Publisher Dashboard as their business intelligence solution for institutional sales growth and retention.

The Library Dashboard

Tracking changes in journal titles and online access privileges used to be a labor-intensive effort, not to mention how difficult it was to analyze alternative schemes for access to titles with overlapping coverage that were available on multiple platforms. Determining which metrics to use and how to present them to those who hold the purse strings was another agonizingly painful effort. “Analytics are perceived as expensive and complicated ‘nice to have’ services. I’m proud that RedLink is making analytics useful and affordable,” says Anderson.

Be on the lookout for more RedLink Network news.

Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

Email Barbie E. Keiser

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