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Use Case Digital resources with access restrictions

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Digital resources with access restrictions


Gordon, Jodi

Background and Current Practice

Finding a digital copy of an item can be complex. Availability and access to items varies based on library subscription holdings, geographic rights restrictions, and national copyright laws. Individuals may have rights to multiple library collections (for instance a university library and the local public library) which are sometimes supplemented by personal subscriptions (i.e. to Safari Books Online, Netflix, etc.) and personal memberships (e.g. a professional organization's library access, e.g. ACM Digital Library).

Currently, individuals must generally search within a specific organization's collection, and accessing institutional subscriptions from other locations may require further steps. While digital libraries may automatically recognize on-site users (based on designated IP ranges), users may need to use a proxy server or start from a library-provided lookup system in order to access institutional subscriptions from another location (i.e. at home, while visiting another town).

Understanding what items are available and unavailable can be confusing, because subscriptions may not cover all publications by a given entity. Publishers may offer to sell items (such as articles or book chapters) singly to end users.


1. Make access to digital resources user-centric, rather than institution-centric: determine whether the user has access to an item, given her personal subscriptions and library privileges.

2. If the user has access, provide an available copy of an item.

3. If multiple versions (file formats, editions, etc.) are available, make a choice for the user based on predetermined preferences which the user can override.

4. If the user does not have access, determine the options for accessing the item (ILL, additional personal subscription, individual item purchase).

Target Audience

This use case will benefit end-users.

Use Case Scenario

Anoushka is carrying out research on a topic which is developing rapidly, so she needs to access a range of online journals, databases, and other information resources. Her institutional library uses a system which matches her user profile with multiple access conditions imposed by journal vendors, so she can clearly see what sources of information are available to her. Anoushka works from home for one or two days per week, and finds that some vendors impose additional access restrictions for users outside of the institution's IP networks. She intends to undertake a three month study tour of other institutions engaged in similar research, and is uncertain if she will be able to access the information she needs from their systems. She does not want to spend too much time registering her profile in each institution's library, or rely on a resource which becomes unavailable as she moves from library to library. She is concerned that she may spend time searching, identifying, and selecting a resource which she then finds she cannot access.

Application of linked data for the given use case

Existing Work

Work on Available Copy problem

Work on Rights

Related Vocabularies

  1. DC
  2. PRISM

Problems and Limitations

  1. Library subscriptions change frequently.
  2. Publishers frequently change the materials available in the subscriptions.
  3. Item level metadata may be inadequate; for instance, it may take human effort to determine whether full text or just abstracts are available.
  4. Proxy systems may not be robust.
  5. Geographic restrictions may not be explicitly stated.
  6. Copyright status may not be clear.
  7. Electronic versions of some items (e.g. newspaper articles) may vary by format. "Full-text" may not include images and advertisements. Images and advertisements may be redacted.

Related Use Cases and Unanticipated Uses

Library Linked Data Dimensions / Topics


  • User needs: Access / obtain
  • Context: Devices, Communication (online access, mobile)
  • Systems: Non library information systems: citation tools, online bookstores, knowledge bases, Google scholar, google books search; Library systems: ILL systems; library and non-library system connections
  • Information assets: Books, journal articles, multimedia materials, archival materials
  • information lifecycle: collect