[Editor’s note: John Garland, working with Jisc on the Single Sign On project, shares how the idea came about, and reports progress]
‘What do you think would make a real difference to libraries, and that the Digital group could solve quickly and easily?’ That was the voice of Nick Stopforth, Digital lead for Society of Chief Librarians (SCL). This was 2016 and some colleagues, Christel Pogbee, Helen Leech and I had a chat about it. What was the one improvement we’d like to see to make using libraries digitally easier?
We decided it was eResources. We adored the content, whether it was Oxford Reference Online, Times Digital Archive, Issues Online or eMagazines like Zinio. We loved that all this amazing content was free with your library card (paid for by your library), and that you couldn’t find them anywhere else - but 2 things drove us up the wall:
- No one seemed to know about them. Not our customers, friends or family
- Signing into them was difficult, to put it politely
For some resources you had to enter your full library card number, some asked you to put letters in front of it, and others asked you to create another username and password then took you away from the library so you never returned to the library website again! And all of them asked you to enter your library card number over and over, and over again. Something wasn’t right. Why couldn’t we make this simpler?
Enter Jisc and the Library Management System (LMS) companies stage left
We decided we couldn’t fix the national marketing problem, (although maybe that’s changing) so we decided to try and make signing into resources easier. SCL have worked with Jisc before. Jisc is a not for profit organisation who develop digital services and solutions for higher and further education. Jisc have worked with public libraries and SCL before, Jisc Collections negotiates with publishers on behalf of the public library sector to secure better deals and prices for eResources.
When we asked them to help us, they turned out to be the perfect partner as they’ve been offering this sort of service to universities and further education colleges for years. Now it was time for us to get some of this easy access stuff, I mean how hard could it be…
Single Sign On (SSO)
Fast forward 2 years and we now have 10 libraries and over 600,000 users in England using SSO. It took us longer than we thought but we’ve made some huge steps forward. Specifically:
- Collaboration - Working with publishers and ALL the UK’s LMS companies to get them to agree to develop their side of things for no charge
- The technology works! - We use other services like Google and twitter and facebook to log us into multiple websites but it’s great when you can sign in to your eResources and your library catalogue to reserve or renew books with just one login!
- Access - Resources are easier to find and use
- Heads of Service will have access to coherent statistics so make spending more well informed
Since I’ve been working with Jisc to get extra content for libraries as part of their SSO subscription, the list of eResources you can use with SSO gets longer every week. We’re also negotiating with publishers to make sure that as many as possible are compatible with Single Sign On. Plus, there’s a project to get at least one eResource into all libraries in England. So that national marketing of eResources? It might become a reality after all.
It’s been a complicated project. Jisc and SCL have developed a really strong working relationship and, with the helpful cooperation of the LMS suppliers, it feels like there are more possibilities for Single Sign On than originally anticipated. The LMS suppliers and publishers like that there’s a central strategy for eResources – it saves them time and money developing different types of solutions for different authorities.
All of these are useful reasons to work with different agencies, but they show how important it is for libraries to develop coherent national strategies for partners to sign up to.
To learn more about Single Sign On, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
- SCL Single Sign On page
- Evaluation report
- Jisc Liberate – service page for the hosted solution
- How to Guide aimed at members of library staff setting up the library side of SSO so it’s a fairly non-technical document
And to see more of John’s thoughts on digital libraries, read his blog.
Please note, this is a guest blog. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of DCMS or the Libraries Taskforce