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#26-Durable Links and Downloads: Create E-Reserves with Library Content

March 09, 2003


This LTA expands on an earlier one, #16, that alerts faculty to the library’s electronic reserve service. That LTA described an E-reserve that operates by doing all the work for faculty – converting their hardcopy documents to an electronic format by scanning them, obtaining copyright authorization where appropriate, and uploading the digitized readings to the library’s E-reserve site. Maintaining this level of service is laborious, and many academic libraries find it difficult to support. In this LTA faculty will learn how to use two simple technology techniques to gather and create their own E-reserve using their library’s already available database content. If a faculty member is already using course management software then the collected articles can be made available to students through the course site.

LTA Credits

Steven J. Bell
Paul J. Guttman Library
Philadelphia University


Durable Links to Library Database Articles

Many major database systems, ProQuest, Ebsco and Gale Group, offer durable links to their article content. If you have ever cut and pasted the URL of an article onto a Web page or course page, chances are that 24 hours or later that link no longer worked. These links, usually very lengthy, are dynamic and are created on the fly as the article database posts the document into the browser window. Durable links, on the other hand, last many months or years. Obtaining the durable link for a specific article will vary across database systems, but once had, the durable link can be cut and pasted on a Blackboard or WebCT resource page. To access the article students simply click on the link and the article will appear in the course page. Your campus reference librarians should be able to explain how to obtain a durable link within a database – and which ones make it possible. A key advantage is that since the library is already paying for copyright clearance through its subscriptions to the databases, simply creating a link back to the article in a licensed database raises no copyright infringement concerns. Do keep in mind that since most institutions require student authentication for access to licensed database content, students wanting to access the readings from off-campus sites will need to know how to correctly authenticate in order to access an article.

Acquiring Article Text from Library Databases

Assuming you are already using some form of E-reserve (we use Docutek’s ERes at my institution, as do many others), even if you cannot create a durable link it is fairly straightforward to add database content to a course site (any site to which copyrighted content is being added must require students to authenticate themselves; the content cannot be posted openly on the Web). For example, suppose you wanted to add a New York Times magazine article to your course E-reserve. First, you would need to know which database has the article. In this case, LexisNexis Academic Universe is the best database as it contains the full-text of the New York Times. Second, you would need to know how to efficiently locate an article for which you have an existing citation. Again, any reference librarian can demonstrate the ease with which this is accomplished. Third, when you finally retrieve the desired article, the key step is to click the on-screen “print” button (not the browser print icon). This will reformat the article into a version suitable for printing – that is, all the graphics are stripped out leaving the text. Fourth, save the article to your computer in “text” (txt) format. It is important not to save the file in the default HTML format. Doing so will mean the article needs to be retrieved in a browser (not terrible, but may be less convenient for the student). When the document is saved as text it can be retrieved easily by most library E-reserve systems, or it can be easily loaded into Microsoft Word .

Using these two techniques, durable links and downloading text, faculty can create and manage their own E-reserves using an existing course management software page or an E-reserve option available from the campus library. Using these techniques will eliminate a good deal of scanning work. Of course, this will only work if the desired article is available in one of the library’s licensed databases, but between aggregator databases (e.g., ProQuest, L/N, Ebsco, Gale, and others) and E-journal collections (Project Muse, ACS, Kluwer and others) faculty have ready access to thousands of journals and millions of online, full-text articles.


Link to a ProQuest SiteBuilder Tutorial Page

Example One

Locating an article in a database, creating and saving a durable link and importing the link into a course software site:

  1. The first example is based on a search in the ProQuest system. Each database system will differ. After completing the normal search in your database, check the box to the right of the article to “mark” that record. “Mark” is another way of saying “save” the record for later use or viewing. In the example shown below record #10 has been marked. You can mark records on any number of screens – you won’t lose those items marked on prior screens.
  2. Click on the “marked List” (orange) tab at the top of the search result screen to go to the actual marked list.
  3. The screenshot below illustrates the Marked List. Note that you can also print a bibliography (in choice of citation formats), e-mail the records, etc. To get the durable links you need to click on the My Research Summary (blue) tab.
  4. The Research Summary shown below contains the durable links. You can see they are the long URLs. These URLs can be cut and pasted into a web page or a courseware (e.g., Blackboard, WebCT) site. That creates a direct link to t he article from the courseware site. Please note that ProQuest (most other systems don’t offer this) allows you to download the entire Research Summary. This means faculty can create an entire reading list complete with the actual subject search and any publication searches available to the student. There is a more detailed example showing the entire save procedure in the documentation (a Word document).
  5. The screen shot below illustrates how the article would be added to Blackboard as an external link, in the same way a link to any Web site would be added.IMPORTANT NOTE: The URL – as shown below in the screenshot – points directly to the ProQuest database. If you want to provide access to the article to off-campus or remote users – you must take into account providing a way for those users to properly authenticate themselves to the databases (on campus, most libraries have IP address recognition in place – and no special authentication is necessary). Many institutions use EZProxy. If so, you would add the following prefix to the durable link URL:


    . Please note that this will differ slightly for each academic institution. It is best to check with your local experts, your librarians, on how authentication for off-campus users is handled.

  6. Here is what the link to the “Is Fat the Next Tobacco” article would look like to the student.
Examples 2

Locating an article in a library database with a known citation in order to quickly acquire and incorporate the durable link or actual text into course software or an electronic reserve system.

  1. Assume you have a citation to a specific article, or that you have seen the article in the newspaper or a magazine, or even have the newspaper or magazine in your possession. Rather than scanning this article, check first to see if you can obtain the full text of the article from a library database. The challenge is to find and retrieve the article in a library database. This section will provide an example of how that is done using ProQuest, but it can be done in virtually any library database.
  2. Assume you are looking for a New York Times article about the Library of Congress creating an audio recording archive. You know it had the word “libraries” in the title or sub-title, was authored by someone named Olson. Using the ProQuest system as an example, this illustrates using the Advanced Search to conduct an efficient search for this article.
  3. Using the Advanced Search , you can combine words from the article title (or content), the name of the publication, and the author’s last name, as shown above. Your librarian can assist you with this technique. If constructed properly, the search should result in the desired article as shown below. It’s record # 2:
  4. Once the full text of the article is retrieved follow the steps above to create a durable link for it and then add that link to the courseware page.
  5. While the examples so far have demonstrated durable linking in ProQuest, others, such as Ebsco, Wilson and Gale Group offer similar durable link capabilities. For more information on creating the durable links in those systems, consult your local experts – the librarians who work at your institution’s Reference Desk.. Briefly though, Gale Group databases feature what they refer to as the “InfoMark”. As shown below in an example from Gale’s Biography Resource Center database, the InfoMark is a blue circle with a yellow “I”. When you see the InfoMark you can use the link in the browser address or location box as the durable link. Durable links also differ in their durability, so again, consult with your librarian for more information. In the example shown here, you could incorporate a biographical essay on Ernest Hemingway into your course site or e-reserve page. This LTA is not limited to articles, but works for all types of library database content. lta26.10
  • The screen shot below shows a Hemingway article imported into the Blackboard course page. Use the same technique as shown above. Just paste in the URL for the article into Blackboard’s template for adding a course link.
    Example 3

    Locating and adding a text file version of a full-text library database article into e-reserves or courseware pages.

    1. This example uses the popular LexisNexis Academic database that contains full-text content from thousands of news publications, magazine articles, newswire stories, transcripts, and much more. Since it has no durable link technology, the next best thing, after locating a desired article is to save it in a text format and then import it into an e-reserve or courseware page where students can conveniently access the content.  
    2. The screen shot below shows how to efficiently search for a single article using citation information such as author, title words, or name of publication (in this case a combination of them). For assistance with this technique, contact your librarian.
    3. The next screen shot illustrates the LexisNexis Document List. This shows that the only article retrieved is the exact article needed.
    4. The screen shot below brings your attention to an important step in this process. Looking at the screen shot above, in the far right side you’ll see the tabs for “print” and “e-mail”. Click on the “print” tab. This will re-format the article when it is shown full-text on the screen. It will strip out all of the graphics so you will get a nice, clean looking version of the article, suitable for downloading as a text file.
    5. Once you have the full-text article displayed on the monitor, use the basic windows FILE/SAVE AS technique to save the article to your local or network drive. There are two IMPORTANT steps to follow here. One, change the default “save as type” from HTML to TXT. Two, give the save file a basic file name and give it the .txt extension (no spaces or symbols should be in the file name). In the screen shot below, the file name is “olsonarticle.txt”. Changing the format (“save as type”) from HTML to TXT will allow the article to be easily displayed as text in the e-reserve or courseware tool.
    6. The screen shot below is captured from the faculty member’s ERes e-reserve page that lists all of the documents available to students in this course. Notice that the instructor can offer durable links, PDF files, and the text file shown being added above.  
    7. This final screenshot demonstrates that the student would navigate to the list of available e-readings, and then click on the desired reading. The reading would open up in a separate window. This window shows, roughly, how the text version of the LexisNexis would appear to the student. The text format makes for easy reading and printing by the student.
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