Libraries are becoming increasingly concerned about the authentication of patrons accessing their electronic resources, especially those for which they pay substantial subscription fees or whose licenses restrict use to the library's own patrons. Authentication is often the only way that a library can extend access to remote users on the same basis as to those in the library.
Some online reference services expect a library to handle the authentication. Unfortunately, the vendors of automated library systems have been slow to add authentication software to their CPU gateways. One vendor who recently completed a patron authentication feature requires its customers to purchase additional user licenses to utilize the product; another is currently testing patron authentication, but limits its application to patron authentication for patron-initiated inter library loan.
The majority of automated library system vendors offer nothing at all.
Given the state of the industry, there was an interesting product exhibited at the ALA Conference in New Orleans last month, a remote database access software package from Obvia Corporation. The product makes it possible to manage multiple information providers, define access privileges for multiple patron classes, provide anonymous authentication of users, and measure use of online resources.
Using the software, a library can measure patron use of online resources, audit vendor claims about concurrent users, and interface automatically to external patron and registration authority files.
Obvia has a customized product for the K-12 school community.
Obvia also operates a service bureau for libraries that do not wish to make a capital investment in hardware and software or want to shorten the project implementation time.
[Contact: Obvia Corporation, P.O. Box 999, Harriman, NY 10926; www.obvia.com].