Link Resolvers allow users to move from a citation to the actual article (so long as the library has access to it), regardless of which database the article happens to be in. Joy Moll, who has a nice post on the topic, writes “a “resolver” program does all the work for me. I find a citation in one database, it figures out if the university has the article available full text and, if it does, links me directly to that article in the target database.” Link resolvers use OpenURL, a context-sensitive open standard adopted by most e-content providers that creates a persistent link to content. The link resolver works from a knowledge base which includes information about the individual library’s holdings and information about the electronic resources. Some vendors also offer the ability to look-up specific citations. Therefore, if a user has an article in-hand, she can look up each reference from a single interface, rather than going into each database a particular journal resides in.
At this point, I think Link Resolvers are libraries’ best hope for simplifying the research process for patrons. The important thing is marketing it and explaining what it is. I saw SFX near citations for a long time before I actually knew what it was and how it worked. Better to have a “get this article” button than one that says the name of the product. In the future, link resolvers will be employed in every library and it will be easier to use. When users click on a link, they will be taken to the article, or they will be taken to an ILL page if the library doesn’t have it. There will be no more annoying intermediate steps involved.