Single Sign On for Library Resources – update

What are we trying to achieve?

We want to make the process of logging into the various databases and electronic journals available to members of the university easier. The old Athens username and password worked well enough, but it was an extra password to keep in mind and did not integrate with any other systems.

Are we there yet?

There is now (12/08/11) one resource only available to Athens account holders: Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports 1974 – 1996. There are more than 100 resources which can be accessed now using the same login details as you would use for Blackboard, MyDMU and university email.

Has Athens gone then?

Not quite, for three reasons:

  1. Students who arrived before July 2011 and some members of staff still have Athens accounts. These will be valid until the end of the course (for students) or for no more than 2 years for members of staff. Old Athens accounts are not being reactivated, unless there is some exceptional circumstance, e.g. to deactivate alerts or other services set up with that account. If you have an Athens account you can use it, at your own risk.
  2. Behind the scenes there is something called the OpenAthens gateway. Once you are logged in via the Single Sign On point you may be directed invisibly through this gateway. If you come across an Athens login form, you can choose ‘Alternative Login’ and find De Montfort listed among the universities and get in via this gateway.
  3. Behind even that, we are using an application created by Eduserv, OpenAthens LA (Local Authentication) to perform all the authentication activities.

Have the URLs for these resources changed?

There have been changes to the addresses for most of the databases. This may affect your bookmarks and other shortcuts. You can find direct links to the all the databases and e-book services on the library web site. The best way to access electronic journals is through the A-Z list. There is also an XML feed of the databases that can be consumed in other applications.

Is ‘Find it @ DMU’ affected?

Find It @ DMU is a tool for linking people to electronic journal articles. There is a lot of testing going on to make sure that this is working effectively. One plus side is that some journals where there was not off-site access before have been identified and activated.

How do I login from outside the University?

If you are not using the library website you will probably need to say where you are from so that the site you want to visit can direct you to the right logging in point. Different databases do this in different ways. You may be asked to select your institution, country or even federation. Some sites may ask if you want to login in as a Shibboleth user. The library does not have much influence on how service providers design their interfaces. Basically you get a list of institutions on which either ‘De Montfort University’ or ‘De Montfort University Library Resources’ appears. If you see these options, select them to get to the Single Sign On point.

Shibboleth? Federation?

It would be better if technical terms like Shibboleth were not mentioned in public. Let’s just say it is a logging in system distinct from Athens. Being asked to login via your Federation is marginally better. De Montfort University is a member of the UK Access Management Federation for Education and Research. Other universities in other countries might want to access the same resources, so this is an attempt to solve a problem with international dimensions.

How will this affect new students in 2011?

Students will get Single Sign On accounts once they are registered and found on the University’s LDAP directory. If they can login to Blackboard, they will be able to use Business Source Premier, LexisLibrary or ScienceDirect (to name just 3) as well. The Library cannot provide access to resources covered by the Federation’s rules or individual licenses to people who are not members of the University. Please register students before sending them to the library if they are going to require electronic access.


About Philip Adams

Senior Assistant Librarian at De Montfort University. I am interested in digital preservation and the use of data to measure a library's impact. All comments own.
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