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2018: year in review

Jane CharltonBy Jane Charlton
Category - Blog

Tuesday 22nd January 2019

As we’re now firmly ensconced in the new year, we thought it would be a good time to take a look back at OpenAthens’ highlights in 2018 and a look forward at what’s to come in 2019.

User focus

A significant drive for OpenAthens in 2018 was the importance of user experience and the fundamental role it has on access to published content online.

Throughout the year, we took advantage of a number of opportunities to raise the issue, including hosting a webinar in the summer entitled ‘When bad user design becomes a barrier to content’, looking specifically at the student user journey and how single sign-on products can be used to improve their experience.

Our 2018 conference theme ‘Championing the user’  addressed the challenges posed by providing users with secure, simple access to digital content. Guest speakers discussed various topics at the conference in March including user-centred design and measuring user access and engagement to data protection, security and piracy.

In September, we also held a one-day publisher workshop in London during which we explored some of the barriers users face when accessing content online and examined existing identity and access management technologies, future trends and the obstacles to implementation.

Our UX designer Vee Rogacheva spoke with Research Information on the topic and in the published article Obstacles to authentication Vee discussed the detrimental effects that complicated user journeys can have for libraries and publishers, emphasising the importance of prioritising user experience.

OpenAthens also carried out a huge research project this year, gathering information from more than 900 librarians working in different sectors across the globe to gain an insight into current thinking on identity and access management. The findings detailed in the report highlighted the growing prevalence of mobile-based research, signalling a new era for libraries.

In October, we launched our free organisational discovery service Wayfinder at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The service facilitates logging in securely just once to the multiple online resources that users’ organisations subscribe to, whilst preserving user privacy.

At the fair, we had the opportunity to give a talk on Wayfinder which included a demonstration. OpenAthens is committed to improving access to information for end users and Wayfinder is a step in that direction.

In collaboration with InCommon, we co-hosted a session on federated access entitled Why IP-based access is failing end users: How to give patrons a simple, seamless user experience at the 2018 Charleston Conference, South Carolina, in November. The conference was the first time we presented Wayfinder to an academic audience.


This year, we partnered with Minnesota-based liberal arts university Macalester College, through which we have been able to facilitate access to a wider range of information resources for their community.

As part of the relationship, Macalester College also supported OpenAthens in joining the InCommon Federation as a sponsored partner. One of the largest of its kind in the world, the InCommon Federation is the US education and research identity federation, and the partnership will enable greater access to resources for other organisations in the OpenAthens community.

In May, OpenAthens lead technical pre-sales consultant Kristina Botyriute became a published author, penning an open access book entitled Access to Online Resources: A Guide for the Modern Librarian which aims to highlight the issues faced by librarians today. The guide has been hugely popular with 6,000 people downloading a copy.

Commenting on the publication of the book, commercial director Jon Bentley said: “Kristina has really done some outstanding work in writing and getting this book published and we’re very supportive of her dedication and commitment.”

In March, GALILEO – one of the largest library consortia in the US, serving around 2,000 educational organisations within the state of Georgia – signed up to a five-year agreement with EBSCO  and OpenAthens to implement federated single sign-on.

GALILEO will now benefit from a system that is easy to manage with access in one place for all users and provides privacy protection.Improved reporting and analysis of resource use will give GALILEO  access to better, accurate data that will inform resource investment.

In October, we were very pleased to have OpenAthens representatives accepted onto both the Resource Access for the 21st Century (RA21) committees. Phil Leahy, service relationship manager, joined the RA21 Steering Committee and Jane Charlton, marketing manager, became part of the RA21 Outreach and Communications Committee.

As part of our ongoing commitment to the RA21 initiative, , we will continue to share our sector knowledge and experience whilst also working with key players in the publishing industry to enable a seamless user experience.

Looking ahead

2018 was a busy and successful year for us: over 2,600 organisations now use our simple single sign-on software with a worldwide network of millions of end users and we are continuing to grow.

At the start of 2019, Jisc, the UK’s technology solutions organisation for higher and further education, and OpenAthens’ parent company Eduserv, which specialises in digital transformation in local government, public bodies, healthcare, charities, higher education and emergency services, merged to form a unique powerhouse of world-leading expertise.

Jisc and OpenAthens’ combined skills and expertise within the trust and identity arena provide a platform to explore new technology and look for the best way possible to serve our customers together.

We also brought in the new year with a platinum award in LibraryWorks’ fifth annual Modern Library Awards (MLAs), highlighting the quality, functionality and service provided by our single sign-on software as well as the high level of support provided by our customer service team.

Finally, we’re looking forward to our annual conference on 19 March at the America Square Conference Centre, London, on the theme of ‘User-centred by design’. The conference will be an opportunity to examine our collective commitment to developing a secure, simple and seamless user journey to content and will feature a number of high-profile speakers from across the digital media and publishing world.

Keep up-to-date on the OpenAthens blog in 2019 for more news and discussion around the latest developments in identity and access management.

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