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Our year in review

Jane CharltonBy Jane Charlton
Category - Blog

Monday 23rd December 2019

As we approach the new year, it is time to look ahead and plan for next 12 months but also to reflect on the achievements, developments and lessons of the last year. Thankfully at OpenAthens there have been plenty.

Here is a quick overview of our 2019 highlights:

Eduserv Jisc merger

2019 got off to a momentous start with the merger of OpenAthens’ parent company Eduserv with technology solutions provider for higher and further education, Jisc.

The union of two of the UK’s leading technology not-for-profit organisations brings together expertise in digital and data technology solutions, catering for both the public and private sector in education, government and charities.

Eduserv and Jisc began operating as one organisation on 1 January 2019, retaining all staff and services. A year on, the two organisations have combined their expertise to provide unparalleled technological support to more than 20 million users in international markets such as the US, Australia and Scandinavia.

Award winning

OpenAthens had a stellar start to 2019 after winning a platinum Modern Library Award (MLA) from LibraryWorks for our simple single sign-on and access management solution for librarians and publishers.

The MLAs were created to recognize the top products and services in the library industry based on the unbiased ratings of thousands of library customers. We will soon find out if OpenAthens has repeated this success in the Modern Library Awards 2020.

User-centred by design

The OpenAthens 2019 ‘user-centred by design’ conference was the most memorable yet with leading experts from across publishing and content management exchanging ideas on how the industry must develop improved, user-centred systems to ensure future success and combat piracy.

Keynote speaker, Dan Ramsden, creative director for user experience architecture at the BBC, shared models for user-centred design. Dan also outlined how his team put the BBC audience at the heart of everything they do to create more meaningful content and experiences.

He was joined by plenary speaker Russell Palmer, assistant director for support services at GALILEO, who talked about best practice in balancing the demands of creating a smooth user journey and easy access with online security and protecting valuable content from abuse.

Todd Carpenter, executive director at the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), spoke about the findings from the two-year Resource Discovery in the 21st Century (RA21) project to simplify the single sign-on user experience, share recommended practice and future plans to launch an ongoing service to support user identity management and individual access to content.

New brand

OpenAthens revealed a new user-centred identity at the CILIP conference in July. The new brand embodies our mission to make access to knowledge easy for our 2,600 library and publishing customers and their millions of users across the globe.

The increasingly flexible mobile approach to studying and working has seen libraries adapt to provide digital content that can be accessed and consumed remotely from anywhere. So  librarians now need far greater technical expertise than ever before in order to help users with authentication and access. OpenAthens’ new identity puts our customers and users at the heart of the brand, reflecting our strong technological support and user-focused product developments.

Embeddable version of Wayfinder

Last autumn saw the launch of the new embeddable version of the Wayfinder organisational discovery service which was created to simplify and support access to online resources. It enables users to rely on a single secure login to access all the online resources their organisation subscribes to. The service is now available as a tool or overlay that can be embedded in any publisher or library’s website as well as in hosted form. Wayfinder encompasses many recommendations from the Resource Access for the 21st Century (RA21) initiative.

Publisher’s award launch

We unveiled our own inaugural ‘Best Publisher User Experience Award’ in 2019 designed to inspire publishers across the globe to invest in developing the best possible user journey to content. Librarians and end users led the initial round of voting with the shortlist compiled by a panel of information industry experts. These shortlisted publishers successfully demonstrated how they have put the needs and experience of users at the heart of changes to digital services.

  • Bloomsbury Publishing: Bloomsbury Digital Resources
  • Cambridge University Press: Cambridge Core
  • Emerald Publishing: Emerald Insight
  • Manchester University Press: manchester hive and manchester openhive
  • University of Michigan Press: Fulcrum

Partnership with Lean Library

OpenAthens partnered with Lean Library, a SAGE Publishing company, to support libraries accessing content using single sign-on authentication. The partnership expanded Lean Library’s current program of supporting libraries with user-focused access to digital content.

Lean Library brings library services directly into a patron’s workflow via their web browser using a browser plugin. In the past year, the company has expanded its three core products, Library Access, Library Assist, and Library Alternatives, to better support ebooks and scholarly literature. The company was acquired by SAGE in 2018.

Looking ahead to 2020

So that’s a wrap for 2019, but what’s 2020 got in store?

Excitingly, next year marks our 25th anniversary as a company. OpenAthens has come a long way since its origins in the IT department of the University of Bath with its single sign-on solutions now being used by major organisations all over the world.

As the industry continues to evolve around us, our dedicated team will continue working tirelessly to put the end-user and easy access to online content at the centre of everything we do.

As well as launching a new website to better reflect our offering, throughout 2020 we will work even more closely with our customers and tech partners to develop market-leading products that meet their needs now and in the future.


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