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zetoc Enhancements

Project Summary

Start DateEnd DateDuration Funding BodyProgramme
April 2001December 200333 months JISC
British Library

The evaluation work continued until December 2003 to provide user feedback from the later developments and to process the findings.


Project Objective

The aim of the project was to develop an interoperable Web/Z39.50-compliant interface to the British Library's Electronic Table of Contents (ETOC). The interface would encompass a current awareness alerting service, a document ordering interface and a reference linking mechanism.

The specific objectives were to:

Project Highlights

Project Summary

A summary report of the project is available on the zetoc website.

Project Description

The purpose of the project was to build on the Cheshire II zetoc pilot prototype developed by The British Library and Mimas. As part of the DNER Join-Up programme the project contributed to all four component parts of the DNER structure: Discover; Locate; Request; and Access. The current zetoc service is hosted by Mimas.

The project aimed to provide an operational service to the UK academic community. It focussed on the implementation of a range of service deliverables based on established and leading-edge technologies and open standards. Each was subject to rigorous performance measurement, constant monitoring and review based on user feedback. The project conformed to The British Library's PRINCE2 project methodology.

The project helped progress the prinicipal objective of The British Library's DNER developments which was to satisfy the increasing demands from the UK academic sector for networked services. Its aim was to meet the detailed list of requirements generated as a result of the market research report complied by Orbitel and Mimas. The intention was that the project would address the needs of students, researchers and teaching staff within the UK academic environment and act in accordance with existing library services.

Project Results


The entire zetoc website and all the web interface to the service have been made 'accessible' for all users, in most places to level AAA. All zetoc web pages include Dublin Core metadata

Document Ordering

From the British Library

Copies of articles can be purchased 'copyright fee paid' from the British Library Document Supply Centre by following a link on the full record page. The option of electronic delivery in PDF format was a later introduction during this project.


Support for ILL ordering of discovered articles through the usual institution channels was introduced. zetoc provides a definitive citation that can be used for an ILL request. Institutions are offered two options: either their users can fill and print their details in addition to the citation, along with a copyright form; or their users are directed to local ILL instructions. Various amendments have been made to the ILL functionality following user feedback.

Reference Linking


zetoc has been enabled as an OpenURL source, providing version 0.1 OpenURLs. The end-user is shown a link called 'More Information' on the full record screen. For users whose institution has an OpenURL resolver registered with zetoc this link takes them directly to that resolver. Other users are shown links to COPAC, and to LitLink (except for NHS).

zetoc is enabled as an OpenURL 'Link-To' resolver. This enables linking into zetoc using a version 0.1 OpenURL.

Web of Knowledge

An experimental link from a full record in zetoc to its corresponding record in Web of Knowledge was developed. This was implemented using Web of Knowledge proprietary linking. This enhancement has not been introduced into the service because intermittent problems (with the Athens challenge and subsequent use of ISI `tokens') when moving into Web of Knowledge meant poor reliability.

Institution Profiles

Institution profiles that are XML data records have been defined. These enable the capture of institution preference data such as ILL details and the address of their OpenURL resolver. This data is used to implement the ILL and OpenURL source functionality in zetoc. An adminstrative web form allows service support staff to enter these details.


Enhancments to zetoc allow alert requests based on title keyword or author searches. URLs are included in alert emails that link directly to the full record of the article in zetoc.

A 'no frames' version of Alert was introduced to support 'accessibility'.


Athens 'single sign on' authentication was introduced. (As part fo a related project under the JISC `AAA' Programme called A2Z, authentication via e-Science X509 digital certificates was demonstrated.)

zetoc XML Data

An XML representation of the zetoc data was defined, based on Dublin Core. An XML Document Type Definition (DTD) for data verification was produced. All zetoc data up to early October 2003 was generated in XML. Current data was converted nightly, simulating the zetoc data load. All the back data was also converted. Although the automatic conversion of current data to XML was discontinued in early October 2003, the allocated disk being full, conversion of data since then could be performed using the same scripts.

Various enhancements and checking were made to the XML data. These included:

zetoc Cheshire Prototype

A prototype alternative implementation of zetoc was built using Cheshire II. A Web interface that emulated the main part of live zetoc was built. A Z39.50 interface was also developed built on the basic Z39.50 connectivity provided by Cheshire.

All the XML data was indexed using Cheshire. An initial 'volume' test of indexing into a single database proved that this was not a viable solution and had to be abandoned. Subsequently the Cheshire development team provide a virtual database solution, where a single virutal database is composed of multiple physical databases. This proved to be a flexible approach. It was later used to implement a cut-down version of zetoc using year 2000 data only for the OpenURL Trial. This simply involved creating another virtual database that included the year 2000 physical databases only.

Using Cheshire for the very large volume of data in zetoc proved it to its limits. Various problems encountered during the project were fed back to the Cheshire development team, who were very responsive in providing solutions. A particular example is the implementation of virtual databases mentioned above. However some performance testing done at the end of the project indicated that Cheshire is unsuitable as a platform for zetoc in comparison with BRS, despite some considerable improvements introduced into Cheshire.

The zetoc Cheshire Prototype provided a separate implementation for experimenting with new developments. This avoided any impact on the users while prototyping ideas and many of the enhancements developed during the project were trialled in the Cheshire Prototype first.

OAI-PMH Interface

The possibility of providing an OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) interface at journal issue or conference proceedings level from the Cheshire Prototype was investigated but not implemented. A data mapping from the zetoc XML and the Cheshire indexes to OAI-PMH was produced and is included with the data mappings to Z39.50.

Additional Service Enhancements

Additional service enhancements introduced by the project include:

Usage Statistics

Usage logging and statistics have been implemented for all methods of accessing zetoc and for enhancements introduced during this project. They indicate a continuing upward trend is the use of all zetoc functionality. The most notable increase is the use by library portal software. For example a recent JISC case study on the implementation of the MetaLib library portal at the Loughborough University has revealed a significant increase in network database usage once the portal was launched to users. Included were databases that could be cross-searched. Top of the list was zetoc, searches on which rose by 1385%.

Independent Evaluation

External advisors, Ken Eason of The Bayswater Institute, London, and Martin Ashby and Susan Harker of the The Human Factors and Systems Design Research Group, Loughborough University evaluated zetoc from an end-user viewpoint over a period of 18 months. This evaluation included two user evaluation questionnaires and some follow-up focus groups that particularly looked at zetoc developments introduced by this project. In total, the views of well over 800 users were gathered. 75% felt zetoc offered a new service they had not had before - 79% felt the main service zetoc provided was `to keep me on top of current developments in my field'. 91% felt they could search the database without any problems and felt it was straight-forward to set up an alert service. The most important benefit being sought was electronic help with current awareness, which the project went some way to providing.

`Join-Up' Cluster Activities

zetoc Enhancements was part of the `Join-Up' Programme. A common functional architecture (JOIN-UP functional diagram V2.0), and a set of requirements (JOIN-UP projects: requirements comparison version 0.3) were agreed. Joint deliverables were identified with the other participants (Xgrain, ZBLSA and Docusend):

DeliverableMilestone number Milestone date
A) Xgrain to include zetoc in its list of Z39.50 targets 1Jan 2002
B) Facility to enable Xgrain user to invoke the ZBLSA location function 1Jan 2002
C) Facility to enable a zetoc user to invoke the ZBLSA location function 1Jan 2002
D) ZBLSA to include British Library serials in its locations list 1Jan 2002
E) Facility to enable zetoc user to invoke the Docusend location function 2Jan 2003
F) Facility to enable a Xgrain user to invoke the Docusend location function 3April 2003
G) Docusend to send ISO/ILL-compliant requests to the British Library 3April 2003

All those involving zetoc were delivered to schedule.

zetoc SOAP Interface

As a related activity following the end of the development part of this project, an experimental zetoc SOAP interface has been developed. This was developed as part of the JISC 'AAA' project 'Akenti Access to zetoc' (A2Z). It is a zetoc-specific SOAP interface providing a connection to zetoc when the application is understood.

Dissemination and Project Reports

Technical Documentation

The data mappings, from the British Library ETOC data to the zetoc data, both BRS and XML, and to the various interfaces, is available from the technical documentation section of the website.

Project Reports

Project progress reports are available from the 'about zetoc' page.


The project's aims, technologies and results have been widely disseminated through published papers:

and through presentations:

29 October 2003
The OpenURL and OpenURL Framework: Demystifying Link Resolution. NISO Workshop, Washington DC, USA
9 April 2002
Forum for InterLending, Queen's University, Belfast.
24-25 September 2001
CEN/ISSS Workshop on Metadata for Multimedia Information (MMI-DC), Brussels, Belgium.
28 June 2001
Mimas Open Forum, University of Manchester.
23 April 2001
JIBS Current Awareness Day, Oxford.

18 May 2004

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