August 04, 2015
Learning to Love the Stable Link
5 min read
I’m all too aware that syllabus-writing season is upon us. In July we all wonder why the summer is racing by so quickly, and by mid-August many of us may be wondering whether there was a summer at all. But as we turn our keyboards to syllabi, I want to take a moment to remind us all why the stable link is so important.
Most of us use articles in our teaching (some more than others, some courses more intensively than others). Here in the OI offices, we’re glad that so many teachers are assigning essays and reviews from the William and Mary Quarterly.
When you’re striving to make your students’ lives just a click easier by embedding an article in your syllabus or posting it to Blackboard (or another online learning environment), however, it’s important to embed the link to the article rather than the PDF of the article itself. It’s easy to do; you simply paste the link from JSTOR or MUSE into the same field you would paste a document or PDF. It’s no more difficult for the students, and it makes a big difference to the journals whose articles you’re teaching.
Josh Piker and I have both written about why it is important for the WMQ to collect the revenue and the analytics associated with the journal’s use. We have emphasized how much time and skill it takes to produce each article. We have emphasized that journals in the humanities generally run on very tight budgets and ask for small subscriptions. In short, those clicks on a stable link are important for even our very non-profit bottom line.
The analytics that are generated from JSTOR (and as of next year, from Project MUSE) are important for librarians who are assessing how fully their journal subscriptions are used, and then for calculating the cost per use. We already know that the WMQ is heavily used and incredibly cheap overall and on a cost-per-use basis, but each click provides more evidence. Those analytics are also important to the WMQ internally. They tell us all sorts of interesting things—or at least, we read the tea leaves of those reports with energy and interest. Josh, Kelly Crawford, and I like to mull the meaning of downloads and views (in 2014 the median year of publication for the ten most accessed articles was 1992, for example).
I think most of us don’t think too much about these issues; as a professor I confess I rarely did, and only a few years ago I was posting PDFs on my Blackboard course sites. But for reasons we have also been addressing, here on the OI blog and elsewhere, it’s important that we give them some attention. I can say with confidence that posting the stable link is not only the right thing to do, but a simple thing to do. Isn’t that alignment nice?