Public libraries face a major challenge with legacy technology when it comes to access control.
Limited budgets and technical expertise can leave them nursing out-of-date technologies that struggle to support modern authentication systems. As a result, many public libraries still rely on old-fashioned and insecure methods, such as referring URL and library card pattern matching.
A slightly better alternative is Standard Interchange Protocol version 2, or SIP2 for short. It’s a technology that was developed and published by 3M in 1993 (yes, almost 30 years ago …) to support machine-to-machine authentication within a network. Simply by virtue of its availability within library systems, many library vendors have adopted it for patron authentication.
SIP2 works by enabling a publisher to validate library-managed credentials provided by a library patron – typically a user identifier such as library card number and pin code. It’s more secure than the methods above. But it’s an old-fashioned technology that was never designed for this purpose, and so it’s clunky to implement and doesn’t offer any useful features like built-in encryption or error codes. This makes it much more painful and expensive to support.
Which is why we applaud the National Library of Finland for introducing the Finna Authentication API. Like SIP2, this API allows a publisher to validate credentials for any public library in Finland. Unlike SIP2, it’s a modern authentication service that does this in an easy and secure way. And there’s no need to configure at the individual library level, which greatly reduces the implementation effort compared to SIP2.
“Thanks to the Finna Authentication API, we are now able to serve all sizes of Finnish public libraries.” David Ryfman, VP of Sales at medici.tv
The big payoff is that it also greatly reduces the friction for publishers wanting to sell into the Finnish library market.
One of our clients, medici.tv, was working with the team at Digital Content Associates (DCA) to explore sales opportunities in Scandinavia. Ordinarily, the costs involved in setting up access to large groups of public libraries can be unaffordable for smaller publishers. However, the Finna Authentication API offered a quick route to opening national access to Finnish libraries.
“This is a great example of what collaboration between a publisher, library and a technology group can help achieve. Credit is due to LibLynx for their fast and effective work here.” Barney Allan, Managing Director at DCA
We were able to integrate their authentication API into our access solution within a few weeks. medici.tv can now set up trials and sales to Finnish libraries with a few clicks .
Nice work, Finna! Other library systems, please take note.