Enabling Shibboleth WAYFless linking with ExLibris SFX

SFX is an OpenURL link resolver, used in many university library systems. I am no librarian, but my basic understanding is that it takes information about publications (ebooks, journal articles etc) along with information about how your institution should link to said resources (if it subscribes to them), and constructs hyperlinks based on the information. The links appear in places such as library catalogue systems, Google Scholar, and when viewing references and citations sections.

The default settings will lead to the following typical scenario:

  1. Search your library system or Google Scholar for a topic
  2. Click on the search result for the article you are interested in
  3. Arrive on the publisher website at the correct article
  4. You are not logged in so can only see the abstract and a “purchase” button.
  5. Go through a process of varying convolutedness to sign in using e.g. Athens or Shibboleth
  6. Invariably, you are returned to the website homepage, not the article you require, so start your search again and click on the relevant result
  7. Arrive at the page for the article where you have access to the full text

For some major publishers, it is easy to configure SFX to generate links that will take you straight from step 2 to step 7:

Set up your SAML Identity Provider (IdP) details

You set up the Shibboleth IdP details in a text file on the server. These are then used throughout the SFX installation, so you don’t need to set them in multiple places.

Go to your SFX config directory and edit the file shibboleth.config

Find the variable idp_url and set it to be the URL which will handle the single sign on requests. So for a Shibboleth IdP it might be something like this:

Or for OpenAthens LA it would be:

Then, set the entityID parameter, e.g.:

Enable the resources you wish to integrate single sign on for

  1. Log into the SFX KBManager
  2. Under “Linking Parameters” tab, search for the target name you are interested in. The parameter name will be called $$SHIBBOLETH. The target source will usually be called something with “-getFullText” appended at the end.
  3. Click on the “E” button to edit the linking parameter
  4. Enter “yes” (without quotes) in the text box labelled “Value”

That’s it. The final screen should look something like this:


Now when you click on a link to get the full text for a search result provided by that target, you will be routed via your IdP where you will be asked to sign in if you’ve not previously, and then taken straight to the article page, logged in.