Mendeley killed the library connection


Updated Friday, September 2; 10:58 am:  William Gunn, Director of Scholarly Communications at Elsevier, posted on Twitter that the institution-specific ‘Find Full Text’ connection will soon be back on individual article pages on Mendeley Papers.  Thank you, @MrGunn, for that quick assistance and positive outcome for our users.  

I’m working on a new article related to our scholarly workflow project — exploring the integration of library services within citation management software.  In the article, I review the current level of library-centered connectivity for various tools — Endnote, Zotero, ReadCube, and Mendeley.  ReadCube offers (in my opinion) the most visible integration, asking users to authenticate with their institutional login to retrieve the full text of article PDFs.  ReadCube has also automated a portion of the institutional affiliation process within the software.  They offer a list of institutions for the user to choose from; a choice will automatically populate ReadCube’s preferences with the user’s institutional OpenURL link.  It’s wonderful that ReadCube offers these optimizations; it increases the chances that users will find the full text of their article via their library.

Mendeley used to have some very nice library connectivity options as well.  Those options are now gone.  This Mendeley Blog article from 2011 details the library connection situated within Mendeley’s ‘Get Full Text’ options in the Mendeley catalog.  In a nutshell, users can view the research catalog entry for a specific article.  On the research catalog entry page, the article information was once accompanied by an option to retrieve the full-text of the article in several places, including Google Scholar and the user’s home institution.  I taught this optimization countless times to students, and I know it helped them more readily connect with research articles.  It ensured that my students did not land on unauthenticated journal web pages where they would be confronted with a price for a full text article.

Unfortunately, this option no longer exists.  Mendeley reduced the options on the individual research catalog entry page.  The only option to find full text now is this:


Get full text at journal is now the only path to an article in full text.  I think the motivation behind this change is pretty clear, and it’s terrible.  This change virtually ensures that a user will (more than likely searching from off campus and unauthenticated) land on a journal article page and see a fee as the only option to purchase a journal article.

While an excellent product, Mendeley has taken a step backwards with this new change.  Is it surprising that it happened?  No.  Selling journal articles to people who may already have access via their home institution is a shallow attempt at additional revenue.  Building lasting connections and seamless integration with libraries and librarians would add depth to their product and ensure continued future adoption by students.  Mendeley needs to do the right thing for their users and reinstate the ‘Get Full Text’ at your institution link.  




2 thoughts on “Mendeley killed the library connection

  1. I’d like to hear what Mendeley says about this, as I’m not sure your reasoning (that the point is to make readers shell out $ for articles to which their library may be subscribed) makes sense. The “Get Full Text at Journal” link appears to be a link to the DOI for the article, which is hardly a nonstandard approach and not usually perceived as a money grab. Many publishers are now incorporating “log in through your home institution” links on their own sites. I ran through it for a couple of journals I know of and this is what happened. Isn’t the DOI arguably the preferable way of pointing to the articles, and the publishers providing library logins at their sites a preferable way of making the resources available? I don’t know what service Mendeley was using to track library availability and provide logins via its own product, but it seems to me that it is much more incumbent on the publishers than on research tools to do this. Doesn’t Elsevier itself provide this via Scopus, so that if its motive was profit, it is shooting itself in the foot for its own products?

  2. I really appreciate your comment, Mehmeh! My opinion comes solely from my experience as an academic reference librarian. DOI link or not, many of my users (grad students and faculty who are most often searching from off-campus without the use of a VPN or other automatic authentication) have lots of trouble getting to article full text. It’s a confusing process for them. Take away the option of connecting with their home institution, and it gets even harder (and more confusing). My personal opinion is that we can’t depend on publishers to provide (and maintain) library logins at their sites, but we can expect reference management software providers (who are coming at this from a much broader view than simply at article or journal level) to do so. It would be nice if Elsevier even just did the intermediary thing and provided (as you noted) an authentication – aided link to the article at Scopus or Science Direct.

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