SFX, an abbreviation for special effects , is a software product that makes it easy to create certain kinds of hypertext links within a collection of information such as the description of a library collection. Using SFX, a librarian could, for example, create context-sensitive linking between all components of an electronic information collection, such as abstracts, full-text articles, library catalogs, indexing databases, journal citations, and so on. Context-sensitive linking provides much easier access to information: Metadata about one source link it to other related sources that the user can access simply by clicking the links. SFX was developed by Herbert Van de Sompel at the University of Ghent in Belgium, in collaboration with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The product has since been acquired by Ex Libris, an Israel-based company that developed Aleph , the original library automation product.
The essential core of the SFX system is a database of linkable resources (such as OPAC , the Serials Union List , and Current Contents ) and the rules for access, such as data elements that must be passed, date thresholds, and categories of material. SFX communicates through OpenURL , a protocol that enables metadata transfer between an information service and a service component. MetaLib is an Ex Libris portal product used in conjunction with SFX to create a standardized interface for users of various systems and platforms.
In a typical user scenario, a researcher requests links for a particular record by pressing a Special Effects button. SFX accesses the details of the record they're looking at to select the relevant links, and then organizes those links and presents them to the user. A researcher could automatically link to information, such as a bibliographical citation for a journal article, that they would formerly have to get manually.