To link or not to link on a library’s website

Todd Vandenbark

hand typing on a keyboardWe regularly receive requests from individuals and organizations to link to their websites. As a top-notch, academic medical library, our website focuses “providing access to scholarly academic resources to advance education, research, and health care through information access, service and innovation.” To assist in sorting out which external links to include or exclude, our library has developed a policy for linking to external websites to guide the decision process.

One of the critical components of this policy is “The HON Code of Conduct for medical and health Web sites” from the Health On the Net Foundation. Our website is HON Code Certified, meaning that the content we offer is/shows:

  1. Authoritative: indicating the quality (ex: credentials) of the author
  2. Complementarity: information should support, not replace, the doctor-patient relationship.
  3. Privacy: respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor.
  4. Attribution: cite the source(s) of published information, date medical and health pages.
  5. Justifiability: must back up claims relating to benefits and performance.
  6. Transparency: provide accessible presentation, accurate email contact.
  7. Financial disclosure: must identify funding sources.
  8. Advertising policy: clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content.

As an example of how this process is implemented, I recently received a request to link to the following site via an email sent to our Director:

Our site ( is listed as a web resource by the American Nurses Association and the American Hospital Association, and the New York Times highlighted us in November 2010 as a nursing career/education resource. I’m biased : ) but I do think it might be a useful addition.

A visit to this URL leads to a site that claims to have widespread approval by “organizations such as the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and the National Gerontological Nursing Association, among many others.” They also claim to have “given back to the nursing community by sponsoring over $12,000 in nursing student scholarships over the past two years.” It even claims to be a member of the American Library Association (ALA). The site is clearly organized and packed with useful information.

When compared to the HON Code Principles, however, this site falls short on several criteria. First, it barely meets the requirement for “Transparency,” only providing an email address as contact information, and nothing else.  A visit to the parent company’s website, Degree Prospects LLC, leads to a single web page with little information other than a generic email address, falling short in the “Authoritative” and “Financial Disclosure” categories. Finally, its so-called “Privacy Policy” can be changed at any time, and they reserve the right to sell assets, including any personal information provided by visitors. They claim that if personal information is sold, the Privacy Policy “shall remain in full force and effect and shall be binding” on those it is sold to. But any policy can be changed at any time by either the seller or the buyer, so privacy is fluid at best.

Should the library include a link to this site as a resource on our website, or not? What do you think? Tell us!