Federated authentication lets users access remote sites by logging in to their campus sign-on service. The campus sign-on service then confirms that the user is entitled to the content. Unlike proxy servers and other technologies, federated authentication is portable as the user visits multiple content providers. The campus sign-on service then confirms that the user is entitled to the content. Unlike proxy servers and other technologies, federated authentication is portable as the user visits multiple content providers. User IDs and passwords are only shared with the local institution; the publisher site receives only confirmation that the user is authorized, and in some cases a pseudonymous identifier for the user.
These methods seek to improve and simplify how our users connect to our electronic resources, regardless of their physical location, while increasing security and preserving user privacy. These methods have so far been developed with little input from library practitioners, and many librarians have had little opportunity to learn how they work.
In 2021, the Core Technology Section's Authentication Project Team created two resources to help librarians and library workers discuss benefits and issues around federated authentication and the related Seamless Access (SA) project.
- Federated Authentication Acronyms and Terminology: A guide to the specialized language of federated authentication
- The Elevator Talk: Explaining Seamless Access, Federated Authentication, and Related Privacy Issues to Your Boss, in 60 Seconds, in Very Simple Language
The Project Team also recommended the creation of a new Federated Authentication Committee within Core, which the Core Board approved at its February 2022 meeting. The Committee includes a liaison from the Seamless Access group to Core, as well as a liaison from Core to SA.
During its first year, the Committee will create a community of practice around federated authentication, establish a roadmap for knowledge/skills development, and provide regular updates to the Core membership on Seamless Access developments.
The members of the Core Technology Section's Authentication Project Team were Thomas Dowling, Lynne Edgar, Jason Griffey, Hong Ma, Catherine Smith, and Ken Varnum.