Open Access Books – Helping small libraries think big

Over the last couple of years, the OAPEN Library and Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) collections have grown significantly. We have seen more open access (OA) books being added, and welcomed new publishers from around the world. Much of the continued momentum for OA books has been made possible thanks to the support of a growing library community: investing in OA book programmes, infrastructures and services that enable not only the availability of these books in an OA format, but also their discoverability, preservation and integration into everyday workflows. 

Today, we are speaking with David Dusto, Electronic Resources Librarian at the Elizabeth City State University to learn more about their engagement with OA books.

David, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us. Libraries worldwide increasingly include our collections in their library catalog. These range from large academic libraries to specialized libraries attached to research institutes as well as smaller colleges. For those unfamiliar with Elizabeth City State University, could you share a bit more about the University and its library?

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is a public university that is part of the University of North Carolina system. With just over 2,000 students, ECSU is one of the smallest universities in the system, and it is also a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and approximately ⅔ of the enrolled students are minorities. Historically, ECSU started in 1891 as a teaching college, and still has a large education school. Today, ECSU is also known for its innovative aviation program. The largest U.S. Coast Guard base in the United States is also located in Elizabeth City, so we have many military students as well. The G.R. Little Library is the campus library. We have a small staff of 5 full-time librarians and two other permanent staff, and we work to meet the research and information needs of all the student body.

Could you share more about your role in the library and how you first became familiar with open access books?

I am the Electronic Resources Librarian, but my predecessor held the title “Serials Librarian”, which shows how rapidly academic libraries are changing. I first became familiar with open-access books while I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina School of Library and Information Science over a decade ago, and have been avidly interested in the subject of both open access books and journals since then. I am also involved with the university’s institutional repository (NCDOCKS), which serves as an open-access collection for material published by students and employees at the university.

To what extent are OA books a part of your library’s strategy today?

ECSU is a small university and our budget for collection development is limited, but I have found that I can supplement our existing eBook collections by locating high-quality open-access collections and adding them to the library website and discovery system. This has been enormously helpful – usage statistics indicate that a considerable percentage of eBook views through the library website are from open-access items. Therefore, despite the small size of the library and its resources, I have been able to build a large and useful online collection for our students and faculty.

How can OA books further support your library and the institution’s mission?

It’s important for institutions such as DOAB to exercise quality control in what they add to their collection, in order for it to be as useful and relevant as possible. Ensuring that links are working correctly in OA directories will save librarians like me a lot of time and aggravation in the long run, as we won’t have to deal with authentication issues and access limits that we are often confronted with when working with subscription-based collections.

In recent years open access for books has gained momentum, yet starting from a small base with a long road ahead still. Do you have any particular expectations or wishes for the open access book community and how this may evolve in the coming years?

I hope to see more institutional support for open-access book publishing. The focus for OA materials that I have seen from universities is primarily focused on journals rather than books, and I would be pleased to see increased support from both university presses/publishing houses and also from smaller institutions that may not have their own press. This would give authors from smaller universities the opportunity to publish and raise the prestige of their own institution, rather than going through a central system press. Similarly, I would like to see increased support for open course materials, such as open-access textbooks. As textbook costs continue to rise, having open course materials not only available but also adopted by instructors would go a long way towards easing the financial burden for students while simultaneously increasing access to materials.

 

Tour de Bibliothèque: The OAPEN Library SCOAP³ for Books collection

The OAPEN Library is a growing virtual library of open access books. Researchers and curious readers find their way to the OAPEN Library via a number of entrances. As they browse, land upon or virtually stroll through the OAPEN Library, what unique books may one discover on its bookshelves? Today we’ll take a tour through the high energy physics section, where we’ll find the latest collection added to the OAPEN Library: the SCOAP³ for Books collection.

Open access books in high energy physics

The SCOAP³ for Books collection currently includes over 20 open access books in high energy physics and will, as part of this pilot initiative, grow to include a set of over 100 important texts within the discipline. 

This collection includes titles such as “The Standard Model and Beyond’’ written by Paul Langacker, part of the High Energy Physics, Cosmology, and Gravitation series published by Taylor and Francis (2017). This open access book provides an advanced introduction to the physics and formalism of the standard model and other non-abelian gauge theories. It provides a solid background for understanding supersymmetry, string theory, extra dimensions, dynamical symmetry breaking, and cosmology.

Next to this readers may encounter the open access book Challenges And Goals For Accelerators In The XXI Century’’, edited by Stephen Myers & Oliver Brüning and published by World Scientific Publishing Company (2016). This book describes the past 100 years of accelerator development with a special focus on the technological advancements in the field, the connection of the various accelerator projects to key developments and discoveries in the Standard Model, how accelerator technologies open the door to other applications in medicine and industry, and finally presents an outlook of future accelerator projects for the coming decades.

The role of books for SCOAP³ 

These open access books are made available thanks to the work of SCOAP³ – the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics. SCOAP³ enables open dissemination of global research outputs in high energy physics and was first introduced in 2012, with the support of the European Organization of Nuclear Research (CERN).

So what is the role of the academic book for SCOAP³ and within high energy physics more generally?

The overall objective for SCOAP3 is to enable global, equitable open access for research in the discipline of high energy physics. Having successfully converted the majority of the journal literature in the discipline to open, the Consortium decided to expand the scope of the initiative to include academic books in high energy physics and related disciplines (such as accelerator physics and instrumentation).

“Through the support of members of the consortium and partnerships with key publishers, we are making important texts in our domain completely free for students, faculty and researchers around the world. The COVID19 pandemic demonstrated how important it is for content to be widely and seamlessly accessible, and we are committed to a future where research and academic texts are available openly to anyone who might need them.”  – Dr. Kamran Naim, Head of Open Science, CERN

OAPEN Library collection services 

Thanks to the partnership between SCOAP³ for Books and the OAPEN Library, the SCOAP³ for Books collection benefits from the various OAPEN Library collection services. These include hosting, digital preservation, dissemination and usage reporting.

The OAPEN Library includes these books as part of its metadata feeds, API schema and OAI-PMH harvesting protocol. This enables a wide range of organisations such as academic libraries, library intermediaries, research institutions, and discovery services (including Google Scholar) to provide visibility for these open access books around the world.

In the course of the next few months, more titles can be expected to be added to this unique collection of open access books.

The OAPEN Library and the origin of downloads – libraries & academic institutions

On a regular basis, we look at the download data of the OAPEN Library and where it comes from. While examining the data from January to August 2021, we focused on the usage originating from libraries and academic institutions. Happily, we found that more than 1,100 academic institutions and libraries have used the OAPEN Library.

Of course, we do not actively track individual users. Instead we use a more general approach: we look at the website from which the download from the OAPEN Library originated. How does that work? For instance, when someone in the library of the University of Leipzig clicks on the download link of a book in the OAPEN library, two things happen: first, the book is directly available on the computer that person is working on, and second, the OAPEN server notes the ‘return address’: https://katalog.ub.uni-leipzig.de/. We have no way of knowing who the person is that started the download, we just know the request originated from the Leipzig University Library. Furthermore, some organisations choose to suppress sending their ‘return address’, making them anonymous.

What is helpful to us, is the fact that aggregators such as ExLibris, EBSCO or SerialSolutions use a specific return address. Examples are “west-sydney-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com” – pointing to the library of the Western Sydney University – or “sfx.unibo.it”– coming from the library of the Università di Bologna. And in this way, many academic libraries can also be identified from their web address. Some academic institutions only display their ‘general’ address.

Academic libraries and institutions, sorted by type
Academic libraries and institutions

As mentioned before, our analysis delivered over 1,100 – 1,121 to be exact – different addresses. The chart displays those addresses divided by type, and we see that many academic libraries not just rely on aggregators such as ExLibris, but also directly give access to the OAPEN Library through their catalogs. The metadata of the OAPEN Library is freely available under a CC0 license, and can be downloaded as a MARCXML file to ensure easy library integration.

Which libraries and institutions are the biggest users of the OAPEN Library according to this data? The most downloads come from MediaLibraryOnLine, the first Italian network of public, academic and scholastic libraries for digital lending; the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford; and Universidad Peruana de Ciencas Aplicados.

We are happy to see that our collection is finding its way to libraries and academic institutions all over the world!

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