OA (Open Access) services for libraries

Open access. Why would an intermediary be involved?

Filed under: Open Access

Open access presents some interesting challenges for both libraries and publishers. While the publisher side has been very well documented over the past few years, the impact open access will have on the rest of the content supply chain has been less well explored, particularly in terms of the potential role of an intermediary like Swets.

There are important and functional processes that a third-party service provider might help with related to the growth of open access publishing. In the case of increasing levels of gold open access papers, there will be an equal growth in the processing of author fees (article processing charges, or APCs), which will require high levels of administration and often brand new workflows for both libraries, publishers and funding organizations. In Swets’ case, our global support infrastructure could provide real value here by taking the time-consuming tasks out of the hands of the library so they can focus on the delivery of content and helping their authors and readers directly, providing information, training and support for publishing and discovering open access content.

Library access management for OA resourcesOne of the core functions of an academic library is to ensure the right content is delivered in the most efficient way to its patrons (part of the wider core function of “advancing research and learning in fulfilment of higher education’s academic mission” as an ACRL essay from 2007 states"). Open access content is no exception to this rule and in a sense no different from its traditional ‘subscribed’ counterpart as units of information. Being able to search across relevant content is just as important if it is free or not. Knowing what content is open and being able to channel it through the library in an effective manner is also essential. Integration into A-Z lists for all OA research is therefore a huge logistical challenge, as there is currently no central, up-to-date database which aggregates all OA publications into one place (DOAJ does a great job, but has a well-publicized backlog of new publications, and OpenDOAR is fantastic for repository content search, but not always final published versions of articles). It is therefore a great development for OA in general that NISO has initiated a working group to standardize open access content metadata to facilitate better discovery and identification of this type of content.

Content delivery itself presents another opportunity for intermediaries, by providing the search tools to join up and index this expanding wealth of available information, in a more effective and complete way than is possible right now. Discoverability across open repositories is also an important feature of an increasingly open access world. There might be opportunities for an intermediary to extend search functionality to these “green open access” areas as well, to make more diverse types of content available, not restricted to just archived journal articles.

Searching Open Access resourcesA great utility to libraries and their institution’s active authors is the collating of copyright information and permissions for reuse for published content. Currently, publishers stretch from the widely praised CC-BY to often ambiguous copyright terms and statements. Collating this information for all publications is another opportunity where we might provide essential services to the research community, via their libraries. The most common database for this information at the moment is the SHERPA RoMEO initiative, but the opportunity for integration of this information into other systems that form part of the library and researcher workflow would be of huge benefit to those two parties.

The final way in which intermediaries can provide value to open access publishing is in providing a snapshot view of a library’s holdings, and breaking out how much content within hybrid journals is open access, and allowing libraries to monitor this. The implications of more gold OA papers in hybrid journals is that subscription prices will be subject to a lot more scrutiny, so the provision of such an overview might be crucial in price negotiations with publishers to avoid unmonitored double-dipping  and annual subscription price increases. Once again, open access metadata will be critical to the success of this kind of service.

As detailed above, there are a lot of functions that an intermediary can perform to facilitate the discovery and build value around this ‘green’ content. The discussions around OA that are going on in areas of the world help us to understand the points in the chain where we can provide useful solutions for our library, institutional and publisher clients. For example, in the UK the conclusion of the Finch Report recommends that all UK-funded research output should be published via the gold OA route. However, as we can see already, this will not happen overnight, and so in the meantime green open access will still be important. Also, it is hard to see a future that isn’t a three-way hybrid between subscriptions, author-pays open access and green open access content, at least for a time. All three have their virtues and their unique problems, and there are obvious service opportunities that an intermediary can take care of to ensure the library and institution can focus on their own important services and learning programs for their patrons, authors and researchers.


Swets has just launched a new open access service for libraries: Article-Processing Charge (APC) Management. Find out more by clicking below:

Swets open access services