Libraries and open access discovery

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Co-author: Titia van der Werf

The theme of this year’s Open Access Week is “Community over Commercialization.” It’s designed to “encourage a candid conversation about which approaches to open scholarship prioritize the best interests of the public and the academic community—and which do not.”

This is an important theme for OCLC. As a membership organization that doesn’t return profit to shareholders or private owners, our sole focus is on supporting libraries. This means that finding ways for libraries to provide better access to open content is a priority. One effort underway right now is the Open Access Discovery project in partnership with two Dutch library consortia—Universiteitbibliotheken en Nationale Bibliotheek (UKB) and Samenwerkingsverband Hogeschoolbibliotheken (SHB).

Open doesn’t always mean visible

In 2017 the Netherlands National Programme Open Science (NPOS) set the goal to achieve full open access (OA) to publications (100% OA in 2020) for all educational institutions and research domains in the Netherlands. Dutch academic libraries have invested major efforts and resources to realize this goal and continue to do so. However, as anyone who works in libraries knows, just because something is “available” doesn’t mean it’s easy to find or access.

The Open Access Discovery project is investigating how Dutch libraries integrate OA publications into their users’ discovery workflows. We hope the research will provide valuable evidence for libraries wanting to make their own discovery practices surrounding OA publications more effective. We interviewed library staff at seven universities and universities of applied sciences. We asked them about:

  • Exposing metadata for OA publications produced at their institution
  • Selecting and adding OA publications to their library collections
  • Helping their campus community discover OA publications
  • Collaborating with others to improve OA discoverability

The interviews were followed with a survey of their user communities. Users were asked about their experience searching for scholarly peer-reviewed publications, the barriers they encountered during access, and their experience with open access. Our data analysis is well underway, and we’re excited to begin sharing our findings.

Why a library community focus matters

Our hope is that the findings from the Open Access Discovery project will help libraries:

  • Improve users’ discoverability experiences
  • Develop and refine key measures needed to assess discoverability of these resources
  • Work with key stakeholders to inform needs and strengthen workflows

This fits into broader OCLC efforts to promote OA content, including:

Our research and engagement with the worldwide community of libraries is a critical part of our success. It allows us to be forward-looking as we identify new phenomena of interest and importance and show our commitment to supporting libraries in the work they do.

OCLC has been publishing reports and articles since 1979—producing more than 1,000 publications. All of this work revolves around the library community. And all of it is freely available, open to library workers, partners, and the general public. The Open Access Discovery project was motivated in part by findings from the OCLC Open Content Activities in Libraries report and a series of discussions with academic libraries in the Netherlands. Look for more information and updates about the Open Access Discovery project here.

Register now for our 6 December 2023 Transformative Leaders webinar, “How you can better connect your users to authoritative open content.” Ixchel will discuss her OA discovery project, and other OCLC staff will bring expertise on the subject about OCLC’s open source content partners and how WMS helps improve access to OA materials.