The Adoption of E-Services and Use of Online Collections of Libraries Grows Internationally, Puts a Spotlight on Sustainability

As national and university libraries around the world make efforts to increase their digital accessibility, partnerships with external service providers are likely to be critical for long-term and cross-platform access to book collections in electronic form.

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The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Library has partnered with HathiTrust, a digital library, in order to provide online access to as much as 40% of its stack holdings. At the same time, this is a temporary arrangement that is exceptionally in place for the duration of the Covid-10 pandemic. It is also based on faire use provisions that apply to UCLA faculty, students and staff only accessing these collections via their login credentials at the HathiTrust Digital Library platform.

Incidentally, the lockdown conditions have also created demand for scholarly e-book collections of other providers of subscription-based solutions, such as ProQuest, the National Emergency Library of the Internet Archive and EBSCO. Importantly, Open Access collections can complement these resources on a non-temporary basis, as teaching and research activities take place increasingly online. For this reason, the UCLA has launched the OpenUCLA initiative, as it seeks to remove paywall-based restrictions on access to scholarship, findings and knowledge on a long-term basis.

Open Access collections, as exemplified by the OpenUCLA, also ensure global monograph and article accessibility, while placing an emphasis on financial affordability. This is particularly relevant for Global South countries, such as Malaysia, that have seen the use rates of the online information resources from local university libraries rise by about 50% between February and March, 2020, alone. This particularly applies to the paywall-based access to scholarly articles, books and other content that rose by more than 60% between February and March 2020 in individual university libraries, such as the Universiti Putra Malaysia Sultan Abdul Samad Library.

Yet content discovery and platform usability are the concerns that national or university libraries, such as in India, may not necessarily be able to address on their own, despite the extensiveness of their holdings. As lockdown measures are rolled back globally, long-term online access to books and journals for audiences around the world is likely to remain a priority for universities, researchers and governments for months and years to come. This is partly why Springer Nature and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have recently announced that they have created a joint framework for book publishing in Open Access.

Covering a comprehensive range of academic fields, such as education, natural and social sciences and humanities, this Open Access framework is slated to enable free of charge access to book content from both the SpringerLink platform and the Open Access repository of UNESCO. This arrangement is expected to ensure scholarly content discoverability, while removing barriers to its access, sharing and re-use by scientific stakeholders worldwide, e.g., in the Global South. Open Access initiatives of this type are also likely to increase the impact and visibility of scholarly books, while improving the sustainability of their publication and access models.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), August 24, 2012 | © Courtesy of Marlene P/Flickr.

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Pablo Markin

Community Manager, Open Research Community

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