Building stronger infrastructures to support open access books: LYRASIS, DOAB and OAPEN

In 2021, DOAB and OAPEN entered into a new partnership with LYRASIS to develop its services for U.S. partners. As the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) continues to grow, now including well over 50,000 open access books, Sharla Lair, Senior Strategist of Open Access and Scholarly Communication at LYRASIS, and Tom Mosterd, Community Manager DOAB-OAPEN recently discussed what libraries, publishers and other U.S. partners may expect from both open infrastructure services for open access books in the near future.


  • The library community’s eternal struggle is proving Return-On-Investment (ROI) for their investments in open initiatives. How can they show that they spent stewarded funds in an impactful way (locally and at scale) when investing in DOAB or OAPEN?

For DOAB and OAPEN, as non-profit, mission-driven organizations we provide measures that may help libraries in proving ROI. For starters, by providing (COUNTER-conformant) usage statistics, at the local (institutional) and regional (geolocation) level - offering insights into local and regional off-campus usage. This can be particularly interesting for libraries with a vision of serving a wider community, not limited to patrons accessing their physical location.

In a broader sense, library investments contribute towards a (growing) collection of tens of thousands of Open Access (OA) books where they are ensuring their patrons and society at large can seamlessly tap into these - now, and in future. DOAB and OAPEN metadata is openly available in the public domain to all (CC0 1.0) and we do not require users to register prior to accessing books.

This all helps to keep (digital) barriers to access OA books to a minimum. It ensures these books are as visible and accessible to readers as possible: not hindered by complex licensing and authentication measures we know from the non-OA ebooks world. I would also add that libraries, and their investment choices now are instrumental for influencing how scholarly communications and open infrastructures such as ours are shaped moving forward.

  • Libraries are looking for strategies to build more diverse and inclusive collections. How can working with DOAB & OAPEN help them do this?

From the outset OAPEN and DOAB have aimed at working with the complete spectrum of scholarly publishers provided these meet a set of basic criteria related to peer review (DOAB, OAPEN) - to ensure trust in the overall collection and OA book publishing practices. This also means that we avoid high (exclusionary) fees for, especially smaller, publishers while persistently offering assistance and support for all publishers wishing to engage with us for their OA books.

To date this has resulted in a diverse collection of high quality OA books. For DOAB, we index over 50,000 OA books from over 560 academic publishers in 89 languages with about half of all the books being published in non-English languages.

To facilitate and encourage room for various publishing practices, whether stemming from disciplinary or regional differences, we introduced the DOAB Trusted Platform Network last year. This has been one, in a series of steps, with which we aim to further develop a bibliodiverse collection, inclusive of scholarship from around the globe.

  • Librarians often consult with faculty about OA publishing. There are many resources about how to do this with journal publishing. What resources are available about OA book publishing (including myth busting about OA publishing)?

There are indeed a good number of resources available for libraries and faculty to consult when it comes to journal publishing. These are often not as useful when discussing books, given the different and unique nature of book publishing. There are publicly available resources however specifically designed for OA book publishing. The first, ThinkCheckSubmit for books and chapters, which is a helpful tool when assessing whether or not a publisher is suitable for publishing your research. The second, the OAPEN Open Access Books Toolkit, a free-to-access information resource that helps authors to better understand OA book publishing and increase trust in OA books. Thirdly, the Open Access Books Network (OABN), an open network offering a dedicated space to engage around the future of open access book publishing in the form of events, resources, discussion boards and more. These are all community-driven initiatives that can help libraries and faculty with navigating the evolving OA book publishing landscape.

  • Discovery is a high priority to the library community, especially of OA content. What exactly is DOAB/OAPEN doing to improve discovery of OA books?

I think the last two years have demonstrated just how important discoverability of open content is. On a positive note, we’ve seen dramatic, consecutive, increases in download figures of 77% in 2020 and 127% in 2021 via the OAPEN Library. Which, corrected for collection growth, has meant the average number of downloads a book receives has increased in both consecutive years. Next to this an increasing number of discovery systems, vendors and other stakeholders facilitate OA books these days.

Various challenges still persist however due to the evolving nature of how open content is disseminated and consumed by end-users. We help make OA books discoverable through our own platforms, optimizing these for accessibility and indexing by third-parties such as Google Scholar. Additionally, this open content is available via various vendors and third-party system providers, as visualized here. By making our metadata openly available in a variety of formats (KBART, CSV, MARCXML, REST API, OAI-PMH…) libraries and discoverability partners can easily provide their users with access to thousands of OA books.

This year, we are looking to further intensify work on the discoverability front in partnership with the library community. In November 2021, during our annual meeting for supporting libraries we introduced a new library working group through which we will be working on ‘better embedding OA books within the library ecosystem’. In addition, we are currently conducting a pilot project with the Statewide California Electronic Library Consortium (SCELC) to amplify the usage of OA resources in SCELC member libraries. By collaborating with the library community we hope to work towards ensuring OA books are as, or more, discoverable compared to closed ebooks within the library ecosystem - truly making scholarship in the form of books discoverable to readers worldwide.

In keeping with our core principles, the Content & Scholarly Communication Initiatives (CSCI) team at LYRASIS strengthens connections within and across communities to foster collaboration for broad and meaningful impact. We recognize that in order to support open access content, we must also sustain its underlying infrastructure. In this vein, we are proud of our partnership with DOAB and OAPEN and urge the library community to invest in these programs so that they can increase their impact. If you represent a US library and want to learn more about how your library can support DOAB and OAPEN, please visit the LYRASIS website or contact Sharla Lair, [email protected].