Integrating OA Collections in a Small Academic Library
by Sarah Guy and Shelby Carroll
Implementing OA materials into library resources remains a daunting task because of the many pervasive challenges in the OA landscape, even though the movement has grown in impact and influence over the past several years. Library patrons stand to benefit from access to research published in OA and hybrid journals, while libraries can save money and trim their budgets. However, no two libraries or library patron bases are alike, so individual libraries must create their own OA strategies. This article describes some of the challenges that Carolina University (CU) has faced in implementing our OA strategy. It also discusses the decision-making process behind our impending implementation of CloudSource+, which is an OA discovery platform from SirsiDynix.
|Because CloudSource+ is built on an OA-first model, it seamlessly integrates open content with paid content.
The challenges associated with OA collections range from simple to complex. OA materials are scattered across the web, with no single centralized location for all of them. Due to the novelty of the publishing model, many people in academia are skeptical about the quality of OA articles. Predatory publishers contribute to this skepticism by using OA models to publish non-scholarly articles. Other, seemingly minor, challenges—such as links that go out of date quickly—cause OA initiatives to fall flat or feel disconnected. To make things more complicated, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to all of these problems, and OA initiatives look completely different from institution to institution.
In 2020, CU began a concentrated effort to expand its academic offerings by adding programs in many different disciplines. The librarians decided to focus on adding OA materials to help support these disciplines, because the budget was not growing at the same rate as the school’s programs and enrollment. OA provided an economical solution. As the previously mentioned challenges and opportunities presented themselves, CU librarians sought out solutions, including the idea of incorporating OA materials into a new discovery service.
Considering CloudSource OA
In exploring our options, we were introduced to a pilot program for a new SirsiDynix product called CloudSource OA. It consists of an index of OA resources from many different publishers and platforms. It provides one-click access to articles, ebooks, and other OA resources, including hybrid journals. In addition, CloudSource+ takes the CloudSource product a step further by integrating paid resources with that large OA index, acting as a discovery service that includes all the resources available to patrons. The pilot for CloudSource OA began in spring 2021, just as the library was evaluating its budget for the next several years and deciding how to effectively grow the collection in new subject areas while making the best use of library funds.
The first step in deciding whether or not to join the pilot program was to analyze the library’s collection in order to gain a better understanding of what kind of impact CloudSource OA would have. A primary goal of the CloudSource OA initiative was to save the library money on journal subscriptions to hybrid journals where much of the content was OA anyway, so a collection analysis would show how much of our content could be cut from our subscriptions. The team at SirsiDynix provided an analysis of the library’s collection and found that more than 50% of titles in the collection were already OA or hybrid.
The subjects that were most positively impacted by the CloudSource OA index were the disciplines in which the university was growing fastest—areas such as health sciences, life sciences, and engineering.
The collection analysis showed that implementing OA content using CloudSource would give patrons a great advantage through the additional resources and would also provide an opportunity to save on current subscription costs. This solution would help cut costs not only by saving money on journal subscriptions, but it would also allow the library to cancel our discovery service and replace it with CloudSource+, which was made even more affordable by a discount for pilot participants. In addition to the discount and cost savings, another benefit of joining CloudSource+ as a pilot member was the ability to provide input on the new platform.
The first stage of the pilot focused on CloudSource OA, the basic platform with only OA materials. To get started, the library simply filled out an implementation form with all of the necessary information. Pilot participants also joined a message board on Basecamp, where library staffers could share feedback, talk to other pilot participants, and receive updates on the program. Throughout the pilot program, the CloudSource OA team updated the platform and added additional search facets and more content.
Soon after filling out the required paperwork and joining the Basecamp team, the library was also required to schedule software updates for the OPAC, which made it compatible with the CloudSource OA platform. Once the platform was updated, our CloudSource OA instance was delivered (pictured on page 16), featuring CloudSource OA branding along with the university name and one-click access to open content through basic search and filtering using facets.
The second stage of the pilot entailed working with the CloudSource+ team to prepare the platform to include paid subscriptions. SirsiDynix put together an index with several million items that went beyond the OA index. Then the library provided information about our current paid subscriptions, including databases and journals that could be matched with the resources in that index. SirsiDynix partnered with the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries to use its link resolver, Gold Rush Linker.
The librarians set up an account with Gold Rush Linker and gathered the information necessary to make it work. It needed to be tested with OpenAthens to see if the two would be compatible. A SirsiDynix consultant worked with librarians to test the link resolver by providing examples of articles in our subscriptions and testing the resolver from on campus. Since CU was among the first to join as CloudSource+ customers, it took some extra work to learn how OpenAthens and Gold Rush Linker would work together to find the correct combination of OpenURL protocols.
Additionally, some paid e-resources were not included in the CloudSource+ index, so library staffers had the opportunity to work with SirsiDynix to make sure they will be accessible to patrons through CloudSource+ by uploading those records. The library’s ebooks are purchased primarily through EBSCO, and the MARC records are delivered through OCLC. So in order to include the MARC records, we had to download them from OCLC. This process was somewhat time-consuming because it differed from the previous method of utilizing the EBSCO ebooks platform for access to ebooks and MARC records. However, once the library implements a consistent workflow for uploading the records, the process should be fairly smooth.
At the time of this writing, CU’s CloudSource+ platform is almost ready to be tested by the library staff. Once it is functional, the library will be able to customize exactly what materials are visible in searches. CloudSource+ will also give libraries the option to include paid content that is outside of library subscriptions with a “Get It Now” link that will allow patrons to purchase an article. The librarians are still weighing that option and are deciding whether to use that method or to continue with interlibrary loan as the main solution for providing access to articles from outside our normal paid library subscriptions. The next steps will also include testing CloudSource+ with CU students, which will likely help us make decisions about interface customization.
Ultimately, for CU, CloudSource+ provides solutions to many of the obstacles that are specific to our school. One is an updated, user-friendly discovery interface. The CloudSource+ interface has only a few buttons, easy-to-find filters and facets, and very little clutter on the search
results pages. CloudSource+ provides users with one-click access to all resources. Many discovery services do not provide easy, one-click access to open articles. Some will only send readers to the OA journal’s page, forcing them to search within the journal for that article or, unfortunately, give up their search. Additionally, some links would not work at all because of OA materials occasionally moving over time. CloudSource+ corrects all of this with single-click access and regular maintenance to ensure properly functioning links.
CloudSource+ offers a more specific level of indexing, which is needed for hybrid journals or journals with embargoes. In some discovery services, libraries can choose to include a journal in their results, but cannot filter out paid content. So, turning on a hybrid journal in your holdings would give patrons results from that journal that are OA, but also some articles that are behind a paywall. CloudSource+ can exclude the paid content and only include those articles from hybrid journals that are OA. The same goes for journals that become OA after an embargo period; CloudSource+ is able to specifically include articles that have become fully open.
Because CloudSource+ is built on an OA-first model, it seamlessly integrates open content with paid content. This is unlike traditional discovery service models, which added OA content after they were created, forcing OA materials into a platform that wasn’t designed for them. Since CloudSource+ is designed for OA content, patrons can expect OA articles to be integrated into their searches, making sure they don’t miss out on high-quality OA research. The content is also curated so that less desirable content is filtered out, leaving only the best OA materials.
During the pilot, one of the CloudSource team’s main initiatives was to add open educational resources (OERs) to their index. These are a specific type of OA resource used for teaching, so including them in CloudSource+ will make it easy for faculty members to identify teaching materials such as textbooks, videos, and homework that their students will already have free, easy access to. The library can increase promotion of OERs on campus, helping out with student success.
The library already uses a SirsiDynix ILS for cataloging and circulation, so moving the primary discovery service to CloudSource+ will integrate library processes. For example, with the previous discovery service, there was a 1-day delay between the time a book was cataloged and the time it was findable in the discovery service. Also, the back end of CloudSource+ is part of BLUEcloud Central, which already houses the library circulation and cataloging modules. So, switching to CloudSource+ makes sense for library staffers as they work with the catalog.
OA content produces many opportunities and challenges, and each library must find a way to pursue the opportunities and overcome the unique challenges they face. CloudSource+ allows our library to strategically place OA sources at the forefront of our discovery layer. For CU, the user-friendly interface of CloudSource+—along with the addition of carefully curated, high-quality OA content and the benefit of cost savings of additional content—made the switch a worthwhile decision.