Publishers, aggregators and libraries are helping to make research and course materials available online open access. But are there easy routes to finding them?
With the global scientific community united in their search for a coronavirus vaccine, hundreds of scientific papers have now been made available open access (OA). This immediate and unrestricted access to the latest research has enabled collaboration between hospitals and laboratories around the globe.
But it’s not only research related to COVID-19 that has been made accessible. With students and staff no longer able to visit physical libraries, millions of research papers have been released online, while tutors are pointing to online resources so that studies can continue.
But how do you find this newly available open access content? In the wake of the crisis, libraries and aggregators have worked hard to alter their library management systems to make open access collections easier to find.
For instance, changes were made to our library hub discover tool, which can trawl through millions of records contributed by 160 universities, national, and specialist libraries. Open access material will now appear at the top of search results, followed by non-OA online resources, with print material last.
Library management systems
Key library system vendors have also made great progress to help libraries make open access materials easier to find.
OCLC has developed a statement that describes some of the measures they are taking to make content more discoverable, EBSCO are providing an information and resources section, which includes information about e-book access, and ExLibris has included a ‘submit your question’ in their Best Practices page.
Labelling open access content is not new but the COVID-19 crisis has sparked greater visibility of freely accessible scholarly books and articles.
The new search and labelling systems are a huge help but, finding OA documents can still require a bit of digging.
If you want to use a particular e-book or journal it’s worth trying the URL link in the record to see if it’s freely accessible. Some URL links are directed to a university login, so it’s worth looking for links that are direct to the resource and lead to openly accessible material.
Open access resources are indicated on the library hub discover service website by an OA symbol, and these usually have a link that leads directly to the resource. But if what you’re looking for isn’t flagged as OA it can still be worth trying the links in the record as items that have been made temporarily available might not have had the label applied.
We’ll keep track of updates on facilitating the discovery of the free or open content on our library services blog.