Open Access Books – Helping small libraries think big

Tom Mosterd

Mon 15 May 2023

Read this article at hypothè

Over the last couple of years, the OAPEN Library and Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) collections have grown significantly. We have seen more open access (OA) books being added, and welcomed new publishers from around the world. Much of the continued momentum for OA books has been made possible thanks to the support of a growing library community: investing in OA book programmes, infrastructures and services that enable not only the availability of these books in an OA format, but also their discoverability, preservation and integration into everyday workflows. 

Today, we are speaking with David Dusto, Electronic Resources Librarian at the Elizabeth City State University to learn more about their engagement with OA books.

David, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us. Libraries worldwide increasingly include our collections in their library catalog. These range from large academic libraries to specialized libraries attached to research institutes as well as smaller colleges. For those unfamiliar with Elizabeth City State University, could you share a bit more about the University and its library?

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is a public university that is part of the University of North Carolina system. With just over 2,000 students, ECSU is one of the smallest universities in the system, and it is also a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and approximately ⅔ of the enrolled students are minorities. Historically, ECSU started in 1891 as a teaching college, and still has a large education school. Today, ECSU is also known for its innovative aviation program. The largest U.S. Coast Guard base in the United States is also located in Elizabeth City, so we have many military students as well. The G.R. Little Library is the campus library. We have a small staff of 5 full-time librarians and two other permanent staff, and we work to meet the research and information needs of all the student body.

Could you share more about your role in the library and how you first became familiar with open access books?

I am the Electronic Resources Librarian, but my predecessor held the title “Serials Librarian”, which shows how rapidly academic libraries are changing. I first became familiar with open-access books while I was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina School of Library and Information Science over a decade ago, and have been avidly interested in the subject of both open access books and journals since then. I am also involved with the university’s institutional repository (NCDOCKS), which serves as an open-access collection for material published by students and employees at the university.

To what extent are OA books a part of your library’s strategy today?

ECSU is a small university and our budget for collection development is limited, but I have found that I can supplement our existing eBook collections by locating high-quality open-access collections and adding them to the library website and discovery system. This has been enormously helpful – usage statistics indicate that a considerable percentage of eBook views through the library website are from open-access items. Therefore, despite the small size of the library and its resources, I have been able to build a large and useful online collection for our students and faculty.

How can OA books further support your library and the institution’s mission?

It’s important for institutions such as DOAB to exercise quality control in what they add to their collection, in order for it to be as useful and relevant as possible. Ensuring that links are working correctly in OA directories will save librarians like me a lot of time and aggravation in the long run, as we won’t have to deal with authentication issues and access limits that we are often confronted with when working with subscription-based collections.

In recent years open access for books has gained momentum, yet starting from a small base with a long road ahead still. Do you have any particular expectations or wishes for the open access book community and how this may evolve in the coming years?

I hope to see more institutional support for open-access book publishing. The focus for OA materials that I have seen from universities is primarily focused on journals rather than books, and I would be pleased to see increased support from both university presses/publishing houses and also from smaller institutions that may not have their own press. This would give authors from smaller universities the opportunity to publish and raise the prestige of their own institution, rather than going through a central system press. Similarly, I would like to see increased support for open course materials, such as open-access textbooks. As textbook costs continue to rise, having open course materials not only available but also adopted by instructors would go a long way towards easing the financial burden for students while simultaneously increasing access to materials.