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How can I persuade my institution to support collective funding for open access books? (Part Two)

The second part of a two-part blog post. Part One explores why your institution should support collective funding for OA books, while this post highlights practical steps you can take to build a case to management for supporting collective OA book funding.

Published onJan 11, 2023
How can I persuade my institution to support collective funding for open access books? (Part Two)

This is the second part of a two-part blog post. Part One explores why your institution should support collective funding for open access books. This second post highlights practical steps you can take to build a case to management for supporting collective OA book funding.

As Sharla Lair at LYRASIS says “The transformation of scholarly publishing happens one investment at a time. You can’t do everything, but you can do something.”[NO_PRINTED_FORM] In the UK, several libraries (including the Universities of St Andrews, Manchester, Sussex, and Salford, among others) are all implementing innovative strategies to enable ethically-aligned support for OA that mesh with budget constraints. The university KU Leuven has an approach worth studying (more on this below), as does that of Utrecht, Iowa State University, the University of Kansas, Guelph, Temple University, University of California and MIT Library. But even libraries that are not in a position to make strategic overhauls can still agree criteria by which they can start to assess deals. 

Practical approaches - a case study from the library at KU Leuven

One of the most developed and forward-thinking strategies for supporting OA monographs can be found at KU Leuven, Belgium. Demmy Verbeke, Head of KU Libraries Artes, has argued that the end goal should be a reversal in priorities of how libraries spend their budget. He advocates that libraries should make investments in mission-aligned infrastructures for scholarly communication in the first instance, and only after that should come investments in for-profit solutions.

Verbeke knows that this will not happen overnight and his practical advice is that, in the meantime, a library should look into ring-fencing part of their budget for exclusive investment in mission-aligned infrastructure. Having a separate budget like this ensures that (1) there is money available to support if something comes along which they deem worthy and (2) there are workflows and procedures in place for spending. He is modest in his approach: his suggestion is to start with keeping 2.5% of the budget aside for this, in line with the 2,5% commitment suggested by David W. Lewis.

Verbeke’s main arguments in support of this are:

  1. This is only a tiny part of the budget; finding money for this is nowhere near the same league as some vendor agreements that libraries are already paying for.

  2. This approach is plainly good financial management and the financial officers at universities will understand this. Investing everything you have into one single approach, one single provider or one single business model is not smart. It is much better to hedge your bets and ensure you diversify your investments by asking budget holders to set aside some money to keep the diversity in the market alive.

For more information on KU Leuven’s approach and how they persuaded their institution to implement it, see the ‘Further reading’ section at the end of this blog post.

Practical steps you can take

It is likely you will need to make a case to the budget holder. This will require you to successfully meld the financial imperatives with a values-based/ethos argument. Here are some things you might consider:[NO_PRINTED_FORM]

  1. Identify the models and presses that best fit with your local research needs and local collections strategy. This might also include consideration of how these presses could help authors to comply with any funder policies, e.g. UKRI in the UK. Some places to start:

  2. Does a publisher stand on their own as offering monograph content that your institution would like to have, even if OA wasn’t a consideration?

  3. Make the financial case for supporting them using the arguments given and articles linked in Part 1 of this blog post (‘Benefits of collective funding models for OA vs funding via BPC’). This might include not only the figures on how much a collective funding model costs but also the duration of commitment; or if the scheme ties your fee to a tier structure (Carnegie classifications or Jisc’s banding for example); if the fee is recurrent; how easily it is payable through existing workflows/intermediaries; and any other benefits you might get for length of library commitment.

  4. For the presses and models that fit with your institution’s research and teaching mission, consider including details of their mission too, their publishing history, and peer review process.

  5. You might also add details on their governance, and any commitment to advancing social justice and diversity, and their non- or for-profit status, if these things are relevant to your institution.

  6. Examine if they are susceptible to commercial buyout and demonstrate their operational and financial stability.

  7. Are there potential duplications because of overlaps with paid eBook subscriptions/Evidence Based Acquisition policies?

  8. Look at their author rights, copyright and licensing policies.

  9. Detail any compliance with relevant technical standards. Does the collection have quality catalogue records with timely updates?

  10. What are the views of your own academics?

And if you still don’t know where to start, don’t worry because you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Others have gone before you. The bulleted list below has links to criteria and frameworks that your library can re-use:

Finally, when in doubt, reach out to your peers through professional networks. You will know the best places to connect with other librarians, but here are some places to start in relation to OA books:

Some final thoughts on practical approaches

In terms of signing up to support a programme, two good places to begin are COPIM’s Open Book Collective platform (OBC), and the Opening the Future funding programme which is already in use at two university presses:

  1. The OBC makes it easy for librarians to compare, select and financially support an OA package that meets the teaching and research priorities of their institution, allowing side-by-side comparison of package content and costs.

  2. Opening the Future (OtF) is being run successfully by the Central European University Press and Liverpool University Press and has already funded 13 new OA books. OtF leverages backlist package sales to open frontlist titles: library members pay a small annual fee to get DRM-free, unlimited access to a selection of a publisher's closed backlist, with perpetual access after three years, and the membership fees are then used by the publisher solely to produce new OA monographs.

As one of our COPIM colleagues points out in a Jisc blog post “The sector needs to experiment with these models. Libraries need to get behind them and support them otherwise the scenario ends with libraries paying huge BPCs to a small group of larger publishers”. 

We urge libraries to support what they can in order to make collective funding models the predominant way of producing OA books, rather than allowing BPCs and TAs to become established as the default. Anyone who has ever paid an £8k APC to Elsevier, or anyone who follows the #EBookSOS campaign knows that a BPC scenario will not benefit libraries or their readers and authors in the long run.

Further reading

We have already embedded many useful blogs, articles and toolkits in the text above (and in Part 1), so the list below contains just a few extra links to wider reading on some of the themes covered.

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