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Academic libraries and OA books. The Italian perspective.

Published onJan 31, 2021

Key findings

  • Academic and research libraries system in Italy is centralised, with a fair degree of autonomy on an institutional level

  • A working group CARE within the Conference of Italian University Rectors represents academic libraries in deal negotiations for e-content

  • There is no central national OA policy in Italy

  • There are no OA book-specific funds in Italy; OA book publishing is mainly supported by grants

  • No library-led OA book publishing initiatives were identified

  • OA books are not included in the National Catalogue

General library system for e-content and OA publications

Academic and research libraries in Italy — associated with public and private universities, polytechnics and research centres — depend on the Ministry of University and Research (Ministero dell’ Università e della Ricerca, MUR). Each academic library has its own acquisition budget and makes its own acquisition decisions, based on the advice received from the Consiglio di Biblioteca; a governance body at individual library level, consisting of researchers. 

CRUI (Conference of Italian University Rectors), funded in 1963, acts as a body addressing crucial questions in the Italian academic world, preparing frameworks and proposals for its development. As part of its mission, it aims to “experiment[ing] with new models and methodologies that can be adopted by universities” (Mission - CRUI - Conferenza dei Rettori delle Università italiane, n.d.). While there are no academic libraries consortia in Italy, within CRUI, a working group called CARE (Coordinamento per l'Accesso alle Risorse Elettroniche aka. Coordination for Access to Electronic Resources) handles acquisition of e-content. Acting as a consortium, it represents Italian universities when negotiating deals for e-content with publishers. 

Library community and open access

The Italian Libraries Association (AIB), funded in the 1930s, is the oldest organisation of its  kind in Italy. It unites librarians and information science students, and is open to non-Italian members. The organisation is divided into working groups and committees, one of which is devoted to academic and research libraries. Within the association, a special focus group, the GOAPD (Gruppo di studio Open Access e Pubblico Dominio), deals with open access, with a mission of sharing best practices and promoting the idea of open science. 

AISA (Associazione italiana per la promozione della scienza aperta), a non-profit organisation whose mission is to advance open science, plays a significant role in the national dialogue on the matter since its creation in 2015. Its advisory board has a strong representation of librarians.

The library community also discusses open science-related issues in more informal groups, such as the Italian Open Science Support Group (IOSSG), funded in 2016. Currently, 10 universities participate in the working group alongside the OpenAIRE project. IOSSG aims at facilitating transition towards open access, focusing on the issues of services and infrastructures and tackling those of governance, data management and research-related processes. The organisation creates templates of open science-related documents that can be adopted on an institutional level and plays  an active part in the open science dialogue on a national level.

OA book policies

Currently, there is no national open access policy in Italy. According to a law introduced in 2013, based on the Decree Urgent provisions for the protection, enhancement and promotion of cultural assets, activities and tourism, all research funded at least 50% by public funds is required to be published as open access (Legge n. 112/2013, n.d.). In 2018, the Ministry of Research and Universities formed a group of experts to formulate a National Roadmap for Open Science. This roadmap, presented in May 2019, is still to be implemented. 

Currently, there are 28 Italian institutions in the ROAR map with a registered OA policy. Among them, 17 specifically mention OA books: 

  • Fondazione Cariplo

  • Istituto Superiore di Sanità

  • Universita degli studi di Trieste

  • Universita di Pisa

  • University Federico II Napoli

  • University of Bergamo

  • University of Bologna

  • University of Brescia

  • University of Padova

  • University of Trento

  • University of Udine

  • University of Catania

  • Università degli Studi di Ferrara

  • Università degli Studi di Foggia

  • Università degli Studi di Milano

  • Università degli studi di Cassino e del Lazio Meridionale

  • University of Turin

OA book funding

Funding for open access books in Italy does not exist: there are no OA book-specific funds on a national or institutional level. OA publications are often financed through research grants. 

Library/scholar-led OA book publishing 

There are no library/scholar-led OA book publishing initiatives in Italy. The academic publishing landscape is dominated by university presses, among which three are fully open access: Firenze University Press, Trieste University Press and Naples University Press. They operate on a BPC model. Firenze University Press charges 2,500 EUR for a 230 page monograph or edited volume, including 100 free print copies for the author (FUP VII. Revenue sources and publication charge policy, n.d.). 
The University of Torino runs its own open access publishing platforms for journals (SIRIO) and for books. The latter offers OA publishing for books, released in PDF format only.

Integration of OA books in library systems

Open access content is not included in traditional library catalogues across Italy; they do not belong in the National Catalogue. On an institutional level, each university operates on its own discovery system which may or may not include OA books. Among popular discovery tools in use is PRIMA. 

Important contributors


Legge n. 112/2013. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2020, from

Mission - CRUI - Conferenza dei Rettori delle Università italiane. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2020, from

Firenze University Press, Revenue sources and publication charge policy. (n.d.). Retrieved December 3, 2020, from

Photo by Doug Davey on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

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