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Academic libraries and OA books. The Portuguese perspective

Published onJan 31, 2021

Key findings

  • Access to e-content for HEIs is managed by the B-on consortium

  • The OA-oriented library community operates within the RCAAP network

  • There is no national OA policy, although a set of recommendations for open science was developed on a national level 

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

  • No library-led OA book publishing initiatives were identified. Some university presses offer OA option for books

  • Libraries rely on aggregators for OA book coverage

General library system for e-content and OA publications

The higher education system in Portugal is divided between universities and polytechnic schools (both public and private). Academic libraries connected to these institutions are of diverse natures: there are the ancient universities (University of Coimbra library, which dates back to the XIII century), relatively young institutions (a large number of new public universities was established in 1970s), and newborns (such as the University of Lisboa, established as a result of a merger between the University of Lisbon and Technical University of Lisbon in 2003). 

It wasn’t until the 1990s that Portuguese academic libraries underwent a modernisation process, and the past 20 years were marked by the creation of many new library buildings across the country. Despite this revamping process, Portuguese libraries still struggle with low budgets and the problem of understaffing. 

B-on (Biblioteca do Conhecimento Online, Online Knowledge Library), launched in 2004, provides access to e-content to Higher Education Institutions in Portugal and negotiates deals with publishers on behalf of them. In its mission statement it cites free access to knowledge and promotion of Portuguese research publications. Currently, B-on offers access to over 16,000 publications and focuses mainly on journals. B-on was developed as a national consortium under the aegis of the Portuguese government; libraries and research centres were invited to join and currently most of Portuguese HEIs are part of it.

Library community and open access

RCAAP, the Scientific Repositories of Open Access of Portugal (Repositórios Científicos de Acesso Aberto de Portugal) is a platform aggregating content of repositories across the Portuguese universities. Across the country, it unites librarians interested in open science. Originally funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia), with the support of the University of Minho, RCAAP’s mission goes beyond creation of repositories, and the network of people engaged in the project can be seen as one of the important forums for information exchange for the library community.

BAD (Associação Portuguesa de Bibliotecários, Arquivistas, Profissionais da Informação e Documentação) has been uniting representatives of the library community since 1973. Several working groups have been established within the organisation, dealing with different types of libraries and their specificities, including one for HEI’s libraries.

OA book policies

There is no national open science policy in Portugal. However, since 2016, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education has undertaken several steps to advance the development of open science practices in Portugal, starting with proclaiming it as a national priority. Two reports, one on the state of open science and the other with recommendations for further steps were produced in 2016 (Finanças, Cultura e Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior. (2016). Diário Da República, 2016). Among recommendations one can find transitioning to open access, and the development of necessary infrastructures to support it (Segundo Relatório Da Comissão Executive Do Grupo de Trabalho Para A Política Nacional de Ciência Aberta, 2016). The set of recommendations has not been officially adopted on a national scale yet. 

The largest national funder, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), has introduced the open access mandate, as have many HEIs in Portugal. Currently, there are 27 institutions with a registered OA policy in the ROAR database. Among them, 13 mention OA books specifically:

  • Escola Superior de Educação de Paula Frassinetti

  • Fundação D. Anna de Sommer Champalimaud e Dr. Carlos Montez Champalimaud Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia

  • ISCTE-IUL - Lisbon University Institute

  • Instituto Politécnico de Bragança

  • Instituto Politécnico de Portalegre

  • Universidade Aberta

  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa

  • Universidade da Beira Interior

  • Universidade da Madeira/ Biblioteca

  • Universidade de Lisboa (University of Lisbon)

  • Universidade do Minho

  • University of Coimbra

OA book funding

Funding for open access in Portugal does not exist per se: 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 pure library-led OA book publishing initiatives in Portugal. Most universities engage in publishing activities, offering both closed and open access publications. The largest and oldest publisher — University of Coimbra Press — does offer options to publish open access books, with almost 600 titles currently listed in DOAB. 

Minho University, one of the OA-oriented universities, was closely involved in the development of the RCAAP project, and created its own university press in 2019, with its first OA titles being published  that year. U Minho Editora publishes journals and books alike and is built on the open source software (OJS and OMP). Books are released in  PDF format only. U Minho Editora does not charge BPCs to authors; they sustain their publishing activities with  their own institutional budget combined with funding from public and private entities, and print sales. 

Integration of OA books in library systems

Open access books are integrated in most library systems through discovery tools, offered by such providers as EBSCO and MetaLib. Most libraries also catalogue OA books in their local catalogues. Next to that, RCAAP, the national repository aggregator, lists more than 15,000 OA books from 10 different Portuguese repositories.

Important contributors


Finanças, Cultura e Ciência, Tecnologia e Ensino Superior. (2016). Diário da República, 2.a série — N.o 244.

Segundo Relatório da Comissão Executive do Grupo de Trabalho Para A Política Nacional de Ciência Aberta. (2016). Comissão Executiva GT-PNCA.

Photo of the Biblioteca Joanina by Bgabel, CC BY-SA 3.0

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