The Open Access Books Collection: Expanding Access and Building Connections
This is a guest post by Kristy Darby, a Digital Collections Specialist in the Digital Content Management Section at the Library of Congress.
In March 2020, we first shared about the growing collection of open access e-books available on loc.gov. A lot has changed since then but, in particular, the Open Access Books Collection was created. This newly created collection brings together all known open access e-books available on loc.gov, the number of which has grown significantly from about 300 titles to over 3,200.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Library of Congress staff quickly transitioned to telework in March 2020, including staff primarily focused on print materials. Staff from the Digital Content Management Section (DCM) and the Collection Development Office (CDO) organized a project for recommending officers (ROs) – subject area experts who select new content for the Library’s collection – to identify open access e-book titles from the Directory of Open Access Books, an international digital directory providing access to academic peer-reviewed books with open access licenses, for addition to the Library’s permanent collection. This telework project was specifically created to serve and support Library staff who were newly remote and it successfully resulted in the selection of thousands of titles to be added to the Library’s permanent collection.
Once titles were selected by ROs, DCM staff used established workflows to process the e-books and make them available on loc.gov. For e-books the Library already holds in print, this process entails downloading e-book files from DOAB, cloning and transforming existing MARC bibliographic records from the Library’s catalog for the corresponding print titles, and ensuring the Creative Commons license metadata is included in the MARC record. Many e-books recommended through this effort were new titles for the Library, however, and could not be processed without MARC bibliographic records. Catalogers in the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate (ABA) provided original cataloging for many of these titles, ensuring these e-books could be fully processed and made freely available to researchers.
DCM staff began work with open access and openly available books by undertaking several exploratory projects, including open access Latin American e-books and open access children’s e-books. Collaborating with ROs and staff from CDO and ABA has made it possible to significantly expand the depth and breadth of subject matter in the Open Access Books Collection. Now researchers can access e-books in nearly 50 languages, published in almost 100 countries, in subjects ranging from history and music to poetry and technology with dozens of new titles added each month. The collection also includes works of fiction and a zine.
These projects created opportunities to develop and improve workflows, draft extensive documentation, and build an ever-growing collection of open access e-books, all in support of the Library’s Digital Collecting Plan. To continue this work, stakeholders and Library leadership have developed a successor to this plan: the Digital Collections Strategy. Explained in this blog post, Collection Development Officer Joe Puccio shares that “The new plan will cover the entire lifecycle of born digital content from acquisition through processing, preservation, and access.” Over the next few years we will continue collaborating with stakeholders throughout the Library to fully routinize acquiring and making available open access and openly available e-books in alignment with the four pillars of the Digital Collections Strategy: Expand Access, Enhance Services, Optimize Resources, and Measure Impact. Furthermore, the Library’s vision guides this work: All Americans are connected to the Library of Congress. We work with the goal of bringing high-quality, freely available e-books carefully selected by experts to the American people and to international researchers who might not have had the opportunity to first engage with this collection during the pandemic. We welcome you to visit the Open Access Books Collection to see newly added titles each month.
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