When it comes to open access (OA), libraries are key players. They are experienced intermediaries for the supply of literature and information at universities and research organisations, and they are professionally engaged in the procurement and provision of both print and electronic media. In many institutions, libraries take on a large part of the practical implementation of OA offerings, for example as operators of university servers and repositories; by providing support for the establishment of OA journals; or even by setting up university presses themselves. More and more libraries are also taking on the administration of OA publication funds.

However, in most cases the role of libraries goes well beyond the practical implementation of OA because they are usually the ones who spread the idea of OA within their institutions. Prompted by the so-called serials crisis – that is, a sharp rise in journal prices while literature procurement budgets remained static or declined – libraries initiated discussions at their universities about the necessity to cancel journal subscriptions and possible alternatives. When it comes to integrating OA content into the overall literature and information supply concept at a university or research organisation, libraries play a key role.

Implementation of Open Access in the institution

At a university or research organisation, the library is often one of the driving forces behind OA. Libraries are in close contact with the departments at their host institutions. They are aware of the specific OA offerings in which these departments are interested, and they are very familiar with the range of different discipline-specific offerings and requirements in the area of OA. Hence, libraries can develop a successful strategy for the implementation of OA on behalf of their host institutions. This calls for intensive cooperation with the management of the respective institutions and for the involvement of the scholars and scientists from the various departments.

For a library, a strategy for the implementation of OA entails both marketing OA within the institution and providing the appropriate infrastructure to enable OA documents to be archived and presented. Both the management of the institution and the members of the various departments must be informed about OA. It is helpful to set up an OA working group within the institution with the involvement of the library.

Institutional commitment

The most sustainable way to implement OA within an institution is to press for an institutional commitment to it. Ideally, such a commitment would be given in the form of an official resolution issued by the management of the institution. Besides a commitment to OA on the part of the institution, such a resolution usually calls on the scholars and scientists to provide OA to their publications, either directly, by publishing them in an OA journal, or – within the limits of what is legally possible – by self-archiving them in an institutional repository in parallel with conventional publication. Examples of such resolutions can be found at the Universities of Regensburg, Potsdam, and Göttingen, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Max Planck Society, and the Helmholtz Society.

A distinction should be made between these institutional commitments and the so-called OA mandates that oblige authors as members of a scientific or scholarly institution or as recipients of funding from a research funder to provide OA to their publications. To date, no such mandates are to be found in Germany; there are doubts whether they would be in accordance with the law. However, in Section 44 subsection 6, the Higher Education Act of the State of Baden-Württemberg (LHG) at least encourages higher education institutions “to oblige the members of their academic staff by statute to avail of the right of non-commercial second publication after a period of one year following first publication for scientific and scholarly contributions that have been produced within the framework of their official duties and that have been published in a collection that appears periodically at least twice a year”. If implemented, this would correspond to an OA mandate.

The Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies (ROARMAP) keeps a record of the current status of institutional OA declarations and mandates worldwide.

University Open Access officers

University management, libraries, and other relevant university bodies should be in close dialogue about the further development of OA at their respective institutions. Libraries that operate institutional repositories should regularly inform the university management – as an important strategic partner – of further developments and technical innovations. The creation of the position of an open access officer who serves as an interface between the library and the interests of the institution’s scholars and scientists is very helpful.

Drafting a recommendation for the university management

Because of libraries’ knowledge of OA within the framework of scientific and scholarly publishing, it is usually appropriate for libraries to collaborate intensively on drafting a university recommendation, commitment or policy regarding OA. The same applies to the drafting of submissions and presentations for boards or committees of the university or of individual faculties or departments. Within their institutions, libraries should also be actively involved in explaining and promoting OA at management level and at faculty/department- or working-group level. It is important to provide extensive information at all levels of the institution. The implementation of the OA policy based on the recommendations is then also a key task for libraries.

Implementation of the OA policy by means of concrete measures

More concrete implementation measures can be taken on the basis of the OA policy or recommendations of the university or research organisation. Here, too, the institution’s library generally plays a key role, for example when it comes to building a repository in which the publications of the members of the institution can be self-archived; establishing a publication fund to support OA publishing (the gold road); or developing a communication and marketing concept to optimally publicise the institution’s OA activities.

Building repositories

By now, most universities have their own document server or electronic theses and dissertations (ETD) repository, usually operated by the university library. In many cases, the publication services that universities and university libraries offer go well beyond archiving theses and dissertations. With these repositories, university members are offered professional and comprehensive services that can range from technical infrastructure, through personnel-intensive support for authors, to product marketing. Nowadays, repositories frequently serve as a showcase for the scholarly and scientific output of the respective universities – an aspect that is becoming increasingly important in view of the increasing competition between universities. Although repositories can offer numerous added-value services and networking capabilities, they can be set up relatively quickly and economically. As a rule, a standard server and open source software suffice. Information for repository operators can be found under “Useful information for repository operators”. An excellent, yet hitherto seldom-used way of advertising is to link the institution/university homepage to the institutional repository, or, at least, to post a notice on the homepage notifying users of the possibility of archiving works in the repository.

A number of legal aspects must be observed when operating repositories. In any case, it is necessary, for example, to determine whether there are any legal obstacles to depositing the document in question; how content can be licensed in order to regulate the granting of rights of use to third parties; and what legal liability risks are associated with the operation of a repository.

Running a university press

The members of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Universitätsverlage (Consortium of University Presses) publish mainly the scientific and scholarly output of their own institutions. When distributing conventionally published books, they aim to offer high quality at fair prices. Besides print products, university presses also publish online editions of their publications, thereby supporting the principle of open access. The provision of cost-free online access to scientific and scholarly information contributes significantly to increasing the efficiency of scientific endeavour in research, teaching, and learning, and it constitutes an important infrastructure measure for scientific development. The Arbeitsgemeinschaft promotes cooperation among the university presses, for example by organising workshops and by presenting their services at a joint stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the German Librarians’ Day, and other events. The operation of the university presses is usually located at the university libraries, who thereby transform themselves from procurers of scientific and scholarly content into providers of publications.

Support for OA journal start-ups

Even though operating your own platform for the purpose of running an OA journal (e.g., with Open Journal Systems, OJS) is a comparatively low-threshold undertaking, it is very wise, and highly advisable, to enlist the help of a computing centre, a library, or another university-based service provider with implementation and server maintenance. Hence, many scholars and scientists contact their library when seeking help with founding an OA journal. Many libraries offer help in the form of advice; others offer concrete implementation support, for example by a university press

Administration of OA publication funds

Libraries are also increasingly taking on the administration of university-wide OA publication funds from which the article processing charges (APCs) for articles published by the institution’s scholars and scientists in OA journals are paid. Libraries lend themselves to this role because they already have many years of experience of cooperation with publishers, and they are publishers’ traditional contact partners at universities.