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Resilience in the Commons: Acquiring and Preserving Open Access Latin American Monographs

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Today’s guest post is from Charlotte Kostelic, a Digital Collections Specialist within the Digital Content Management Section of the Library of Congress.

An example of a recently acquired open access ebook from Latin America. "Pensar lo social : pluralismo teórico en América Latina."
An example of a recently acquired open access ebook from Latin America. Read here at on the Library’s website.

The move toward publishing research through open publishing models is growing internationally, but in Latin America, Open Access (OA) publishing is growing at a faster rate than elsewhere. Recent studies suggest 51-95% of research in Latin America is published through OA models. Within the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, keeping up with these OA publishing trends in Latin America means enabling a collection of Open Access publications. Suzanne Schadl, Chief of the Hispanic Division, describes the process of acquiring, and making accessible, Open Access monographs as crucial for the Library given the “unique challenges and opportunities for sharing international resources in a truly open electronic environment.” In collaboration with staff across the library, the Digital Content Management Section (DCM) is supporting the Hispanic Division’s OA collecting through our efforts to develop routine methods of acquiring digital content to expand the Library’s traditional collecting activities to include Open Access titles.

Routinizing Digital Collecting at the Library

In 2017 Joe Puccio, Collection Development Officer at the Library of Congress, wrote on the Signal about the Library’s Digital Collecting Plan. In the months and years since Joe first published the Digital Collecting Plan, the Library’s Collection Development Office and staff across the Library have worked to meet the goals of the Digital Collecting Plan through working groups that are developing workflows for the routine acquisition of digital content.

The Digital Content Management Section piloted workflows to support acquiring digital content with a selection of OA monographs published in Latin America. These books were recommended for acquisition by Tracy North (Social Sciences Editor of the Handbook of Latin American Studies and Reference Librarian in the Hispanic Division) and acquired by Alda Migoni (Librarian in the African, Latin American, and Western European (ALAWE) Division). Alda and her colleague, Elsie Ramirez (Cataloger for South American acquisitions), then did the description of the eBooks. Angela Kinney, Chief of the ALAWE Division, commented, “this collaboration to acquire, describe, and preserve open access content aligns perfectly with one of the Library’s primary goals to increase the discoverability of the collections and extend our reach to connect more fully to end-users.”

The relationship between Acquisitions Librarian and Recommending Officer is an important one within the Library, as they each have specific duties in the building of the Library’s collection. Within DCM and the working group, my role was to help Alda and Tracy find answers to any questions they may have about acquiring these eBooks, to assist in documenting the acquisition workflow and to transfer the digital content into managed storage. In this post, I share how longstanding relationships between librarians are developing to support acquiring, preserving and delivering eBooks.

Recommender and Acquirer – a close working relationship

The process of acquiring items for the Library’s collections relies on the work of staff who recommend content and librarians who assist in both the acquisition and description of content. Formally designated as “Recommending Officers,” these individuals are the ones who recommend new content for the Library’s collection.

An example of a recently acquired open access ebook from Latin America. "Comentarios a una sentencia anunciada : el proceso Lula"
An example of a recently acquired open access ebook from Latin America. Read here at on the Library’s website.

Recommending Officers are subject area and format experts who are trusted to build the Library’s universal collection. They work with Librarians who are experts in modes of acquisition and description of content within their specific subject area and format expertise. These Librarians and Recommending Officers form close working relationships because of their constant work to build the Library’s collections. Within this relationship no one person can decide that an item will be added to the collection – the Recommending Officer can choose what can be added to the collection and the acquisition Librarian determines how best to acquire the content or if the budget will allow for the acquisition.

Within the Library, many of these acquisitions Librarians are also catalogers, which means that after completing necessary acquisitions documentation and physically or digitally acquiring content, they also describe the content in order to make it discoverable by Library users. Tracy and her colleagues in the Hispanic Division identified six monographs for acquisition as exemplars for the “Routine Digital Content Acquisitions via Gift and Purchase” working group and these monographs were sent to the ALAWE Division of the Library where Alda Migoni, Librarian for South America, was able to coordinate the acquisition and description of the eBooks.

How was this process different?

Two important details about the monographs that Tracy and her colleagues recommended are that they are born-digital eBooks and that they are open access books licensed under Creative Commons Licenses. Within the Routine Digital Content via Gift and Purchase working group, we identified ways to integrate the process of transferring digital files to the Library and to document the eBooks’ license information within the cataloging workflow.

An example of a recently acquired open access ebook from Latin America. "Gobiernos del PT : un legado para el futuro."
An example of a recently acquired open access ebook from Latin America. Read here at on the Library’s website.

When clarifying best practices to catalog open access eBooks, staff within DCM and the Library’s Integrated Library System Program Office learned that the German National Library had published a 2018 discussion paper on documenting Open Access and License Information in MARC records. The books that Tracy and her colleagues recommended had Creative Commons Licenses and Metadata Specialists in the Integrated Library System Program Office provided DCM and our cataloger colleagues with guidance on how to document license information in the MARC record.

When Alda and Elsie had finished cataloging the eBooks, DCM was able to transfer the digital files to our servers. These eBooks were and are openly available through the publishers’ websites, and DCM fetched the content from those websites before processing the files into the correct file structure to be copied to the Library’s long-term storage.  By using the Library of Congress Content Transfer Services, I ensured that multiple copies of the content were created and inventoried to ensure enduring access to this content. DCM captured key administrative metadata for the content and bagged the content using the BagIt specification. The content was also copied to servers for public access so that Library users can access the content from where ever they are. The Library’s website provides end-users with an enduring platform on which to access these open resources, ensuring even access to the content to users across the world.

What’s next?

In acquiring, describing, and providing access to these eBooks, the Routine Digital Content Acquisitions via Gift and Purchase working group was able to establish and plan for scaling out processes to acquire open access eBooks to add to the Library’s collection. The working group continues to hone its processes in order to expand its acquisitions to additional content types and subject areas. Now that the process is in place, we anticipate working to support collaborations between more and more recommending officers and acquisitions librarians like Tracy and Alda in each of the Library’s collecting areas. We make new acquisitions available on on a monthly basis, so we are sure to have something for you soon.

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