Knowledge Matters blog

25 July 2018

British Library joins the Open Library of Humanities

A-view-from-inside-the-kings-library-at-st-pancras (1)

Recently, we have seen a massive increase in open access publishing as the scholarly community acknowledges the importance of breaking down barriers to research dissemination. In the UK this is at least partly driven by research funders who, like the Research Councils and the Wellcome Trust, make funds available for authors to publish open access in journals that charge a fee.

Some universities do the same, but budgets are usually fairly small. This causes a particular problem for researchers in the humanities and those without academic affiliation as they often don’t have project funds to cover such costs – costs that can reach thousands of pounds.

The British Library believes that a lack of funding should not be an obstacle for scholars who wish to make their research as openly available as possible. It is for this reason that we are proud to join the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) as an institutional member.

The OLH is an academic-led venture that facilitates open access publishing by removing all author charges. It is part of a growing global community of commercial and not-for profit publishers that explore different business models and innovative approaches to open publishing.

How does the OLH model work? Instead of charging authors the OLH is funded through institutional memberships. The idea is that research organisations and libraries make a relatively small contribution that covers the costs of running a publication platform on which peer-reviewed scholarly journals can then be published as open access.

The cost varies depending on the size of the member institution and the country it is based in, with the annual membership fee ranging from 500-2100 Euro. This means the highest institutional membership fee is about equal to the average article processing charge for a single open access article published in a hybrid journal (a journal that charges authors to publish articles open access in addition to being funded through subscriptions).

This makes the OLH model particularly suitable for the humanities, as institutions can support it with a relatively small contribution that allows authors from all over the world to publish their research.

Currently, the OLH publishes 27 academic journals, including the titles ‘19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century’, ‘Digital Medievalist’, ‘Glossa: Journal of General Linguistics’ and the ‘Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal’. More journals are constantly added. The OLH is a registered charity founded by Professor Martin Paul Eve and Dr Caroline Edwards. In addition to membership fees it is currently supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Birkbeck, but the aim is to fully transition to a sustainable model funded by members.

The Library joins with a growing group of member institutions that includes the National Library of Sweden, King’s College London, MIT, Princeton University and Trinity College Dublin. Professor Martin Eve, co-CEO of the OLH, said: “The British Library is one of the largest and most significant libraries in the world. To have the support of this institution for our open access initiative is humbling and an extremely positive sign. It is fantastic for the national library of the UK to lead the way in supporting open access to research material.”

Being open is at the heart of the vision of the British Library as a global knowledge organisation. We are happy to work with the Open Library of Humanities, and indeed other publishers and stakeholders, to find ways to a sustainable scholarly communications environment that facilitates access for both readers and authors.

Dr Torsten Reimer

Head of Research Services