ebooks.lu – a digital offer for public libraries
In 2015, the Conseil Supérieur des Bibliothèques (CSB) tasked the Consortium department to propose a new consortial structure to bring ebooks to public libraries (literature and non-fiction). In mid-2015, the ebooks.lu service was launched as a two-year pilot project and has since become a stable self-financing consortium of 12 public libraries, including the National Library. Its innovative feature is the integration of a multi-lingual offer of about 150.000 ebooks and audiobooks from several vendors, whereas most public libraries outside Luxembourg only use one (often single-language) vendor. ebooks.lu is a trilingual promotion site and contains extensive user guides for accessing ebooks with copy-protection. It won the “Best Marketing strategy 2016” award. All ebooks are integrated into the a-z.lu discovery tool of the National library and are available through single-sign-on with existing library cards from the bibnet.lu network.
bibgov.lu – Bibliothèque gouvernementale numérique
In 2017, the former governmental library was reborn as a digital service through the initiative of the Ministère de la Fonction publique (MFP). The National Library’s Consortium department and IT services set up a service that offers legal databases, journals and reference works for the documentation and ongoing training of public employees. Among its most popular features is the remote login, which is managed through the government computing center’s (CTIE) identity management system with Luxtrust smart cards and mobile app. More on the bibgov.lu page.
read-y, an ebook library for secondary education
The initiative was launched in summer 2020 to encourage young people to read for pleasure. The books on the platform are not used during classes. The entire multilingual library can be searched and read from within a single app (Sora from Overdrive) via ready.script.lu without any of the hassles of downloading DRM protected content with third party applications. The login is via the students’ existing login from their schools, managed by CGIE-IAM. Students aged 14+ who hold BNL library cards can also borrow ebooks from the vast (and regularly restocked) selection.
Transition to Open Access/Open Science
In 2016, an in-depth report on Open Access infrastructures and impact on services was written by the Consortium department. Based on this report, priorities were set together with research stakeholders and a pilot project on “Monitoring the Open Access Transition” was undertaken in 2017.
The pilot project resulted in a new plan for a data-driven transition towards Open Access. In our view, the consortial management of the Open Access transition should be policy agnostic and focus on financial aspects of our members’ relations to publishers. Therefore, the first actions are not policy or advocacy, but data collection and analytics. Complete data on the total spent towards publishers, including for-fee open access publishing and any other publishing charges are defined as key drivers for a pro-active, successful transition.
Several strands of enquiry were launched.
The first aimed to enhance the existing subscription management tool (ConsortiaManager) with publishing related (article-level) bibliographic and cost data. The first results were presented in March 2018 at the ER&L conference in Austin, Texas. This new “Research Output Module” is unfortunately not in use anymore, as the data quality from internal and external sources was deemed insufficient for productive use. A lesson learned is that article data must be captured early, ideally during the initial submission process.
OA Switchboard (OASPA)
The National library and the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) now also support the OA Switchboard initiative at the national level. The OA Switchboard is building a centralised messaging hub between publishers, funders and libraries for cost and publication management. Despite a lot of talk of big publishers transforming into “analytics” services, their support for even basic APIs and data exchange about publications is mostly inadequate or totally missing.
The second project explores centralised payments for publishing costs (such as open access fees for articles). In 2021, it is estimated that Open Access fees (APC, Article Publishing Charge) of more than 600 000 EUR are paid “in the wild”, ie without centralised management of bibliographic data nor appropriate article identifiers. While formally correct, such distributed payments across labs, projects and funders make it impossible to assess the true publication activity and cost by publisher. Consortium Luxembourg proposed a centralised process in 2021 using ChronosHub and/or the Lehmanns agency. Unfortunately, this can only be rolled out when the internal budget structures are matched to such a centralised approach.
As a spin off from this project, a collaboration between ChronosHub, the National library and the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) was formalised in June 2021, after a pilot phase in 2020. This new tool centralises all APC related financial, compliance and eligibility processes for articles published under FNR grants. If the FNR’s OA requirements are met, the APCs are paid directly through ChronosHub, partially and in some cases even completely. This new digitised workflow allowed the FNR to increase its financial commitment substantially. There is also a researcher-facing workflow to check journal titles against FNR grant requirements upfront.
A third strand of work is the exploration of consortial management of Open Access publications. In 2021, two so-called “Transformative Licences” were signed, through which the Consortium integrates the “Read” (formerly subscriptions) and “Publish” APC (Article Publishing Charge) aspects of publisher costs. Thereby the substantial additional costs of APC “in the wild” are either offset completely or at least reduced.
Additionally, two national framework licences were signed with a new type of publishers who only publish Open Access, resulting in substantial discounts for all APCs.
A final strand of work around usage statistics started in 2018. For several use cases, such as cost-control, finegrained analytics and quality control of publisher provided statistics, better data was required. A successful proof-of-concept was run with the IT department of the National Library in early 2019, using the ezPAARSE software (it parses proxy server logs into lists of access events and identifies articles). A collaboration with INIST-CNRS (Nancy) and Couperin was formalised and resulted in a new toolkit consisting of ezMESURE (Elastic-Kibana) and ezPAARSE, enriched with CrossRef and Unpaywall data.
The toolkit is now called ReadMetrics and to be launched as an open-source, free bundle in 2022, after several delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The use case of the National library is proving to spark interest for a more international approach to usage stats based on such a fine-grained model. ReadMetrics can be used to analyse statistics from any log file, including digitisation portals or research data repositories. Through its free/libre licence it can also be used by repositories and small publishers to generate COUNTER5 compliant usage statistics. More information is at readmetrics.org and in this policy oriented use case description for the forthcoming EU Data Act. (Note: Since the EU Data Act submission, we have pivoted from Proxy log files as source data for article level statistics to the new COUNTER R5 “Item Reports”, which offer the same granularity and follow an industry standard. The ability to ingest these C5 reports is integrated into ReadMetrics for a seamless transition.)
Overall, the combined outputs of these projects will enable us to formulate a pro-active open access transition and monitoring plan. Our goal is to offer better value and predictable cost allocation for consortial members and a sustainable transition for smaller publishers. The Open Access mandates decided by the Coalition-S‘s so-called “Plan S” also require a working Open Access infrastructure and workflows. Especially their Rights Retention Strategy might enable a global sustainable rollout of Open Access in the face of continued excessive value extraction by a number of incumbent publishers. Surprisingly, the new centralised consortial Open Access infrastructure, that was initially driven by APC payments (“Gold Open Access”) may thus again enable automated archiving of articles in free repositories (“Green Open Access”).
The opening of scientific publishing holds also great promise for improving workflows to integrate the core missions of the National Library such as a complete national scientific bibliography, legal deposit, long-term archiving and identifier stewardship (“Record of versions”). Finally, the Consortium itself will transform by offering new services and creating new partnerships, for example with funding bodies but also publishers and other, international, consortia.
We could not have made such progress without our project partners nor our international community drivers such as the Max-Planck Digital Library from Munich (oa2020 project) and the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC).
For information about the services and history of the department of the Consortium at the National library, please go to our About page.