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Jisc Open Access Button project- our findings

Jisc Open Access Button project has completed and we now have a range of evidence gathered that will influence our assessment of whether there is value in developing any potential service further. As a recap, the project aimed to assess the feasibility of a service in the discovery/ interlibrary loan (ILL) workflow utilising Open Access Button functionality to aid the discovery and promotion of open access content.

There is much to consider as a result of this project, but we wanted to make the sector aware of our findings as soon as we had them. Clearly however, there is a need for Jisc and Open Access Button to reflect on the evidence gathered, alongside the potential service options before taking a decision on how to proceed in terms of a potential service within the discovery/ ILL workflow in the UK.

To this end, Jisc and Open Access Button are currently considering all options in this area and clarifying what their future relationship will be. We will however give an update on how we plan to take this work forward by the end of the year, so please watch this space for more details.

The project

Split into 3 interconnected workpackages, we aimed to:

  • Gather evidence on the institutional requirement and develop use-cases for a possible service (WP1, undertaken by Sero Consulting)
  • Scope the feasibility of identified use-cases in more detail within individual institutional case-study settings (WP2, undertaken by OA Button)
  • Develop delivery options for a possible service (WP3, undertaken by Sero Consulting)

Preferred use-case for a potential service- WP1 findings

Three key use cases were initially identified as offering potential for a service:

  • Integration of Open Access Button technology into the ILL workflow
  • Integration of Open Access Button technology into the library discovery layer
  • Integration of Open Access Button technology into the user environment

Based on the input of the advisory group and our interviews with institutions, the preference in most cases was centred around use-case 3 i.e. to look at the ways in which we can push open access content directly to the user during their discovery process, well before they reach the inter-library loan procedure in the library. It should be noted however that institutions did still register support for the practical possibilities that use-cases 1 and 2 offered. See full report here

‘Real-world’ feasibility of identified use-cases-WP2 findings

We undertook three case studies within UK HE institutions, to understand whether OAB technology could be used to improve the ILL process.

Imperial College London: Aimed to analyse the potential impact of stand-alone apps for delivering library services (broadly use-case 3) See full report here

University of Huddersfield: Aimed to simplify and enhance ILL forms, while streamlining ILL staff workflows (broadly use-case 1) See full report here

University of York: Aimed to explore how to provide existing Open Access content into library search and link resolvers, while providing seamless access to the ILL system and Open Access Button requests.  (broadly use-case 2) See full report here


  • There are many technical implementations to fulfil all use cases across a number of systems. However, there is no one way that will work across all systems.
  • Current technology can deliver cost savings and service improvements for campuses, although those improvements differ by campus. Over time, increases in green Open Access will passively increase the technologies’ effectiveness especially for newly published works.
  • Many desirable technical implementations are feasible in the short term, however there are also clear paths for long term investment to bring larger payoffs.
  • Integrations of green Open Access into catalogue systems will not necessarily bring benefits to ILL staff. Current tooling for ILL staff to discover Open Access and make use of campus subscriptions is not sufficient.
  • ILL staff are often unsatisfied with their current tooling and open to change. Increased automation is not met with as much resistance as many expect.
  • Money saved by using Open Access are small, but significant. Benefits from deeper integration with campus systems and improving UX are likely larger.
  • Both finding existing green OA copies, and requesting green OA, are seen a useful for libraries

Service options: WP3 conclusions

On the basis of all the evidence above, three service options were suggested:

1: Focused ILL service

A small, tightly-focused service which could reduce the costs of ILL, which corresponds closely with Use Case 1, described above. In this option, the service is used to improve the quality of the metadata of the item requested by the user through an ILL form, and then to check for an open access version of a requested item, and where one is identified, fulfil the user’s request for the item.

However, there is only limited appetite for this approach amongst the institutions we engaged with and whilst it may be beneficial, for most institutions ILL and saving expense on ILL is a low priority.

2: Broad scope discovery integration

Represents a broader integration of OA search into library systems, which would address use cases 2 and 3 by bringing open access material into library discovery systems, and bringing library discovery systems (now including OA material) into the user environment. The rationale for addressing both use cases together is that the backend development and integration would be similar for both, and the additional cost of implementing a user-agent integration is minimal. This would also support the discovery of OA content within the ILL process, although as a secondary aim.

The key challenge in this option is competition with the LMS and discovery layer vendors, who are already building OA search into their products. As OA increases in importance, it seems likely that the discovery systems vendors will increase the priority given to these materials within their products.

However, undertaking this option alone, without a holistic view of how this fits with other services within the Jisc portfolio, is likely to lead to overlaps in capability and technology, and to Jisc establishing an unnecessary technology debt.

3: Extend scope and integrate with other Jisc services

Jisc has a much wider range of discovery to delivery and Open Access services that provide benefit to customers when integrated with library systems. Jisc could view its overall suite of library services together – including market position, demand, delivery, and partnering – and consider Open Access Button capabilities within the broader picture. This would enable the development of a coherent offer to libraries, but may present a much more capable service than OAB alone.

What’s next?

As noted above, Jisc and Open Access Button will be taking a couple of months to reflect on our findings, given the relative complexity of this space, before taking a decision on how to proceed in terms of a potential discovery/ ILL service in the UK and how this is reflected in terms of any future relationship.

We are however moving forward with this quickly and are aiming to be able to update with more details by the end of the year. Please do watch this space for more details.



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