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Diversity in the Stacks: The Open Access Pilot for Latin American Monographs

This project provides universal free access to over 300 scholarly monographs published by the Latin American Council of Social Sciences.

Cover of a cream colored book with the title de los saberes de la emancipacion y de la dominacion.

In 2022, the Penn Libraries made a commitment to support open access publishing initiatives in Latin America by becoming a funding partner of the Latin American Research Resources Project Open Access Pilot for Latin American Monographs, already in its third year. This project provides universal free access to over 300 scholarly monographs published by the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales or CLACSO), a research institution with headquarters in Argentina. Contributing to this initiative represents Penn Libraries’ values in supporting the development of open access, global, and sustainable collections.

Open Access in Latin America

The prominence of public universities and publicly-funded research programs in Latin America made it a prime location for an early and robust adoption of open access practices and value frameworks. Multiple Latin American countries (Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and Brazil, for example) have policies that mandate the deposit of publicly- funded research in open access digital repositories. While Europe and the United States move in similar directions, Latin American open access publishing is somewhat unique in its focus on public institutions of higher learning rather than reproducing imbalances of institutional resources by focusing on the most prestigious institutions, which, at least in the context of the United States, are often private.

Because of this, academic institutions in Latin America have been at the forefront of open access publishing, having created many cooperative repositories to share cutting edge research. CLACSO was one of the first institutions to recognize the importance of heightened visibility for research for a wider public—they began working towards the establishment of a digital repository in 1998. In addition to the work of CLACSO, other repositories were created elsewhere in Latin America, such as the Scientific Electronic Library Online, founded in 1997 in Brazil, and the Network of Scientific Journals of Latin America and the Caribbean, Spain, and Portugal, founded in 2002 in Mexico. These projects aimed to foster inter-American collaboration and raise the global visibility of Latin American research. Despite the focus on the sciences in the titles of the two platforms, both include social sciences literature and humanities disciplines such as history and Indigenous studies.

Introducing the Open Access Pilot for Latin American Monographs

CLACSO was formed in 1967 with support from UNESCO to promote educational and cultural initiatives. With headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, CLACSO has expanded to 51 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Each country’s CLACSO office operates with relative independence within the broader consortium and some are higher-volume publishers than others, but all have the aim to promote education in the social sciences, to raise the visibility and status of social science research in the Americas, and to produce research that addresses the region’s most pressing political and social issues.

For example, in 2022 CLACSO published Para una Historia Transnacional de la Discapacidad: Argentina, Brasil, y España: Siglo XX an important work on transnational disability history in the 20th century. The 2017 book Descolonizando Mundos: Aportes de Intelectuales Negras y Negros al Pensamiento Social Colombiano is an anthology of of Afrocolombian thought, highlighting the key insights from marginalized scholars. A 2020 title, Miradas a las Migraciones, las Fronteras y los Exilios focuses on the role of states and state actors in regional issues of migration in Latin America.

In 2020, LARRP members recognized an opportunity for US academic libraries to become key actors in supporting the expansion of open access monograph publishing in Latin America and decided to launch the Open Access Pilot for Latin American Monographs. Along with LARRP, JSTOR and Argentine bookseller García Cambeiro are key collaborators in the pilot, providing the digital infrastructure and metadata for the electronic monographs made available in this program. The idea for this partnership was developed in 2015 by members of LARRP, and by 2019 a formal proposal was put forth to publish CLACSO titles on JSTOR, a well-established and regarded scholarly publishing platform with reliable infrastructure and advanced accessibility features.

The pilot began by prioritizing the front list of newly published titles—CLACSO publishes approximately 100 books per year. As the pilot continues in its third year, this next phase expands the publication, discoverability, and digital preservation of new titles. Through the pilot process, the LARRP advisory committee can assess the success of the model for the per-title costs of the project, facility of its ease of discovery, usage statistics, and contribution to scholarly communication.

The Penn Libraries joins the libraries of Harvard University, Columbia University, Princeton University, New York University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of California Los Angeles, the University of Illinois, and the University of Michigan, as well as the New York Public Library, in supporting the pilot.

These long-standing commitments to cooperative open access publishing made Latin America a prime region for a new partnership with US academic libraries. Melissa Gasparotto, the Penn Libraries’ Associate Vice Provost for Operations, Access Services, and Strategic Partnerships, played a key role in the development of the project through her work on the LARRP advisory committee. On the significance of the pilot she says, “Publishers based in the Global South face systemic barriers to the distribution and visibility of their works, which impedes the spread of new ideas from a diverse community of scholars making important contributions across the disciplines. Although Latin America has long been a leader in open access journal publishing, support for the open publication of the scholarly monograph continues to face economic challenges. By pooling funds from North American libraries to support production of the front-list of a trusted academic organization in Argentina, the [Open Access Pilot for Latin American Monographs] provides meaningful assistance directly to the publisher while ensuring the long-term preservation, visibility, and access of these books for a broad global audience.”

As more academic libraries join the pilot, the program can make more titles available, both as they are newly published and in the CLACSO back catalog. New titles appear in the Penn Libraries’ Franklin catalog periodically, once the metadata is supplied via a backchannel from JSTOR. CLACSO ebooks can be searched by publisher in Franklin. The Penn Libraries also collects CLACSO monographs in print.

The Penn Libraries' Other Latin American Cooperative Collections

While this specific open access pilot partnership was new for LARRP, it is only the latest in a long history of collaborative collection development among academic libraries in Latin American Studies. For example, through participation in LARRP’s Distributed Resources Project, the Penn Libraries’ Latin American Studies collection budget dedicates 7% of its spending to publications in a particular subject area (such as ethnohistory or public health) that are eligible for inter-library loan agreements. LARRP also supports a process by which member libraries propose, review, and approve digital initiatives to scan and make available new content relevant to Latin American Studies. Also under the umbrella of the Center for Research Libraries, the Latin American Materials Project provides processes for digitizing and preserving primary sources materials. For more on cooperative agreements in Latin American Studies at the Penn Libraries, see the previous Diversity in the Stacks post, Collecting Latin American History and Culture at the Penn Libraries.  

The Importance of Contributing to Open Access Initiatives

The Penn Libraries is committed to supporting open access initiatives, particularly partnerships that enhance the global diversity of library collections, — not only for the Penn community, but for the world’s scholars.  The Open Access Pilot for Latin American Monographs is one of many of the Libraries’ contributions to open access publishing, but it is the first of its kind in collaboration with a Latin American publisher. The Penn Libraries’ commitment to this pilot is only the latest in a number of programs, on both the access and publishing side. To learn more about the Penn Libraries’ contributions to the open access scholarly landscape, see our guide for authors.



May 24, 2023