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Academic libraries and open access resources in Latin America

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This blog post is a part of the International Open Access Week blog series

In our continuing blog series leading up to International Open Access Week (October 23-27), Eduardo E. Quintero Orta, Research Librarian in ITS Knowledge and Information* discusses the importance and prevalence of Open Access to research in Latin America:

“Education is a powerful driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health, gender equality, peace, and stability”

ImageThe World Bank Group “helped draft and is a signatory to the Education 2030 Framework for Action (UNESCO, 2015), which will guide countries through the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.” Within these frameworks, higher education is essential, and access to information is key to achieving this goal.

It specifically highlights the following: “Information and communication technologies (ICTs) must be harnessed to strengthen education systems, knowledge dissemination, information access, quality and effective learning, and more effective service provision.” This is, or should be, an elementary role played by academic libraries.

Like their counterparts around the world, Latin America academic libraries face enormous budgetary challenges developing and maintaining their collections. Many are forced to rescind database and journal subscriptions with adverse consequences for the quality of their services and the development of knowledge. The situation is worse for public libraries –  the ones that often represent the only point of free information access for the struggling academic community and the public in general.

Higher education gross enrollment expansion rates in Latin America have been large and rapid, a 23 percent increase from 1991 to 2010. Individuals in the region (18-24 years) also grew dramatically from 18 percent to 28 percent between 2000 and 2013. The growth of high education institutions (HEIs) has also exploded since then with approximately 2,300 new HEIs opened since 2000 and 30,000 new programs created. (Ferreyra, 2017).

Given the budgetary constraints described above, the development of institutional Open Access (OA) repositories has become increasingly important in filling the existing scholarly information gaps and enhancing the visibility and dissemination of knowledge.

By 2012, there were 2,161 OA repositories in the world and 198 in Latin America, based on data taken from The Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR). (Dorta-Duque and Babini, 2013). Repositories from ECLAC, IDB, DOAJ, CLACSO, Scielo, Redalyc, Latindex, LaReferencia,2 are among the most enduring OA initiatives, with plenty of content in Spanish or Portuguese. Growth of Open Data (OD) is also encouraging. Mexico, Colombia and Brazil are the leaders with approximately 20,000, 6,000 and 2,500 datasets respectively –  but others such as Argentina, El Salvador and Panama with less than 100 datasets per portal are also coming up (Steinberg and Castro, 2017).

However, these numbers may not represent the true picture. Many OA sources in Latin America are not fully indexed and therefore hidden from discovery by major search engines such as Google. This limits OA dissemination and consumption (Orduña-Malea, and Delgado Lopez-Cozar, 2014). Despite this issue, there are some tools that can monitor and track the growth and impact of these repositories, such as: The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR), The Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR) and the Ranking Web of Repositories.3

The challenge to maintain the quantity and quality of these OA resources remains important nonetheless, as they fill a vital gap in encouraging and sustaining research and the creation of new knowledge in the region. A few suggestions could be to…

  • Maintain and monitor the impact (bibliometric studies) of these OA resources.
  • Fill the gap for those research areas that have not been explored.
  • Assure the quality within the arbitration reviewing processes (in the case of journals)
  • Offer more publications in Spanish and Portuguese.
  • Update collections with gaps or lacking the latest information.
  • Observe and assume the standards proposed by supranational initiatives (i.e. LAReferencia) 

*Thanks to my ITSKI colleagues, Duncan W. Omole and Diana Huaman, for their input and suggestions.
1 Source: The World Bank Group. Education:
3 There are also similar resources for Open Data, such as:


Elisa Liberatori Prati

Chief Archivist, World Bank Group and and the Director of the Knowledge & Information Services Department in the Information & Technology Solutions (ITS) vice-presidency

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