An essay by Celeste Feather and John Wilkin

In May, John Wilkin wrote about the role of Lyrasis in the community, responding to what he called the “radical interdependence” of our cultural heritage institutions and the need for Lyrasis to serve as the “connective tissue” to advance the interests of members of our community. One key way in which Lyrasis does that work is through our support for content and scholarly communication. He wrote:

Our support for licensing has been a difference maker for libraries and many consortia. The scale at which we operate helps drive down costs and secure excellent terms for libraries. While this work will continue in earnest, Lyrasis has also been deeply involved with Open Access initiatives for several years and is developing new approaches and models as open resources continue to become a much larger focus for our organizations. We will continue to work on behalf of the community to shape sustainable Open Access initiatives and will support scholarly infrastructure with support for important programs such as ORCID and integration of persistent IDs in our systems.

Here, in this second installment of discussions about the way that Lyrasis works on behalf of the community, we focus on our work in licensing and in support for Open Access initiatives. This essay is authored by Celeste Feather, Senior Director of Content and Scholarly Communication Initiatives at Lyrasis.

From 2009 to Now

Lyrasis was formed in 2009 by the merger of several regional library networks, and the largest component of the newly formed organization was the licensed content portfolio. Since then, the licensing program has continuously evolved and expanded to meet the changing needs of the communities we serve. In addition to licensed content, the current Content and Scholarly Communication Initiatives (CSCI) division’s portfolio now includes Open Access ebooks and ejournals, open infrastructure services, and Persistent Identifier (PID) communities for ORCID and DataCite. Our Member Services and Fiscal teams process more than 15,000 orders for CSCI-negotiated products and services each year.

CSCI currently maintains relationships with more than 130 vendors and partners, serving 2000+ libraries, non-profit funders and other research and scholarly organizations every year. Many of the vendor products are administered through a single group license with terms negotiated by CSCI team members. These centralized efforts result in significant time savings for member institutions and ensure that all members, regardless of staffing levels and local expertise, receive the best possible legal and business terms for the e-resources they acquire. Although many license terms are now standard, newly raised issues such as privacy and accessibility continue to make this work challenging and vital. Long-discussed issues such as interlibrary loan and archiving rights are still points of concern in many license agreements, and cost control is an ongoing issue.

Much of our work supports individual member institutions, advocating for fair and accessible business models and negotiating favorable license terms and pricing. Increasingly, though, CSCI is forging strong strategic connections with other mission-aligned groups such as library consortia, partnering with them to support their operations, advance programs of shared interest around Open Access and open infrastructure, and achieve scale at the US national level. These collaborations provide more extensive benefits for the communities involved and pave the way for even greater scale in the future. While we are fond of the saying, “It takes a village,” sometimes it takes many villages to achieve the results our communities desire.

CSCI work also extends beyond the borders of the US, now engaging 100+ libraries around the world in collaborative efforts to make content more accessible and advance scholarly communication. Team members routinely present at scholarly conferences and online events with global audiences to share information about our work, and we host an Open Access Fair each spring to engage more institutions in our efforts to make scholarly communication models more equitable, inclusive, diverse and sustainable. Outreach and education are key elements of the CSCI strategic work to support new business model development and infrastructure needs in impactful ways.


Our work closely connects us to major issues and challenges confronting libraries. In recent years the number of higher education institutions facing closure, mergers or acquisitions has increased. Financial pressures and enrollment declines are key factors. When members are involved, there is often a need to merge licensed content agreements, extend access to a different set of users, opt out of an agreement mid-cycle, and renegotiate participation in some contracts. New questions arise that require answers, such as what party retains perpetual access rights to digital content previously acquired. Through the work of CSCI, Lyrasis is developing expertise in these matters as the trend continues.

With stretched funding and reduced staffing, libraries are constantly seeking higher levels of scale to maximize efficiency in their operations. These pressing issues for libraries are reflected in the changes happening among US library consortia since their dramatic period of growth over two decades ago. Many consortia were created to support collaboration around shared library systems and group content licensing. In response to the evolving needs of their library members, they are now refocusing their efforts or expanding their programs to include collaborative collections, Open Educational Resources, Open Access, resource sharing, shared repositories, staffing, print storage and other new initiatives that serve their communities. Lyrasis is being contacted by a growing number of regional library consortia seeking to develop collaborative partnerships in support of their redirected efforts, and we are developing a programmatic framework to respond to this area of growing need.

Another significant trend is also occurring in collection development and scholarly communication programs. Libraries are incorporating new parameters in their decision-making processes. Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility considerations are becoming key elements when libraries consider how to spend available funds. Rather than just “spending,” libraries are considering how to make socially responsible investments with their funds in programs that align with their mission and values. As a result, the CSCI team is asked to provide deeper context about the programs and services we develop in collaboration with our vendors and partners so that libraries can make well-informed choices, making sure that their decisions further the visions they have for a more open, inclusive, sustainable scholarly communication landscape. Over the past decade we have moved from a “What is this?” conversation with a member organization about a product, to a full-blown “What is this, who has created it, and is it a sustainable model?” discussion. These more extensive conversations about investments in Lyrasis programs are hallmarks of significant change across our community.

The globalization trend is another key element of our work. CSCI’s collaborations with other mission-aligned organizations beyond the US are increasing as we address shared challenges in scholarly communication. CSCI team members are active participants in the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC), an all-volunteer group of consortia staff from all over the world that gathers and shares information to support the work we all do on behalf of our library communities. Since we established the national ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor IDentifier) US Community in 2018 in collaboration with the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), the North East Research Libraries (NERL) and the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA), we have been drawn into closer connections with other national ORCID groups around the world. These collaborations inform our work to support ORCID adoption and integration with ORCID member institutions and non-profit funders, and researchers in the days ahead. The Lyrasis CSCI team is also the US national contact point for the well-known SCOAP3 program for Open Access articles and books in high energy physics, a growing global partnership managed by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland, of over 3000 libraries and consortia from more than 40+ countries. More recently, we have become involved in COPIM, an international partnership to support OA book publishing.

Open Access and Open Infrastructure Services

The rapid growth in Open Access (OA) content models in recent years has had a major impact on the CSCI program. Our work in this area often reaches beyond Lyrasis membership, and opportunities are available to any organization in the US that wishes to join our effort. Lyrasis is in an organizational position to bring scale to efforts that facilitate meaningful change in scholarly communication models. One of the leading challenges we face is keeping community members updated and aware of developing OA models so they can make well-informed decisions about what to support. The programs and services of keen interest to our members in 2023 generally relate in some way to Open, with Open Access content and open infrastructure services leading the way.

The diverse community of Lyrasis members creates challenging opportunities to develop meaningful, affordable and sustainable programs in which all are included in an equitable manner. Lyrasis membership represents the entire spectrum of US higher education institutions, so the CSCI team focuses on OA business models that work for a wide variety of organizations. We are increasing the number of journal package agreements that redirect subscription funds to support OA content, with a focus on cost containment so that libraries are not spending more on the transition to OA. Similarly, we are supporting several OA ebook programs through business models that are affordable for many types of institutions.

The Lyrasis Open Access Community Investment Program, established in 2021 in collaboration with the Transitioning Scholarly Publishing to Open Access (TSPOA) group, is now in its third annual cycle of gathering support for journals transitioning to OA in a Diamond business model. The OA Diamond model, in which no one is charged to read or to publish, is gaining favor while other types of OA models based on individual article charges to authors (Article Processing Charges, or APCs) are coming under increased scrutiny due to cost, diversity, equity and inclusion. We will be participating in an international gathering near Mexico City in October to collaborate with groups from all over the world that want to develop ways to strengthen the infrastructure needed to support Diamond OA at scale.

Open infrastructure services need further development and support to bolster the growing number of OA content programs. The ORCID US Community is attracting new group members throughout the US and providing collaborative benefits that flow to their researchers with personal ORCID identifiers. Our newer Lyrasis DataCite US Community gives institutions a way to assign Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) to various types of objects hosted in local repositories and publishing platforms. These and similar programs that support Persistent Identifiers (PIDs) in the open scholarly publishing systems are invaluable as we build connections that aid in discovery and data analysis. Through CSCI, Lyrasis also partners with other infrastructure service providers such as the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB), a community-driven discovery service for OA ebooks, and the Institutional Repository Usage Statistics service created by the Jisc consortium in the United Kingdom which provides an open dashboard with COUNTER-conformant usage data for each participating repository.

The CSCI team, like the rest of Lyrasis, strategizes to effect impactful and positive change for the communities we serve. Opportunities are abundant, questions are many, and we are deeply appreciative of the support and input from our communities as we find our way forward together.