Free ‘Access to Research’ online search service in public libraries is re-launched

Free ‘Access to Research’ online search service in public libraries is re-launched

‘Llama antibodies’, ‘Chronic fatigue syndrome’ and ‘Electromagnetic radiation’ amongst terms most frequently searched in libraries

Public library users search for an eclectic range of topics when using the Access to Research free online search. The service enables any user in a participating public library to search directly for and print out a copy of any of the more than 15 million journal articles that publishers make available through their participation. The free service is only available in public libraries. 85% of public libraries in the UK currently offer access to the service.

Analysis of the top 20 search terms by month nationwide for 2018 has thrown up an idiosyncratic list of interests, in addition to the perennial concerns of health, history and science. Medical ailments are well represented (‘Caesarean nerve damage’ and ‘Effect tuition fees have on students’ mental health’) but there is also room for the somewhat specialized (‘Llama antibodies’ and ‘Ragwort’).

“While most searches: ‘Royal Navy’, ‘Archaeology’ and inevitably ‘Brexit’ for example are instinctively what you might imagine people go to their local library to look up, the fact that entering even the most obscure terms usually returns a host of published research demonstrates how broad-based and useful Access to Research is” said Sarah Faulder, Chief Executive of Publishers' Licensing Services (PLS) which manages the service.

Access to Research began as a pilot service in 2014, one of the fruits of the recommendations from the Finch Group, a committee convened by the UK government to explore how access to publicly funded research could be expanded. The Group recommended that the major journal publishers should grant public libraries a licence to provide free access to their academic articles. Following the success of the pilot the scheme is now being re-launched to local authorities across the UK.

“Access to Research is a great initiative to connect library users with high-quality published research, and we are delighted that so many leading academic publishers are taking part. It is this kind of innovation that paves the way for a sustainable future where readers can access publicly-funded research in a few strokes of the keyboard.” commented Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, a member of the service’s steering group.

The Access to Research initiative was developed by PLS in collaboration with Libraries Connected, The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) and the Publishers Association (PA), public libraries and publishers. The service is provided with generous support from ProQuest.