Open access and document delivery services: a case study in Capital Normal University Library

Fang Hu (Library, Capital Normal University, Beijing, China)
Hangsheng Jiang (Library, Capital Normal University, Beijing, China)

Interlending & Document Supply

ISSN: 0264-1615

Publication date: 12 August 2014



The purpose of this paper is to provide a case study in China to show whether open access (OA) affects document delivery services.


The authors conduct a statistical analysis and carry out an investigation through a questionnaire.


Compared with the rapid development of OA around the world, China has published a small number of OA journals. At present, the effect of OA on document delivery service in Capital Normal University Library (CNUL) is positive in that librarians can use OA as an extra resource to perform document delivery services. CNUL users know little about document delivery service or OA, but they frequently look for free Internet resources. CNUL should do more promotion of its document delivery services. Considering users’ behavior and the development of OA in future, the volume of document delivery service may be affected. CNUL should redesign its document delivery service.


The paper will be relevant to librarians interested in OA and document delivery services in China.



Hu, F. and Jiang, H. (2014), "Open access and document delivery services: a case study in Capital Normal University Library", Interlending & Document Supply, Vol. 42 No. 2/3, pp. 79-82.

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Copyright © 2014, Authors


The last ten years have seen a massive increase in the number of open access (OA) publications in journals and repositories – both institutional and subject-oriented – around the world, with the support of researchers, funding agencies, universities, scientific institutions and publishers. According to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), as of June 2014, there were almost 10,000 peer-reviewed academic OA journals from 134 countries. Additionally, OpenDOAR had >2,600 OA repository listings at that time. Since 2000, the average annual growth rate has been 18 per cent for the number of OA journals and 30 per cent for the number of OA articles (Laakso et al., 2011). Overall, the results show very rapid growth of OA publishing in recent years in the form of either Gold OA or Green OA.

This paper discusses how OA affects document delivery services in China, and how Chinese librarians should assume a proactive and an effective role during this redesign process.

Development of OA in China

China’s participation in the OA movement can be dated to December 2003. At that date, the President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lu Yongxiang, signed the Berlin Declaration to demonstrate the support of Chinese scientists for OA (Chu and Li, 2009).

Compared with the rapid development of OA around the world, China has published a small amount of OA journals. By June 2014, a total of 51 OA journals had been registered in DOAJ. According to a survey, there were 308 scientific OA journals owned or led by the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) among the 1,050 journals, which means the rate of scientific OA journals administered by CAST is 29.3 per cent (Chu et al., 2013). However, the development of OA journals in the fields of humanities and social sciences is relatively slow. For example, the Chinese Academy of Social Science has published 93 journals in all, but to date only one, Koreana, whose Chinese edition is supported by the Korea Foundation, is an OA journal and can be accessed online. In addition, there are several journals, such as Japanese Studies, which afford free full text for several papers (Jiang, 2012). and Sciencepaper Online are the two main repositories for Chinese researchers to publish their own papers. The latter is owned by the Ministry of Education. Both Qiji and Sciencepaper Online publish papers in all subject fields. By June 2014, there were 39 institutional repositories in OpenDOAR. The actual number of institutional repositories is far more than that and cannot be precisely quantified because most of them are not registered in OpenDOAR.

Document delivery service at Capital Normal University Library

Capital Normal University is a comprehensive university under the supervision of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education. Fields of study cover humanities and history, science and technology, economics, pedagogy, psychology, language, art and more. There are 15,000 registered students and 2,600 faculty members.

Capital Normal University Library (CNUL) began offering document delivery service for users through the China Academic Social Sciences and Humanities Library (CASHL) in the first half of 2006. CASHL is a national system for delivering foreign language documents in fields of social sciences, humanities and arts between university libraries in China. By May 31, 2014, there were 804 registered CASHL users in CNUL, of which graduate students accounted for 51 per cent, undergraduates 25 per cent and faculty 24 per cent. The library had provided 1,284 papers for Capital Normal University users through CASHL. Because the library does not belong to the service library in CASHL, CNUL cannot deliver documents for users outside the university.

In 2008, CNUL began to provide document delivery service through another system, the Beijing Academic Library and Information System (BALIS), in addition to CASHL. BALIS is a cooperative system among university and college libraries physically located in Beijing. Government subsidies make it possible for BALIS users to receive documents free of charge. Unlike CASHL, BALIS users can get documents in Chinese and other languages in all subject fields. BALIS also has more registered users than CASHL. As of 31 May 2014, there were 1,094 registered users, of which graduate students accounted for 12 per cent, undergraduates 67 per cent and faculty 21 per cent. From the above, one can conclude that students are the primary users of document delivery service at CNUL. Unlike CASHL, through BALIS, the library can also provide documents to users from other universities and colleges. Figure 1 shows the volume of document delivery service requests and fill rates in CNUL over a recent six-year period.

Figure 1 shows a general increase in document delivery volume over this six-year period. From the statistics, requests from CNUL have a great increase in 2010 because we carried out some particularly strong measures (such as putting up posters, holding lectures and having site consultations) to promote the service in 2010. There is no evidence to show that OA has a direct negative impact on document delivery service at CNUL.

At the same time, OA has become an extraordinarily useful source for librarians to perform document delivery service. In most cases, once CNUL staff receives a request, they will first search the electronic resources purchased by CNUL, and then the free Internet resources such as Google Scholar, DuXiu (a Chinese academic search engine), DOAJ, etc. If the document is not found, they will search the print resources in the library. For this process, free Internet resources are a supplementary source for document delivery service. Although they are very important, as the second step in the searching process, CNUL statistics prior to 2013 show that the contribution of free Internet resources (mainly OA) to document delivery service is relatively low. For example, over the years 2010-2012, CNUL provided 414 papers for users, of which only 17 papers came from free Internet resources.

However, since joining the China Academic Library Information System (CALIS) document delivery system (the national academic document delivery system) in March 2013, evidence over the first half of that year showed that free Internet resources, mainly OA, provided a far greater contribution than previously, both with regard to number of requests satisfied, and particularly turnaround time.

Speed of delivery is very important for the document delivery service. Users will lose patience if speed of delivery does not meet their needs. Thanks to the collective searching power of colleagues across the entire CALIS system (connected through QQ, a Chinese instant chat system), free Internet resources are now found far more quickly than previously, and in greater numbers. Free Internet resources promise to play a more important role than that experienced prior to 2013.

A survey on attitudes of users toward OA

The authors carried out an investigation to discover the attitudes of users toward OA through a questionnaire conducted in April 2013. The authors received 100 responses, of which 67 per cent were undergraduate students, 32 per cent graduate students and 1 per cent faculty. Two questions concerned free Internet resources.

The first asked: “Which is more suitable for meeting your document needs? Document delivery service or free Internet resources?” A total of 28 per cent of the respondents chose document delivery service, and 72 per cent chose free Internet resources. This suggests that users are inclined to search for documents on their own. Compared with the process of registering and filling out the required forms for document delivery, users prefer the ease and convenience of Internet resources. Therefore, in the future, if most journals can be accessed for free via the Internet with the development of OA, there is a likelihood that the number of document delivery requests will decrease substantially.

In China, the proportion of journals that are OA is relatively low. For now, document delivery service is still going full steam. The fact that only 28 per cent of the questionnaire respondents expressed a preference for document delivery service does not mean that this service has lost value. In fact, the primary reason for that low figure is that most CNUL users are not aware of the service. This investigation shows that 74 per cent of the survey respondents do not use the document delivery service, but 90 per cent of them consider it useful for study, teaching and research. This means that the potential of the document delivery service at CNUL is far from being realized.

The second question asked: “Do you know about Open Access Publishing?” A total of 87 per cent of the respondents said that they did not know about OA. Only 13 per cent of the respondents had heard of the OA model, and half of them made a special effort to search for OA resources. Furthermore, 94 per cent of the respondents expressed an interest in participating in a lecture conducted by CNUL staff about how to use OA resources. This demonstrates that CNUL users know little about OA publishing, and the library should do more to publicize the availability of OA resources. Clearly there is an unmet need for access to OA resources among CNUL faculty and students.

From the foregoing statistics of document delivery service utilization and the questionnaire of CNUL users, one can determine:

First, at present, the effect of OA availability on document delivery service at CNUL is positive. Librarians can use OA as an extra resource to provide document delivery service.

Second, CNUL users know little about document delivery service or OA. The Library should offer more instruction on the importance and availability of OA resources and devise methods for promoting their use more widely.

Finally, considering users’ behavior and the future development of OA, the volume of document delivery service may be affected. CNUL needs to redesign its document delivery service such as using more OA resources, integrating document delivery service into other information services and extending the service mode of document delivery service, as explained below.


Take greater advantage of OA resources to provide document delivery service

OA resources provide a new way to find more useful academic information for users. However, because of the diversity of OA resources and search interfaces, users need to learn more about how to find and use the various and distributed OA resources.

First, libraries should devote more attention to the promotion of OA resources. The survey revealed that 87 per cent of CNUL users do not know about the OA publishing format. The library could conduct programs to make users more aware of OA, including setting up a new column about OA resources on the library Web site, organized by subject or alphabetically, integrating OA resources into the CNUL OPAC to enable users to more easily find OA resources through the library search platform, conducting lectures about OA resources and how to use them effectively and handing out brochures about OA resources.

Second, CNUL should use OA resources to enhance its document delivery service. Librarians can use OA-integrated platforms such as DOAJ[1], OpenDOAR[2], Open J-Gate[3], the Web sites of OA publishers such as HighWire Press[4], PLoS[5] and BioMedCentral[6], the Web sites of subject-specific services such as European Mathematical Information Service[7] and Free Medical Journals[8] and academic search engines to discover whether requested documents are included in these free resources. During the search process, some techniques should be mastered. If searching by document title gives zero results, the resource title or author fields should be considered. Some results may come from journal or OA Web sites, so searchers should explore them to see if full text is provided (Yang and Zhang, 2011). Furthermore, more and more OA resources become available each day, so staff should incorporate these new resources into their daily workflow and make better use of them to find articles for users.

Integrate document delivery service into other information services

Each year, CNUL hosts a program to promote its document delivery service during user service month. However, the foregoing survey results demonstrate that users still know little about the document delivery service provided by the library. Therefore, CNUL should integrate document delivery services into other information services and incorporate them into its users’ study and research environment.

First, CNUL should integrate document delivery into the virtual learning environment. At present, students in CNUL use Blackboard to study and get course information. CNUL could provide links to course materials. If the materials can be found in the library’s catalog, the link will go to the appropriate collection. If the library’s collection does not include the needed material, then users will be forwarded to the document delivery service to request documents from other libraries.

Second, CNUL should integrate document delivery into subject services. Subject librarians maintain good communication with students and faculties of specific colleges. They can raise awareness about document delivery in many ways, such as training and subject-specific information on the CNUL Web site.

Third, CNUL should integrate document delivery into its mobile services. The International Telecommunication Union predicted in 2010 that over the following five years, the number of Internet connections via mobile subscriptions would exceed those via computers (ITU, 2010). The explosion of mobile service is an important development for libraries. Both CNUL and its users can benefit greatly from a mobile service platform for document delivery. CNUL staff could also conduct promotional activities through its mobile service.

Optimize the development of resources

If OA should become the primary publication format for peer-viewed papers in all subjects, document delivery staff may be forced to adapt in two ways: to organize and find OA resources for users, and to provide appropriate collection development guidance. This will contribute to the library’s adaptation to our changing world by developing specialized resource collections for a globalized and electronic environment.

Libraries should therefore optimize the development of their resources to pay more attention to the specialized resources appropriate to the demands of users. Additionally, libraries should facilitate access to specialized resources available on the Internet to let users find resources more easily and access them through the document delivery service.

Extending the service model of document delivery

The traditional document delivery service model is to make the library’s collection available for outside users. In light of an ever-more diversified information architecture, libraries should redesign document delivery service and expand its service model, paying more attention to supply chain management, and no longer confined to local collections.

Libraries should integrate and organize access to all OA resources. This effort should provide integrated, subject-specific platforms to mine databases and deep-Web resources appropriate to each library’s unique user needs and characteristics.

Libraries should start from an assessment of actual and potential user needs, and work diligently to meet them, whether those resources may come from a library collection or from the Internet, in the form of a document or other forms such as software and data (Zhang, 2010). Librarians have the responsibility to identify information needed by users and organize them effectively.

               Figure 1
               Number of document delivery service requests in CNUL

Figure 1

Number of document delivery service requests in CNUL


The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) offers a searchable database of nearly 10,000 OA journals or 1.7 million journal articles at

The Directory of Open Access Repositories (DOAR) allows users to search for any of thousands of OA repositories worldwide, available at

Open J-Gate’s Web site can be accessed at

The home page for HighWire is at, but see for a searchable interface to their free content.

PLoS, the Public Library of Science, can be found at

The home page for BioMed Central can be found at

See for the European Mathematical Information Service.

Free Medical Journals home page is available at

About the authors

Fang Hu joined the Capital Normal University Library in 2008. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in the library science in 2005 and 2008 from Wuhan University and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, respectively. Fang Hu focuses on the research of Information Services in libraries. She has published more than 20 papers in peer-viewed journals. Fang Hu is the corresponding author and can be contacted at:

Hangsheng Jiang joined the Capital Normal University Library in 2000. He works in the field of reference services, especially as a Document Delivery Librarian. He has won the second award for outstanding services for BALIS Document Delivery System for three years on end since 2010. He has published several papers in Chinese journals of library science.


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Chu, J. , Li, L. and Shen, D. (2013), “Current status of OA publishing in China: based on a survey of journals by CAST”, Library and Information Service (in Chinese), Vol. 57 No. 1, pp. 43-48.

ITU (2010), “ITU sees 5 billion mobile subscriptions globally in 2010”, available at:

Jiang, Y. (2012), “Study on open access status in humanities and social sciences in China: a case study in Chinese academy of social sciences”, Management and Review of Social Sciences (in Chinese), No. 3, pp. 42-49.

Laakso, M. , Welling, P. , Bukvova, H. , Nyman, L. , Björk, B.-C. and Hedlund, T. (2011), “The development of open access journal publishing from 1993 to 2009”, PLoS ONE, Vol. 6 No. 6, available at:

Yang, W. and Zhang, P. (2011), “Study on the access of internet free resources in document delivery resources”, New Century Library (in Chinese), No. 4, pp. 43-46.

Zhang, X. (2010), “From document delivery to knowledge delivery: the change for future”, Library Journal (in Chinese), No. 2, pp. 2-5.


© Fang Hu and Hangsheng Jiang, 2014. This paper was originally presented at the 13th IFLA Interlending and Document Supply Conference, in Beijing, China, October 16-18, 2013. Published with the kind permission of IFLA. Articles published by Emerald which have their origins in an IFLA project are made freely accessible nine months after official publication. For permission to reuse this article, please contact the copyright holder.