Needs for mobile-responsive institutional open access digital repositories

Patrick Ajibade (Online Resource for Higher Education Transformation, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa)

Library Hi Tech News

ISSN: 0741-9058

Article publication date: 13 July 2022

Issue publication date: 24 August 2022




The purpose of this study is to promote mobile-responsive and agile institutional open-access digital repositories. This paper provided an x-ray of the tilted research approach to open access (OA). Most underlying causes that inhibit OA, such as lack of mobile-friendly user interfaces, infrastructure development and digital divides, are not sufficiently addressed. This paper also indicated that academic libraries over-relied on open-source software and institutional repository, but most institutional repositories are merely “dumping sites” due to how information is classified and indexed.


This paper adopted meta-analysis by mining data sets from databases and provided thematic clustering of its content analysis through network visualisation to juxtapose the existing research gaps and lack of mobile-first insights needed to provide open-access information to the library’s users to consume information via mobile platforms. The retrieved dataset was discussed in tandem with the literature and the author’s insights into systems librarianship knowledge.


The library and information science (LIS) has not addressed how the academics could escape the pay-for-play cost, which was an exclusion tactic to disenfranchise emerging scholars and those without sufficient financial resources to choose between visibility, citation or publishing their outputs in journals without the possibility of citations, which is very important to their academic advancements. The LIS must shift its paradigm from mere talking about OA by producing graduates with the requisite skill to design, develop and host platforms that could enhance indexing and citations and import references. The current design of the institutional repository could be enhanced and promote easy navigation through mobile devices. Thereby taking into accounts internet bandwidth and digital divide, which still hinders accessibility of online resources.

Research limitations/implications

This paper covered research within the LIS fields, and other outputs from other disciplines on OA were not included.

Practical implications

This paper showed the gaps that existed within the LIS campaign on OA, the research focuses of the LIS scholars/research librarians and the needed practical solution for the academic libraries to move beyond OA campaign and reconfigure institutional repository, not as dumping sites, but as infrastructure to host peer-reviewed journals.

Social implications

Academic libraries institutional repositories can play vital roles in competing with major journal publishers to break their charges monopoly while providing platforms for scholars to make their outputs available freely.


The paper argued that the mobile-first approach to OA is a solution and advocated for mobile application development designed to promote OA resources through mobile-friendly interfaces.



Ajibade, P. (2022), "Needs for mobile-responsive institutional open access digital repositories", Library Hi Tech News, Vol. 39 No. 8, pp. 12-14.



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Copyright © 2022, Patrick Ajibade.


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Scholarly published materials that are freely provided are important to academia, students, librarian and the public (Li et al., 2021). The importance of open access (OA) publications cannot be underestimated, as it provides scientific information freely (Havrilova, 2019), assist students information literacy (Holden, 2018) and the OA license platforms enable the reuse of vital scholarly information through open visibility of such (Brücker et al., 2020, p. 66). Undoubtedly, one of the major importance of OA publishing is the promotion of outputs visibility (Francke et al., 2018), which are very critical to the young and emerging scholars for various reasons such as recognition, promotions and tenure tracks purposes.

Despite the importance of OA publishing to scholars and academia, it was reported that some journals mislead scholars by claiming OA while they are not OA (Schwarz Rodrigues et al., 2020). They only make journal articles OA after charging the authors a huge amount of money before they are freely accessible. This is referred to here as “pay-for-play”, as some of these charges are, in most cases, a commercial business profit model and do not promote academic scholarships. While it is arguable that the journal needs to cover the cost of editorial and management, staffing and salaries, and hosting the articles online, the cost being charged is ridiculously excessive. This is why many academic institutions are moving or have opted for using institutional repositories. However, most of the items in the institutional repositories would have been published elsewhere before the author copies were given to the libraries to upload in the repositories.

Mobile devices and open access research

Although it was argued that institutional repositories had not been widely accepted for use for OA (Kepaliene, 2020). Most scholars’ unwillingness to embrace the institutional repositories as the reservoir of their scholarly outputs might be because most repository designs do not align with standard publisher’s platforms designed to host scholarly communications. Hence, the perception might be that the scholarly communities might not regard some of the outputs by the scholars are quality work. One of the reasons is that most institutional repositories appear or are designed as merely a dumping site. Therefore, rigorously planned OA archival repositories such as online resources that are targeted to facilitate higher education transformation in the context of scholarly communications are essential.

In terms of institutional repositories designs, Generation Z information users must be considered who predominantly consume information on smart devices/phones. The paper is the first of its kind to approach library and information science (LIS) OA debates from a mobile-first/mobile applications perspective in Africa because almost all student information is consumed using the mobile phone. It is important to look at OA challenges from these perspectives in Africa, given the unique challenges facing the academics in the continents that are not experienced in Europe or the USA. Digital divide, low bandwidth, cost of data access and poor internet infrastructure/facilities still plague most institutions in Africa, with notable exceptions to South African universities. One reason for this is the lack of required bandwidth to swiftly access large audiovisual materials and access mobile data, especially when most students are off-campus. The cost of data is borne by many academics and students alike to access information online. The other problem is the way information is currently packaged that is not mobile-friendly. Yet, information packaging is integral to efficient information management (Ajibade, 2017; Kang’ethe and Ajibade, 2016) and information communication. The majority of the e-book’s chapters are not enabled to allow students to access one chapter at a time. Also, the readability of the contents is not mobile-friendly.

Therefore, one of the ways to solve one of the challenges is to use academic libraries as the conduit in negotiating their databases subscriptions. The libraries must negotiate mobile-first content in their contract renewals with vendors and publishers. Mobile view optimisation should be enabled to access LIS contents and tested before release. The 2021 libraries OA symposia did not even gloss over digital divides even though it is still a huge challenge to OA in the continents. Because, without assessing the impact and addressing digital literacy, digital platforms and access to digital devices and mobile-friendly content, even if all the published materials are freely accessible, most students in the continents would still not be able to access to some of those as mentioned earlier.

One major aspect that is still lacking is a non-existent focus on web development interfaces and mobile-first platforms to increase access to scholarly publication. It could be because most LIS scholars relied solely on access provided by their respective academic libraries. However, there must be concerted efforts to build and deploy mobile-friendly web interfaces beyond the mobile applications that are purposefully designed to increase OA footprints.

Oppenheim (2005) indicated that OA could be conceived as a journal (or repositories) with OA, using the platform, or as institutional repositories. However, one major factor that may encourage wider use of other sources over OA contents from the institutional repositories lies with extensive indexing and references importing capabilities of electronic resources by journals’ publishers. It is easy for authors to import in-text citations as well as reference managers. In comparison, most repositories’ contents are not properly indexed or curated using advanced technologies available to our librarians (Ajibade and Mutula, 2020a, 2020b). Therefore, scholars might have to type each reference manually.

Still most debates on OA have not touched on mobile development, online resources with interfaces for importing bibliographies into references managers, or the ability to have mobile-friendly interfaces. The academic libraries must play an active role in hosting all journals that are accredited and affiliated with their institution. This would serve as competitive platforms against for-profit publishers. However, the libraries must improve the design of their institutional repositories in line with how major journal articles publishers indexed their journals online. Also, there must be efforts to hire system librarians within the LIS domain to manage institutional repository projects continuously. This might require the ability of actual project development skills and web development prowess. If all these suggestions are implemented, and most of the scholarly communication is professionally curated, indexed and hosted by the libraries, some of the challenges of OA would be resolved, particularly in the global south and elsewhere.

References cited and consulted

Ajibade, P. (2017), “Efficient information management as organisational performance drivers in South Africa”, Journal of Social Sciences, Vol. 53 No. 2, pp. 95-106.

Ajibade, P. and Mutula, S.M. (2020a), “Big data, 4IR and electronic banking and banking systems applications in South Africa and Nigeria”, Banks and Bank Systems, Vol. 15 No. 2, p. 187.

Ajibade, P. and Mutula, S.M. (2020b), “Big data research outputs in the library and information science: South African's contribution using bibliometric study of knowledge production”, African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 49-60.

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Holden, I. (2018), “Open access and students in information literacy class: a quest for understanding”, JLAMS, Vol. 14 No. 1, p. 3.

Kang’ethe, S.M. and Ajibade, P. (2016), “Validating the fact that effective information packaging and dissemination is a strong tool to mitigate the effects of HIV/AIDS in selected African countries”, Journal of Human Ecology, Vol. 55 No. 3, pp. 221-226.

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Further reading

Ajibade, P. and Mutula, S.M. (2018), “Information management as a nexus to promote the use of indigenous medicine and enhance public healthcare delivery: a bibliometric analysis”.

Bawack, R. and Nkolo, P. (2018), “Open access movement: reception and acceptance by academic libraries in developing countries”, Library Philosophy and Practice, 0_1-24.

Cowan, S. and Bulock, C. (2017), “Open access in the world of scholarly journals”, The Serials Librarian, Vol. 72 Nos 1/4, pp. 194-200.

Holzman, A. (2016), “US open access publishing for the humanities and social sciences”, European Political Science, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 177-182.

Jiao, X. (2011), “Will open access be the future?”, TEIN 2011 – 2011 2nd ETP/IITA Conference on Telecommunication and Information, 1, pp. 229-231, available at:

Nicholas, D., Jamali, H.R., Herman, E., Xu, J., Boukacem-Zeghmouri, C., Watkinson, A., Rodríguez-Bravo, B., Abrizah, A., Świgoń, M. and Polezhaeva, T. (2020), “How is open access publishing going down with early-career researchers? An international, multi-disciplinary study”, Profesional de la Informacion, Vol. 29 No. 6, pp. 1-22, art. no. e290614.

Pankowska, M. (2011), “Open access movement in science and research, international conference on information society”, i-Society 2011, art. no. 5978464, pp. 330-335, available at:

Ranasinghe, W. and Chung, J.M. (2019), “Open access journal publishing in Sri Lanka: characteristics and future potential”, Journal of Educational Media and Library Sciences, Vol. 56 No. 2, pp. 245-266.

Ray, M. (2016), “An expanded approach to evaluating open access journals”, Journal of Scholarly Publishing, Vol. 47 No. 4, pp. 307-327.

Siler, K. (2017), “Future challenges and opportunities in academic publishing”, Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers Canadiens de Sociologie, Vol. 42 No. 1, pp. 83-114.

Swanberg, S.M., Thielen, J. and Bulgarelli, N. (2020), “Faculty knowledge and attitudes regarding predatory open access journals: a needs assessment study”, Journal of the Medical Library Association, Vol. 108 No. 2, pp. 208-218.

About the author

Patrick Ajibade ( is based at the Online Resource for Higher Education Transformation, Nelson Mandela University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

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