HERMES, an international project on free digital resource sharing

Presenters: Carmen Lomba, Librarian Responsable of ILL-DD Service (Universidad de Cantabria, Spain), and Debora Mazza, Research fellow (National Research Council – Research Area of Bologna, Italy)


In 2020, the COVID-19 situation forced academic libraries to move exclusively to the Web. The closure led to key issues for the scientific community: the unavailability of physical collections, the lack of digitisation of paper assets, the inadequacy of catalogues, the absence of information on e-books and electronic resources availability, problems of delivering digital documents to users, and a general lack of competencies in searching and retrieving digital documents.

To respond to the COVID-19 emergency in the library field, in April 2020 a group of librarians under the aegis of IFLA created “Resource Sharing during COVID-19” (RSCVD): the first experiment in free digital resource sharing worldwide. RSCVD is based on the voluntary contribution of a hundred librarians around the world, who worked with the tools available at that moment in order to share documents held in their libraries with the world academic community.

RSCVD connected library workers with libraries-in-need to create a global resource sharing emergency response network, dealing with requests for any textual materials which can be delivered electronically. As many libraries were physically closed, the volunteer lending libraries find available electronic resources and supply them as far as their usage licenses allow.

Since launching in April 2020, 125 individual librarians from 88 institutions in 17 countries have volunteered to fill the more than 9,000 requests received. 55% of those requests were filled via the volunteer corps with an additional 565 open access articles immediately delivered through OAB’s InstantILL.

After the success of the RSCVD project in the face of the COVID emergency, the Erasmus Plus Programme, through the HERMES project, gave the opportunity to put in place a multifaceted action which can create long-lasting impacts. In fact the HERMES project, financed in 2021 by the Erasmus Plus sub-Programme “Partnerships for Digital Education Readiness”, is built upon the RSCVD existing good practice enforced by IFLA.

The project aims at building an upgraded software to ease and promote an Information Library, thus enabling the accessibility to a wider range of on-line librarian resources and providing a potential usability of the results at European level and beyond. The transnational value of the initiative is assured by the nature of the project itself which connects several libraries and institutions worldwide.

HERMES intends to tackle two different but linked problems that the scientific community increasingly faces nowadays:

  • librarians have the difficult task of guaranteeing distance services to their users
  • the scientific community’s practical need for access to digital documents is increasing enormously, but their searching and retrieving skills (information literacy competencies) are still to be developed.

Therefore, the main HERMES project activities are:

  • a wide reflection on the meaning of resource sharing and practices involving the worldwide information community, fostering the emergence of a common perspective. This reflection will lead to a publication to be disseminated worldwide and used as training material
  • the optimisation of the existing system for accessing digital documents through the design of a service model supplementary to the existing one, and the production of an open-source management software that improves the available offer and optimizes workflows
  • the strengthening of librarians’ skills in using the renewed service in order to provide users with fast and free access to knowledge
  • a set of distance training initiatives addressed to the educational community (teachers, researchers, students) aimed at strengthening competencies in searching and retrieving quality academic documents, and related preparation of specific training materials.
  • As for methodologies, open-source and distance learning are the two main concepts underpinning the entire project, in order to widen as much as possible participation in training and use of produced outputs.

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