Libraria is an open access initiative formed in 2015 by an international group of researchers in the social sciences who are committed to helping scholarly societies and publishers adopt open access publishing models. After exploring a number of strategies, it is now working on a very promising subscribe-to-open (S2O) approach to converting subscription journals to open access. The model builds on a tradition of academic libraries’ support for open access, which has found fruitful expression in such initiatives as SCOAP3, Open Library of the Humanities, and Knowledge Unlatched.

With subscribe-to-open, a publisher sends out the journal renewal form to subscribing libraries with a note describing how the journal is moving to open access in the coming year, with the continuing support of libraries paying a subscription-equivalent fee. The model provides publishers with the same revenue levels and libraries with the same expenses; authors everywhere are able to publish open access without facing a fee. The widespread recognition of open access’ value, combined with the model’s simplicity, makes it viable for small and large publishers and societies.

While the concept of learning’s patrons supporting the access of others to scholarship has a long history, subscribe-to-open first took shape at the publisher Annual Reviews in an initiative led by Kamran Naim and assisted by Raym Crow, with president Richard Gallagher coining the catchy phrase “subscribe to open.”

You can read more on S2O at our FAQs page.


  • Annual Reviews is currently offering its subscribers a package of five of its journals on a subscribe-to-open basis for 2020, supported by a FAQ and infographic.
  • Berghahn Books is working with Libraria to move 13 Berghahn anthropology titles to open access for 2020 by providing its subscribing libraries with a subscribe-to-open options with their journal renewal forms during the fall of 2019. Here’s their S2O webpage and FAQ on their approach to the model.
  • Coalition is working with 50 Canadian social science and humanities journals (whose titles we’ll soon list) that are publishing open access with the support of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network representing Canadian research libraries.
  • Brill Publishers has expressed its intent to pilot S2O in 2021 with a small number of their social science titles.

Discussions, led by Jeff Pooley and Dave Park, are also underway with International Communication Association, which publishes its six journals, four with Oxford University Press, as well as the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Vivian Berghahn is speaking with JSTOR and EBSCO on how this approach to open access can readily work with their content services. Other publishers, both society and commercial have expressed an interest in the way that this move to open access changes so little, making it eminently scalable across disciplines and regions.

While libraries may decline to participate, as happens with normal subscriptions, in this case it would lead to journals no longer being open access as they sought to rebuild their subscription list. By the same token, journals may attract subscribe-to-open supporters among libraries, which would enable them to reduce their subscribe-to-open fees.

A further advantage to subscribe-to-open is how the general principles can be adopted to suit different publishers, library consortia, subscription agencies, and other services. Liibraria’s interest here is in setting out those general principles, so that librarians, publishers, and funding agencies can gain a sense of what subscribe-to-open has to offer, even as publishers will offer their own variants of the model.