The materials in the ISU ReD repository represent only a small fraction of the open access resources that are available on the Internet. Other items can be found online in similar institutional repositories or websites, but searching specifically for open access materials can sometimes be difficult with the usual search engines such as Google. One possible way to limit a search to open access resources is to use the freely accessible OAIster database.

The OAIster database is a union catalog of millions of records for open access resources. Compiled by OCLC (the cooperative that runs the Worldcat catalog and supports interlibrary loan), OAIster provides a basic and advanced search for users. The database is compiled by harvesting records about items from open access collections around the world, and currently contains more than 50 million entries.

The advanced search allows patrons to limit their search by content, format, language, year, and other criteria, similar to the library catalog. Users can search for images, music, maps, books, articles, newspapers, and other materials, then refine their search further if needed. While not all resources in the database are fully available to all users (some are restricted by geography, for example), it is an invaluable starting point for those searching exclusively for open access resources.

Once users have found a resource they are further interested in, they can click on a specific result and see a more detailed record for the resource. Unfortunately, a database is only as good as the records it contains, and the records do not always have links to the materials being described. This is a significant and very unfortunate flaw, but for users who need open access resources the OAIster database can still make a search much more efficient than a generic search engine.

When resources are available users should also be mindful that “open access” does not necessarily mean “not copyrighted” or “free to reuse as you like” and carefully read any terms or conditions associated with the materials they find. And while there is a very large amount of records available to be searched, they do not represent all the open access resources available.

ISU ReD is not harvested by OAIster at this time, but making your own work open access on ISU ReD can make it available to a wider range of readers, scholars, and students. We can help you do that for new scholarship or discuss options for previous work. Authors can often place pre-prints or even published articles on institutional repositories, and ISU ReD also welcomes conference presentations and other forms of scholarly output. If you wish to discuss these options further, for current or already published research, please contact Milner Library’s Scholarly Communication Team at