Jisc is giving subscribing universities and research centres access to more than 20 collections from three major publishers, Adam Matthew Digital, Brill and ProQuest, as part of a group-purchasing pilot.
The agreement is part of exploring ways to help higher education libraries increase access to digital archival collections that facilitate research, teaching and learning.
The offer is based on a community-centred approach to lowering the cost of digital archival collections; the more products that are purchased, the lower the price. Institutions have until mid-July to take advantage of this opportunity through the publishers' pages on the Jisc Collections website (Adam Matthew Digital, Brill and ProQuest).
Paola Marchionni, head of digital resources for teaching, learning and research at Jisc, said: 'Researchers and librarians face a common concern: how can we ensure sustainable access to special collections to deliver better research and innovative teaching?
'Libraries have said that digital archival collections of primary source material are an important complement to traditional resources such as journals and books, but budgets are stretched and they find it difficult to purchase these often expensive content resources.'
The parallel initiative is a collaboration between Jisc and US-based Reveal Digital, which uses a library crowdfunding model to support the digitisation and delivery of special collections (such as Independent Voices), which represents the largest digital collection of North American 20th century alternative press titles.
Jisc has negotiated pledging fees for UK institutions to gain early access to this unique collection and at the same time support UK digitisation and open access. Half of the amount pledged by UK libraries will go towards the digitisation of UK alternative press content for future inclusion in Independent Voices and UK pledging libraries will provide strategic oversight on content selection and digitisation. Independent Voices will become open access in 2019.
Dr Douglas Field, senior lecturer in 20th century American literature, University of Manchester, one of the institutions that have pledged so far, said: 'For decades, scholars have been searching through different libraries in the US in order to find complete runs of little magazines and alternative press publications.
'By digitising so many previously hard-to-find publications, Reveal Digital has made these vital publications accessible, transforming these alternative press publications from marginal areas of scholarship into exemplary digitised copies for a new generation of scholars and enthusiasts.'
Eight institutions have pledged their support and helped to crowdfund the digitisation of UK content: University of Sussex; University of Sheffield; University of Bristol; University of Manchester; University College London; University of the West of England; University of York; and Birkbeck College, University of London.