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Using the Open Access Digital Theological Library

This Guide

This LibGuide will cover using the Open Access Digital Theological Library (OATDL) to locate free, high-quality online content in religious studies and related disciplines curated from publisher websites, institutional repositories, scholarly societies, archives, and stable public domain collections. The OADTL features a simple and intuitive basic search interface, but by using the advanced features described in this guide you will be able to refine your searching and identify the best resources for your research needs. 


Why Use Open Access Digital Theological Library

The Open Access Digital Theological Library (OADTL) curates thousands of resources freely accessible online in the subject of religion and its related dicisplines, including articles, dissertations, ebooks, and digitized historical documents. The OADTL uses the world’s most advanced integrated library system (ILS) for cataloging and discovery. This system, OCLC’s WorldShare, makes content easily discoverable and retrievable. The OADTL is staffed by professional librarians and curates content without regard for theological or confessional perspective. Its mission is focused on increasing access to high-quality religious studies content to serve scholars and students of religion. 


OADTL Collection Development Policy (from

The Open Access Digital Theological Library (OADTL) collects content in religious studies without regard for theological or confessional perspective. However, the OADTL curates only content which meets the following criteria:

  1. All content must be fully open access without a pay wall of any sort;
  2. All content must be professionally cataloged in OCLC’s WorldCat (;
  3. All content must have a stable URL (personal websites or blogs are not included);
  4. The content must be related to religious studies (broadly defined) and consistent with our collecting priorities as follows:
    • Our highest priority is collecting religious studies content;
    • Our second priority is collecting interdisciplinary studies which intersect with religious studies;
    • Our third priority is collecting content from disciplines which support religious studies (e.g., ethics, history, linguistics, literature, psychology, sociology); and
    • Our fourth priority is collecting items of interest to international development.

OADTL collections are composed primarily of books and articles. The collections are ecumenical, global, and interreligious and include materials in all languages (as long as that content meets the criteria above).

What is Open Access?

"Open access" refers to a set of principles and practices through which published resources (like articles, books, dissertations, and other published research content) are distributed online, free of cost or other access barriers. As it relates to academic journals, conventional (non-open access) journals pay for publishing costs by charging fees for access, like subscriptions, site licenses, or pay-per-view charges. Whereas, open access journals use funding models which do not require the reader (or the library providing the service) to pay to read the journal's contents. 

Open Access vs Public Domain

Open access is the designation used to describe published research content which is distributed online and free of cost. Many open access titles are also available for sale in print form. Public domain refers to content that is not copyrighted and may be used by anyone without the author’s permission. Most public domain content was published before 1923.

Access the Open Access Digital Theological Library

undefinedThere is no sign in necessary to use the Open Access Digital Theological Library. To get started, select the green "Start Using Open Access Digital Theological Library" button on this page or from the Open Access Digital Theological Library section of the Article and Journals LibGuide

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