Librarians and Libraries and Open Access

“Roses red and violets blue
stays unread
till paid by you”

How can librarians prove that their libraries still provide education?
Their situation is nohow a warming one. However, the solution couldn’t be more simple.

Complex Situation

Libraries order journals and books. The cost of academic material is climbing rapidly (from 1989 to 2003 by 315% according to ARL). This is possible because the market is dominated by a small number of large publishers who can demand very high prices for their publications. The world production of scholarly outputs, by contrast, has been at least doubled.

Even the most well endowed library cannot afford to provide all of the research material necessary for its students/researchers, let alone the one in the developing world. In addition, library budgets have been severely slashed everywhere.

Two Crises and the Damage Done

SERIALS PRICING CRISIS (in its forth decade according to Peter Suber)

  • costs climbing, number of journals growing, library budgets are being slashed
  • researchers must do without access to some of the journals critical to their research.

PERMISSION CRISIS (in its first decade according to Peter Suber)

  • legal and technological barriers are raised limiting how libraries may use the journals
  • legal barrier: copyright law, licensing agreement
  • technological barrier: digital rights management which blocks access to unauthorized users

Both crises impede research
and when research is impeded
so are all the benefits of research.

Peter Suber

Simple Solution

This would present an insoluble problem in the print machine era, however with internet technology available, both crises may be answered with Open Access to research material. The middleman can now be left out of the picture and mutual responsibility in promoting the wide dissemination of knowledge is now solely on librarians and publishers.

A report commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, for example, concludes that “open access is not only a practical, efficient and sustainable model for disseminating high-quality peer-reviewed research, but that it is a system that could also bring savings of as much as 30%

SPARC is calling recently for stories being collected for the OA Week about Open Access causing major swerve in specific scientific study. Thus, even if it didn’t prove as a money saving solution, it will, undoubtedly prove as a “community-saving” solution.

Librarians Act Today and Envision the Year 2025

That librarians are strong advocates for Open Access is obvious when recognized that SPARC, one of the strongest OA organization on a global level, was founded by the research library community.

Other than that, librarians are:

  • educating faculty and administrators on campus about Open Access
  • building digital repositories for OA journals/books
  • supporting OA journals (which make more than 20% of peer-reviewed journals today)

There are weak spots to the movement with librarians not always being as engaged as
they should, but the idea is still in its growth process and the awareness is yet to be raised.

The latest report, Futures Thinking for Academic Librarians: Higher Education in 2025, sponsored by ACRL, provides nine likely, high-impact scenarios for the future of higher education and the supporting role of librarians, and it is abbreviated in bullet points by Philip Davis from Scholarly Kitchen: http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2010/09/22/future-of-academic-librarians/

(The opening quote is from the collection of OA haikus available at http://openaccess.eprints.org)

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One Response to Librarians and Libraries and Open Access

  1. Pingback: What is Google Scholar? | InTechWeb Blog

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