Support Open Access Week (All Year ‘Round)!

by R.C. Miessler, Head Editor, INALJ Indiana

Support Open Access Week (All Year ‘Round)!


Open Access Week was October 21-27 this year, but it’s not too late to get involved. If you’re new to the idea of OA, there are numerous open access resources available for librarians; the Open Education Database has a two-part list of resources, and Peter Suber’s overview of open access is excellent reading for someone new to the concept.

Open Access Week is an excellent opportunity to promote a new way of thinking about information and giving patrons a better understanding of how academic publishing and libraries intersect. It’s not as tantalizing as Banned Books Week, but OA can be just as contentious, although the arguments tend to take place in administrative offices, not at the circulation desk. Shrinking budgets and demands for information to be free are bringing the OA conversation more into the open for library patrons, even if they don’t quite know what open access and scholarly communication are all about.

Much of OA promotion is focused on academic libraries, and especially towards faculty and administrators who are involved in budgets, publishing and resource selection. However, patrons of academic and public libraries will benefit from the promotion of OA. It may not seem entirely necessary for library patrons to understand what open access is, as long as they are getting the information they need. Still, it is important that patrons know that all of this access to information isn’t really free, that there are vendors to be paid and decisions to be made when it comes to what resources stay and which ones go when there is less cash to go around. Patrons are paying the price when it comes to the rising costs of resources, be it tuition, taxes or limited access. By supporting OA, and promoting it through events like Open Access Week, patrons learn that libraries have access to more resources than ever, and hopefully how to access, evaluate and use them.

Science magazine’s recent “sting” exercise regarding open access has brought academic publishing, however briefly, farther forward in the consciousness of the general public; the responses from Gary Daught andHeather Joseph are well-crafted and do not completely dismiss the concerns raised, while pointing out flaws in the original article’s methodology and intentions. Unfortunately, more people are probably going to read the article in Science than the well-reasoned responses from librarians, OA publishers and other information professionals, potentially souring their perceptions of OA. It is vital to point out that no matter where information comes from, be it from a paid or OA peer-reviewed journal, a book, a blog, Wikipedia, Twitter, etc., sources always need to be evaluated and a determination needs to be made regarding the reliability of the resource. The OA model isn’t the concern as much as dealing with unscrupulous publishers and poor peer-review, issues that plague traditional publishers as well.

So, support open access! Here are some ideas to promote OA, be it during Open Access Week or year-round. While most of these are geared towards academic libraries, public libraries can promote OA resources alongside their traditional materials as well by putting them alongside their databases, as well as create digital archives and repositories for information of local interest, such as photographs and documents.

  • Make OA resources just as much apart of information literacy instruction sessions as paid and firewalled resources
  • Don’t bury OA resources on the library’s e-resources web page!
  • Host an OA lunch talk to raise awareness in an informal environment
  • Promote Creative Commons licensing
  • Use posters to show the rising costs of journals and databases the library subscribes to
  • When the library drops a paid resource, promote OA equivalents!
  • Encourage the use of digital repositories for data and papers, or better yet, build your own
  • Solicit patrons and the community for documents and materials of local interest for inclusion in a digital archive that is available for anyone to view online
  • Support emerging OA publishers such as Amherst College Press

Open access is an exciting concept for librarians, and we can spread the enthusiasm for new publishing models to our patrons! Let’s bring this conversation out from the offices and into the open!