How We’re Walking the OA Walk

The good news about open access keeps coming. Here at ACRLog, we’ve followed the trend since Harvard’s Arts and Sciences faculty adopted an open access resolution. Boston university and MIT have made similar resolutions. Individual scholars like Danah Boyd have committed to making their work available online by boycotting publications that don’t allow it. And individual departments such as Stanford’s School of Education have stepped up. Recently Oregon State University librarians adopted an open access mandate, followed quickly by the University of Oregon. We’ve also been saddened when institutions fail to take up the cause. Yet, it seems to be movement on the move.

Well, at our last librarian’s meeting we adopted our own Open Access Pledge. It’s not as sophisticated as the ones that have been making news. We are a small library, with only six librarians, and we haven’t had the time or money to start up an institutional repository. We also, quite frankly, don’t have a terribly sophisticated grasp of all the OA arguments, the copyright issues, and the color choices. (Green? Gold? What about mauve?) We’ve also very, very busy trying to wrap up a big project, working with departments to make enough cuts that we can balance our budget next year – without scuttling our commitment to undergraduate research.

And that is precisely why it seemed time to take a stand, even if it’s not a sophisticated one. Our pledge is simply to make every effort to ensure that our scholarship is freely available online, either because the publisher posts its content online (as does Inside Higher Ed or Library Journal), it’s a truly OA journal, or because the publication agreement allows self-archiving, which most credible library publications do. We also pledge to do the work of self-archiving, which really isn’t a lot of trouble for librarians who are tweaking the web daily. It mystifies me that so few librarians can be bothered.

This wasn’t a simple decision. Half of the department is on the tenure track. Their continuing employment depends on establishing professional credibility through publication. But we feel strongly that this is the right thing to do, and that taking these simple steps won’t damage the ability of our emerging scholars to thrive.

We’ve submitted a sobering report about the library’s finances for our next faculty meeting. In the last paragraph we wanted to show one way that our choices, our individual actions, can honor the spirit of open inquiry. It’s the least we can do.

open - push
CC photo by dullhunk

About Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

5 thoughts on “How We’re Walking the OA Walk

  1. Barbara, thanks. It’s good to know how smaller libraries can contribute to the OA movement. You’ve inspired me to raise this issue at my own library.

  2. … and we were inspired by Oregon State! the timing for us seemed especially appropriate, so thanks to OSU for the nudge.

  3. I completely agree with Joan. A few of my colleagues and I have been talking more and more about this ever since OSU’s mandate, and your announcement of the Gustavus Adolphus pledge just adds to it. It’s definitely something I’d like to tackle over the (somewhat slower) summer months. Thanks!

  4. Kudos to you and your colleagues! Walking the walk is great.

    Question: since you don’t have an institutional repository, where are you going to self-archive? (I know there are plenty of options, just curious about those you’re considering.)

  5. We each get server space for our use, as most academic employees do, and that’s where I’ve stashed everything I can for years now. It’s not “cataloged” with metadata and all that, but it’s online and available. We link to our pages from the library’s site, and I’m just mulling over a way to post stuff to a FriendFeed group so we can use their widget to make them more visible somewhere….

    Now, talking a commercial book publisher into doing something with a CC license or something … since I’m not Cory Doctorow, that’s not going to be easy. Not that I won’t try.

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