Category Archives: Open Access

JLA Lights the Way

Last Spring, while we were in the middle of the debate over the Research Works Act, former ACRLog blogger Barbara Fister issued “a call to action.” As she wrote:

“Many of our scholarly journals are published by the very corporations that supported the Research Works Act and which will continue to do what they can to maximize profits, which means making research in librarianship unavailable to many. Either we believe in open access, or we’re okay with the enclosure of knowledge. To preach open access without practicing it is baffling to me.”

For years even our own Association contributed to the “enclosure of knowledge,” but now I am the editor of an open access journal to which many of you subscribe. I was proud when ACRL lived up to its ideals by making the content of College & Research Libraries openly available – first to the pre-prints, then to the current content, and (within the next few weeks) to the complete back-file back to 1939 – and I am proud of our commitment to author rights. When you read our “instructions for authors,” it’s clear where we stand: “[the] agreement between ACRL and the author is license to publish. The author retains copyright and thus is free to post the article on an institutional or personal web page subsequent to publication in C&RL.”

Unfortunately, not everyone stands with us, and we are not the only publisher of scholarship in library and information science. We received another reminder of the fact that Fister’s call to action still echoes over this past weekend when the entire editorial board of Taylor & Francis’s Journal of Library Administration resigned their positions. In an explanation of this decision already described in blog posts by Brian Mathews, Jason Griffey, and Chris Bourg, former JLA editor Damon E. Jaggars wrote:

“The Board believes that the licensing terms in the Taylor & Francis author agreement are too restrictive and out-of-step with the expectations of authors in the LIS community . . . . A large and growing number of current and potential authors to JLA have pushed back on the licensing terms included in the Taylor & Francis author agreement. Several authors have refused to publish with the journal under the current licensing terms. Several others have demanded to add addenda to the author agreement to clarify what they find to be confusing language about the exclusivity of the publishing rights Taylor & Francis requires . . . . Thus, the Board came to the conclusion that it is not possible to produce a quality journal under the current licensing terms offered by Taylor & Francis and chose to collectively resign.”

The former editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration is being justly recognized for taking a stand on behalf of their authors and on behalf of a field that has made a commitment to promoting author rights, but Fister’s original question still pertains: given our commitment as a field to open access and author rights, and given what we know about the limitations of the still-predominant model of scholarly communications in our field, and given the easy access that many of us possess to the tools that allow for the launch of high-quality, open access titles that may fill the niche currently held by commercial journals, why are the actions of the former JLA board still so unusual? Why do so many of us still serve as the editorial leadership for journals whose policies do not reflect our ideals? Why do I? In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that, while editor of College & Research Libraries, I continue to serve on a number of other editorial boards, including those of journals published by commercial publishers whose policies regarding open access and author rights may not be precisely what I wish them to be. Fister suggested that I re-think that service a year ago, but I’m slow. Now Jaggars and company have suggested it again. It’s time for me to look at this seriously, if only because it will give me more time to promote the development of C&RL as an open access journal and to collaborate more effectively with other OA journals in library and information science.

How about you?

Push-Us-Over-the-Edge Friday?

By now you’ve probably heard all about #OAMonday: May 21st, when the folks behind the open access advocacy site access2research.org unveiled the site and kicked off the push to petition the White House to allow public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research. The message has spread far and wide throughout the academic and library community, with amazing results: so far over 22,500 signatures have been gathered in just 12 days!

I’m sure that most ACRLog readers have signed the petition. Librarians have been and continue to be on the leading edge of open access advocacy, and the ACRL Insider published a post in support of the petition on the very first day. I’ve seen so many tweets and retweets about the petition amongst the librarians that I follow that I’ve lost count, and clearly all of our hard work has made an impact.

But there’s still a ways to go, still nearly 2,500 signatures required to guarantee an official response to the petition from the White House. Maybe you’ve already signed, but how can you help push us over the edge today and in the coming days?

Spread the word beyond the scholarly and library community! I know this might seem like a stretch: if you’re like me, many family members, friends, and acquaintances haven’t heard about and may not understand the issues around open access publishing or why an academic librarian would be concerned about them. It can also be hard to ask folks to sign a petition, and I know I’m always wary of potentially adding yet another message requesting action to possibly-overstuffed email inboxes.

I overcame my own personal petition-emailing fears last week, and the results have been pretty amazing. A neighbor responded nearly instantly that she had signed the petition. My mother signed it, forwarded it to her friends and colleagues, then emailed me the article in the Chron about the petition a couple of days later. I think that including links in my email to this concise and well-crafted video featured on access2research.org helped, and now there’s another great video available, too.

What other ways have you found to spread the word about the access to research petition? Share your success stories in the comments! (And if you haven’t signed yet, please head on over to the White House site and do!)

Open Access Beyond Academia

I live in New York City and have been following the Occupy Wall Street activities here (and associated activities elsewhere) since they began last fall. I hadn’t been directly involved, but recently that changed, and on May Day I facilitated an open access teach-in with my fantastic colleagues Jill Cirasella and Alycia Sellie from the Brooklyn College library of the City University of New York (I’m in the library at another CUNY college, NYC College of Technology).

Our happy group of learners. Note our amazing sign, hand-painted by Alycia. Credit: OccupyCUNYNews

Our teach-in was part of The Free University of NYC: an event planned to reimagine higher education alongside all of the other May Day demonstrations and protests. The Free U set up shop in Madison Square Park near the Flatiron Building in Manhattan, and encouraged teachers to bring classes and anyone to sign up to facilitate a teach-in, discussion, or skill share. “Admission” was free to all, and topics covered ranged widely, from discussions of mounting student debt and income inequality, to the work of Occuprint, a group that’s collecting the posters and visual culture of the Occupy movement, to an occupied figure drawing class. Jill, Alycia, and I have been active in OA advocacy at CUNY, and when we saw the call for participation we thought that the Free U would be a great opportunity to continue to advocate for access to scholarly research for all.

We were scheduled for an early timeslot and the day dawned rainy and chilly, which meant that we didn’t draw huge crowds. But we had lots of great, lively conversation with the folks who did stop by, mostly graduate students and faculty at CUNY or other universities in NYC. We’d prepped for the possibility of a presentation, split between the three of us, but the opportunity for one-on-one interaction allowed us to tailor discussions to the specific questions participants had, like: “How can I make my own work available for all to read?” and “Will depositing my articles in an institutional repository hand over control of my work to the university?” I’m absolutely certain that we were able to change a few minds about open access that morning.

All in all it was a great day, and since then I’ve found myself returning to thoughts about how to bring the open access message outside of the academic library. In all of my mulling I was reminded of this great UK website Who Needs Access? You Need Access!. This OA advocacy site was launched earlier this year, and provides real-world examples of the benefits of access to published research from teachers, patients, nurses, artists, and others. I think it’s a great resource to use for our advocacy work.

And last week our own Steven Bell posted over at Library Journal about bringing the work of academic librarians outside of the library. Steven suggests a number of different venues and outlets we might consider, including the increasingly-popular Massively Online Open Courses (MOOCs), local talks at unconventional locations like bars or restaurants, and skill-share or other community educational opportunities, some free and some fee-based. Outlets like these could be another way for us to spread the word about open access beyond the walls of our libraries and campuses.

Are you advocating for open access publishing outside the library? If so, tell us about it!

Three Cheers and Two Questions for the DPLA

Robert Darnton gave a talk at my institution last week about the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). He presented a progress report, the details of which he has outlined in the New York Review of Books. The first prototype of the DPLA, using technology developed in the project’s “Beta Sprint” competition, should be released in April 2013.

Darnton’s inspiration is familiar to most academic librarians: publisher greed has turned the public good of knowledge into a private commodity. Rising subscription prices have created an enclosure movement whereby the knowledge commons has become a gated community. The DPLA is envisioned as a “mega-meta-macro library” that would harness the technology of the internet to disseminate and preserve the world’s information for all, and for the ages.

I was encouraged and inspired by Darnton’s talk. As the project moves forward, I have two questions, both relating to possible unintended effects of the DPLA on long-term preservation of library materials.

Darnton described how the DPLA would employ a “moving wall” model of access to collections. Much like JSTOR’s archives of journal articles, the DPLA’s holdings would ideally lag three to five years behind currently released material (once some very thorny copyright issues have been untangled). Local institutions – public and academic libraries – would complement the DPLA by continuing to provide access to newly published books. The DPLA’s “opening day” collection would aggregate existing digital projects, such as the Hathi Trust and Internet Archive, enhanced by unique digital collections from rare book and special collections libraries.

My first question is: to what extent would this moving wall disincentivize academic and public libraries to maintain and preserve their own print collections, once the DPLA’s materials are available? My institution, like many, has deaccessioned back runs of JSTOR journals. With pressure on our libraries to reappropriate shelf space, will we see the same trend with book collections? Will public libraries lose support from their communities if “everything” indeed becomes available on the internet?

Second – and I must credit one of our library’s interns for this question – since the DPLA will aggregate many different digital collections, how confident are we that digitization standards will be consistent? Darnton admitted after the lecture that provided certain baseline standards are met, the project may have little control over quality. Individual institutions do such a nice job in digitizing their own materials, he suggested, that they could be models for the rest of the project. But given the amount of material targeted for inclusion, and the unlikelihood of reprocessing millions of pages of material already digitized, we can probably expect a wide variation in standards. How important is this, to us and to users?

Before the lecture, I joked to a friend that we were about to watch an episode of “Darnton Abbey.” Librarians in Darnton Abbey will be both upstairs and downstairs – we should labor to support the project, but we, like all users, will also greatly benefit. In the face of trends that threaten to enclose information in an estate of privilege, the DPLA aims to democratize knowledge for all.

What Are the Next Steps?

It’s a phrase often heard at the end of a meeting: what are our next steps? When I worked as a web editor and project manager we called them action items (which is, admittedly, corporate jargon, but also makes them sound kind of fun). What does each person at the meeting need to do to keep the work going, to move the project forward, to get closer to completion?

It’s also a question I’ve asked myself lately about open access in general and three OA-related issues specifically: the introduction of the opposing U.S. bills the Research Works Act (RWA) and the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), and the Elsevier boycott. I’ve done the reading. I’ve signed the Open Access Pledge and the Elsevier boycott list at The Cost of Knowledge. I’ve contacted Congressional Representatives to express my opposition to RWA and support of FRPAA. I’m following @FakeElsevier on Twitter.

But what are my next steps? What should they be?

At my university there’s an Open Access Publishing interest group, and we found ourselves asking that very question at our last meetup. The group is more than just librarians — faculty in other disciplines as well as graduate students are members, too. But what can we do to widen the circle of OA advocacy to include more librarians, faculty in other departments, and graduate students?

Several of our college libraries have Open Access Week events each year, but could we have more events, speakers, or presentations? I suspect that faculty will listen most closely to colleagues in their field. Should we try to find an OA champion in each discipline and work with them to disseminate open access knowledge? What else can we do to win the ears of the graduate students (who are, after all, both current and future faculty)?

This post is more questions than answers, I know. But with the news about all three OA issues having spilled over from the usual academic press outlets and into the mainstream media, it seems like a good opportunity for librarians who advocate for open access to try (again) to widen the discussion to our colleagues both inside and outside the library. What are your next steps for open access?