In a recent post on Association for College and Research Libraries’ TechConnect (http://acrl.ala.org/techconnect/?p=2823), Bohyun Kim pays tribute to the late Aaron Swartz and his advocacy of making information freely accessible to everyone. In this article, Kim suggests that physical library spaces and the contents within–computers, books, etc–should be open to all. Likewise, she encourage libraries not to get “too comfortable” in how they provide online information access. Kim asks, “Will an academic library be able to remain as a sanctuary for all ideas and a place for sharing knowledge for people’s intellectual pursuits regardless of their institutional membership? Or will it be reduced to a branch of an institution that sells knowledge to its tuition-paying customers only?”
Kim’s challenge is interesting as it calls into question the fundamental idea of what the future role of the academic library should be. Here at the MSU Library, we are led by a land-grant mission to serve the citizens of the State of Montana. Similarly, we are a regional depository of federal government information, so we provide the American public with free access to this information. The Library arranges access to thousands of journals and databases. In each negotiation with the providers of these resources, we ensure that anyone who walks into the library can access these items.
The publishing industry is less willing to allow academic libraries to provide online access to anyone anywhere. While our paid resources are available online to all students, faculty, and staff of MSU, they are not available to the general community outside of the library. In an effort to address these types of problems, there is the Open Access (OA) movement. OA removes the price barriers between an author’s work and his or her readers, addresses the problems of a costly scholarly publishing lifecycle, and sets the foundation for future research and scholarship. Peter Suber, Director, Harvard Open Access Project, defines Open Access literature as “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.” (legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/brief.htm).
There are two main types of OA delivery – OA repositories and OA journals. On March 19th at the MSU Library Scholars Showcase (calendar.msu.montana.edu/events/8718), there will be an official launch of ScholarWorks (scholarworks.montana.edu), an OA repository for the MSU community. In ScholarWorks, MSU faculty, staff, and students can add their articles, presentations, working papers, conference proceedings, preprints, and datasets to an archival repository that is free and open to all. Benefits of ScholarWorks include: increased access and visibility to research, increased opportunities for collaboration, faster communication with other scholars, long-term archiving, and increased rates of citation. With the launch of ScholarWorks, MSU joins over three-thousand OA repositories across the world (see the Registry of Open Access Journals for a searchable list of other OA sites roar.eprints.org).
In a meeting with MSU Graduate Students in January, I was pleased that about a third of the group of 75 students in attendance had heard of open access. In this meeting, I encountered a variety of OA understandings, such as the fact that authors may have to pay for their articles to appear in open access journals, so it is good to write such costs into grant proposals. Likewise, I heard some misunderstandings about Open Access, including the idea that PLoS is the only credible peer-reviewed OA journal. While this post isn’t intended to be a thorough OA primer, it is my hope that it prompts you to learn more about OA on your own.
Two sites of particular interest may be the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) which contains 50 journals which “exercise quality control on submitted papers through an editor, editorial board and/or a peer-review system.” Another resource of interest may be SCOAP3 (scoap3.org). MSU will be contributing to this consortium which facilitates Open Access publishing in High Energy Physics by re-directing subscription money. Currently, libraries buy journal subscriptions to support the peer-review process and allow their patrons to read articles. This project will change the model so that libraries contribute to the consortium, which pays centrally for the peer-review process and makes articles free for everyone. This is a new initiative and the implications for the broader publishing community are unclear at this point. Through this example and with ScholarWorks, the MSU Library is committed to supporting efforts which broaden information access and lower costs.
Movements such as these are gaining momentum nationally and internationally. On February 22, 2013, the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a memorandum directing “Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and requiring researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research” (www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp_public_access_memo_2013.pdf). The National Institutes of Health has a similar public access policy which requires deposit into PubMed Central within 12 months of publication (publicaccess.nih.gov and www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc). MSU’s ScholarWorks helps fulfill mandates and missions such as these.
The MSU Library is an active participant in the ongoing Open Access movement. We are excited about the potential of ScholarWorks and other Open Access initiatives still in development at MSU. We hope you’ll join us in efforts to make and keep scholarly communication available to everyone.