Finding a Way: Moving from Open Access Principle to Practice


When will C&RL become Open Access?

On April 1, 2011, the online version of C&RL ( will become open access. A print version will continue to be available through a paid membership in ACRL or through a paid subscription to C&RL. Discussions about the future of the print version are underway.

Why did ACRL choose to make C&RL Open Access?

At its January 10, 2011, meeting, the ACRL Board of Directors unanimously passed the following resolution:

Whereas ACRL supports open scholarship and access to scholarly work;
Whereas ACRL publishes C&RL, the premier journal for academic librarians;
Whereas ACRL has made successive changes to increase access to the research found in C&RL;
Whereas ACRL member groups support making C&RL an open access journal;
Be it resolved, that ACRL provide open access to the electronic version of College & Research Libraries journal of April 2011; and,
Be it further resolved, that ACRL, through this action, continues to play a leading role in advocating for new models of scholarly communication in all of the disciplines.

What does this decision mean?

ACRL has removed all price barriers to the content in the online version of C&RL. Any reader will be able to access current C&RL articles and backfiles from 1997 online without need for a subscription.

What about permission to reuse articles?

C&RL authors have long retained copyright to their work. ACRL encourages authors to remove permission barriers. When a manuscript is accepted for publication in C&RL, authors can choose to make their work freely available for reuse. ACRL does not require its authors to publish their works using a permissions license, however authors are welcome to attach a permissions license of their choosing to their work. Authors can simply indicate on the author agreement what permissions license they would like to use. Creative Commons offers a variety of permissions licenses authors may consider.

What are the financial considerations for this decision?

Publication costs of C&RL have historically been offset by subscription and advertising revenues. The seismic changes seen in the publishing world have been felt by ACRL as well. Companies have scaled back print advertising with the more recent ability to inexpensively reach  markets through email and the Web. As library budgets have been cut the number of subscriptions to C&RL has also been reduced. In addition to this decline in subscription revenues, C&RL also has experienced a decline in advertising revenues. The decision to move C&RL to open access may accelerate the trends already evident. It is unknown whether C&RL’s current subscribers will forsake their print subscriptions for the open access version. However, the ACRL Board of Directors felt that it was important to honor the principles that ACRL has espoused and make funding an open access C&RL a priority.

The ACRL Board made this decision in full awareness that it will require ACRL to find new funding sources for C&RL. Until those funding sources are identified, ACRL will continue to cover the shortfall out of its Operating Fund.