Libraries and the Internet Toolkit

Open Access

Open access refers to the free and open availability of scholarly content on the Internet. Open-access materials are made available via digital repositories (archives) or scholarly journals. Open access does not equate to “anyone can publish anything”; rather, open access refers to the ability of anyone to view, download and use scholarly information. 
Though open access tends to be discussed in the context of scholarship and academic publishing, it is important to note that open access benefits everyone, not just academics. Information made available through open access is freely available to all users everywhere, with as short an embargo period as possible. 
ALA’s joint letter with ACRL to the Office of Science and Technology Policy on January 12, 2010, states:  “All federal agencies funding significant research should adopt public access policies. This is important in a wide variety of disciplines, as new research in many fields can have an immediate impact on the public good,” and “We urge a short embargo period and recommend a 6-month maximum to bring U.S. policy into alignment with policies already in place in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.”
It is important to remember the following:
  • Open access refers to both digital repositories and scholarly journals.
  • Repositories are not limited to institutional repositories. They can be organized by topic, by discipline, and by collaboration as well.
  • Although scholarly publication most often refers to text publication in the form of journal articles, open access is not necessarily limited to text media.
  • Like traditional journal publications, open-access journals can and should be peer-reviewed.
  • Traditionally published materials may still be deposited in an open-access digital repository if the author’s copyright has been sufficiently preserved rather than signed over to the publisher.
  • The open-access movement is a quickly advancing area of interest for librarians, and being informed means staying informed. Keeping up-to-date is important.
  • Academics are not the only people who benefit from open-access scholarly communication. Everyone benefits, including libraries and the public.
  • Federal taxes fund federal research, including research done by grant recipients.
Librarians can support the open-access movement in many ways:
  • Plan workshops for faculty about why open access is important to them and what they should know when publishing.
  • Advocate for the inclusion of open-access journals in the pool of publications used when evaluating for tenure.
  • Educate public library users on how open-access issues impact their ability to access pertinent information, particularly medical and other scientific information.
  • Encourage the use of open-access repositories and journals by including them in our electronic resources, LibGuides and other local information sources.
  • Promote the copyright rights of authors by educating faculty on negotiating with publishers regarding the deposit of published articles in digital repositories for access and preservation.
  • Avoid looking at open access as a “technology issue.” Open access is as much an information freedom issue, and librarians outside of digital collections, scholarly communications and IT departments are needed to engage with stakeholders, both representing their interests to the library and educating them about open-access issues.
  • Subscribe to discussion lists and use RSS feeds to remain abreast of changes and advancements in the open-access movement.
  • Learn about the relationship between open access and copyright.
  • Remind patrons that if they pay federal taxes, they have funded federal research, including research conducted by federal grant recipients.
“The Open Access Directory (OAD) is a compendium of simple factual lists about open access (OA) to science and scholarship, maintained by the OA community at large.” 
The OAB “provides an overview of open access concepts, and it presents over 1,300 selected English-language books, conference papers (including some digital video presentations), debates, editorials, e-prints, journal and magazine articles, news articles, technical reports, and other printed and electronic sources that are useful in understanding the open access movement's efforts to provide free access to and unfettered use of scholarly literature.” 
A concise introduction to open access written by a leading open access advocate and SPARC Senior Researcher. 
“This is a list of materials for teaching, explaining or marketing open access. One purpose is to identify materials that individuals can mine for ideas for their own presentations about open access (with attribution to the original authors of course).” 
Open letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in support of public access to federally funded research. 
“The Scholarly Communication Toolkit was designed by the Scholarly Communication Committee of The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) to support advocacy efforts designed to transform the scholarly communication landscape.” 
“SPARC®, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, is an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system. . .Its pragmatic focus is to stimulate the emergence of new scholarly communication models that expand the dissemination of scholarly research and reduce financial pressures on libraries.” 
The Compact is an agreement amongst universities that choose to sign it to support faculty publishing in open-access journals by agreeing to underwrite the cost for fee-based publication, thereby supporting the equitable practice of open-access publishing as compared to traditional publishing business models in which subscription payments cover operating costs and profits. 
ALA offers an introduction to open access on this page, with particular attention paid to NIH-funded research findings.  Helpful resources for more information are listed near the bottom of the page. 
A project meant to track open access developments in real time through social media tagging. Updates can be followed via the Web page, RSS feed, e-mails, Twitter or Tumblr. 
An international index of peer-reviewed open-access journals that do not include embargo periods.