Interview with an Author: Open Access Literature in Libraries

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

February 07, 2023

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Scott about a book she co-authored titled Open Access Literature in Libraries: Principles and PracticesThe book explores important topics related to open access, and I encourage readers of this blog to check out the book.

Please share a little bit about yourself with our readers.

Caitlin Harrington, Karen Brunsting, and I all worked together in the library at the University of Memphis (UofM). One of the first projects Caitlin and I worked on together at UofM was to activate Open Access and access-only journals in the link resolver. The library had previously had an explicit policy not to catalog Open Access journals and we accordingly had to make the case for integrating this content into library collections. Doing so piqued our interest and led to initial research on the topic, including these articles: “Exploring Open Access Practices, Attitudes, and Policies in Academic Libraries” and Documenting an Open Future in a Post-Policy World.”

Why did you decide to write Open Access Literature in Libraries: Principles and Practices?

When Karen joined the UofM library, the three of us submitted a proposal on the topic to a call for book chapters. We were initially quite surprised when the editors of the proposed anthology invited us to write a book instead! As we prepared the table of contents for review by the publisher, however, we realized that we had a book-length project. With the invitation in hand and approval from the publisher, we were motivated to complete the book because there isn’t anything like it. Open Access can be a pretty intimidating topic; our goal was to create a practical guide that would empower librarians who have not had much explicit training or experience as they take their first steps with Open Access.

Why do you think libraries have not always included Open Access resources in their collections?

This is an important question. The ethos of librarianship aligns well with the aims of Open Access, yet librarians, for a variety of legitimate reasons, have inconsistently embraced it. The primary concern around supporting Open Access is likely financial. With limited budgets, librarians have valid concerns about taking on Open Access publishing costs in addition to subscription costs. With respect to integrating Open Access content in their collections, a concern that we’ve heard time and again is that librarians have limited budgets and must prioritize managing their paid content. Another common concern is that Open Access publishers are more likely to be “predatory” in some of their practices and some librarians have decided that curating excellent collections means excluding Open Access content. Concerns about the stability of Open Access have also led some librarians not to catalog or provide access to it. Insufficient staffing is also cited when explaining why managing and integrating Open Access content has tended to be a pet project rather than integral to library collections.

In what ways can librarians support the use of Open Access resources?

In one chapter, we outline specific practices librarians can employ to support Open Access publishing and resources. We discuss these by domain area—acquisitions and collection development, cataloging, electronic resource management systems and discovery, institutional repository, scholarly communication, interlibrary loan, public and access services, research and instruction, administration, and outreach. Our desire was to show that librarians in all areas of practice, with any budget, and with limited staffing can actively support Open Access. Much of the literature and documentation focuses on the Open Access activities of librarians at R1 institutions with an institutional repository and publishing program. Most librarians do not work in well-resourced institutions, however, and we found it important to show a variety of activities, some of which would be broadly accessible.

What changes have you seen in open access publishing over the years?

So much has changed in recent years: Open Access models—some of which may hold more appeal to librarians and the communities they serve—have proliferated, some major mandates and guidelines for Open Access deposit have been released, Open Access agreements have been signed at an increasing rate, and services and platforms that support Open Access publishing have cropped up. Many of these recent developments draw attention to the fact that although many librarians support Open Access in theory, we don’t always know how to go about cooperating with campus partners to fund and operationalize it. There has also been recent discussion around the inequities perpetuated by Open Access publishers; we discuss these alongside what we see as some opportunities for Open Access to promote inclusivity in the scholarly communication landscape.

What changes do you expect to see in the future?

In the future, I expect that librarians will need to respond to the needs and requirements of their communities, much as we do now. In the book we discuss the importance of responding with agility to Open Access change. The only forecasting I will do is to say that changes to models, mandates, guidance, funding, interest, and participation will be ongoing for the foreseeable future and librarians will need to be comfortable with many unknowns. This isn’t to say that the rapid pace of change means we can’t or shouldn’t make plans. I am already having conversations with the Office of Research at my institution to discuss how best to prepare for the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s recently issued memo on “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research.” I also expect that librarians will continue to experiment with consortial Open Access agreements to see how the needs of users can be addressed at scale.

What are two things you hope all readers of the book take with them?

I want readers to understand that there is no “right” way to support Open Access initiatives or integrate Open Access literature in their collections. The book provides librarians with information on many of the relevant considerations so that they can make informed decisions based on their resources and the needs of their communities. I also want readers to appreciate the variety of Open Access models and opportunities. Open Access models are often described in monolithic terms when in reality, individual Open Access agreements are unique and reflect the hours of negotiation and customization that went into them. To mention one example, Read and Publish agreements have most often provided “Read” access to the publisher’s full portfolio, but that isn’t necessarily a requirement. I am currently working on an agreement that will provide read access to journals in one specific discipline.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss the book! We will be depositing the complete book in the Illinois State University Institutional Repository, but we encourage librarians to purchase a copy from ALA as they are interested and able. We’ve donated any profits to the Open Access publishing campaign of ALA’s Core journals.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her expertise includes information literacy, educational technology, and library and information science education.  Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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