Thursday, October 23, 2014

Opening Up To Open Access

October 20-26, 2014 is Open Access Week, a global event promoting Open Access as a new norm in scholarship and research.

Open access refers to the practice of making scholarly research available online for free upon publication (or soon after).  Implemented by academics, institutions, journals and major funding bodies, open access policies allow everyone across the globe to benefit from the latest findings and discoveries--whether it's assessing Ebola risk in West Africa or studying the effect of cute kitten pictures on people's attention spans.  Electronic Frontier Foundation

University libraries, including those at Texas Woman’s University, have for years faced an increasingly untenable situation.  The cost of some major journal subscriptions, vital to scholarly discourse, have risen exponentially—while budgets remain static or are decreased.  T
his trend shows no signs of abating.

Access to scholarly journals doesn’t come cheap, with many databases priced in the tens of thousands of dollars annually.  In FY2014 alone, the TWU Libraries spent over $1.3 million 
(or a whopping 93% of our materials budget) on journals/continuations in 212 databases.  This was substantially more than just two years previous (in FY2012 the libraries spent 84% of our materials budget on journals/continuations in 226 databases.)  This three-year snapshot makes clear the unsettling position in which we find ourselves.  Even with regular cuts to keep costs down, each year the TWU Libraries estimate a 10% increase in serial (journals and databases) costs due to inflation--and sometimes this estimate is low. One thing is certain, however.  When it comes to serials over time, we are spending more relative to our budget--and getting less.

Given the current trajectory of prices charged by some journal publishers, it’s not a matter of if, but when something must give.  Rising journal subscription costs, coupled with static or shrinking library budgets, are bringing university libraries—including those at TWU—inexorably closer to the point where difficult choices will be necessary regarding the serials—and by extension other library resources such as books and media--we can afford for our students and faculty members.

As the growing popularity of open access illustrates, the concept of free and open access to information resonates with many. You yourself may have been in the audience for the recent library forum on open access and other topics, and may support open access in the abstract.  While opening our minds to open access is a fine and necessary first step, we can do more.

Investigate and Experiment with the Open Access Button

Tools like the Open Access Button can help catalyze change and create a world where science has more impact; is more efficient; and most importantly, is available to everyone.

~Professor Randy Schekman, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013

Educate Ourselves About Open Access

*  For videos on the benefits of open access, see More About Open Access on the Open Access at Duke University site
*  Open Minds, Open Access
*  Directory of Open Access Journals
*  Open Access Matters: Shockey Presentation on Video
*  Pioneer Open Access Repository (POAR)
*  Questions?  Contact David Schuster, Director of IT & Technical Support, at

~Sandy Cochran

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