Given the strong connection between Open Access and the mission of libraries, it is not surprising that libraries are involved in a wide range of Open Access-related activities. These activities fall into three broad areas:
Open Access repositories (or archives) are digital collections that make their contents freely available over the Internet. Many Open Access repositories are hosted by higher education institutions. Often referred to as institutional repositories (IR), these digital repositories collect the research output of the members of a university’s research community and support the archiving and long-term preservation of the institution’s intellectual output. For a broader discussion of the role of Open Access repositories see the Open Access repositories page.
Libraries are the key drivers in the development of digital repositories at higher education institutions. In a 2009 report published by the Association of Researach Libraries in the US, Research Library’s Role in Digital Repository Services, the authors assert that managing repositories has become a key function for research libraries. Building a repository is a fairly simple process for those who have the appropriate technical expertise and thecosts of managing an IR are not excessive, involving mainly staffing to maintain the software and promote the repository on campus.
Open Access Journals
Open Access journals are journals that provide free access to their content online. Open Access journals are peer-reviewed just as Toll Access (subscription) journals are but they use business models that do not require users to pay for access to the content. The number of Open Access journals continues to rise. According to the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), a service that lists and indexes Open Access journals, the number of Open Access journals grew by over 700 titles from 2007 to 2008. For a broader discussion of the role of Open Access journals see the Open Access journals page.
Libraries can support Open Access journals in a number of ways. They can raise the visibility of Open Access journals by cataloguing them and promoting them to researchers. They can also help publishers and editors launch open access journals at their institution. As well, libraries can support OA journals by setting aside funds to pay for institutional memberships and article processing fees.
Libraries have and continue to be strong promoters of open access. SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which was founded by the research library community, is one of the most visible Open Access advocacy organisations and has been very effective in advocating for Open Access in the public policy realm. Its sister organisations, SPARC Europe and SPARC Japan work for Open Access in their own regions.
Libraries also play an critical role in promoting open access on campus by initiating discussions about the issues surrounding scholarly communication and demonstrating that open access is a viable solution to existing problems. Some practical suggestions about how libraries can promote Open Access on campus are discussed here.