Episode 212: Open Access

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Contents of this page:
    • Introduction
    • Background
      • So, what does Open Access mean?
      • Why not just use a traditional publisher? We’ve always done it that way!
      • How does this affect libraries?
    • Guest Host: Susan Schleper
    • Books We are Reading
    • Conclusion


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This is a topic with a lot of passion involved, and lots of big feelings on all sides of the discussion. Today we are just going to walk through some of the basics of how OA works and what it means; and talk with Susan Schleper, from Centra Care Health hospital library in St. Cloud, about one aspect of using it in a library setting. As so often happens on this podcast, we are just introducing you to a big topic – and we want you to get comfortable with the basics and then be able to move on to a larger look that makes works for your organization and professional interests. So, as always, we have a lot of material on the podcast page to help you keep building up your knowledge. And of course, we are always available to come to your library to help you, to talk with you, and to help you set up policies and procedures and training for yourself, your colleagues, and your organization!

So, what does Open Access mean?

Essentially, it means that online research products (articles, posters, videos, or anything else – but usually it means articles) are available to anyone and free of all restrictions to see and read them, and pretty much free of restrictions on use (copyright and such).

You can break OA material down into a couple of different categories, depending on how it is provided by the author or creator:

  • Green OA: people publish material and then self-archive it when it can be freely accessed. This might be in an institutional repository, or in a central repository (PubMed Central is a frequently used example of this).
    • Some publishers will embargo publications, so they cannot be freely shared for a period of time in this kind of sharing opportunity.
  • Gold OA: this is when the author publishes material that is immediately available to anyone who wants to see, read, and use it
    • This might be in an Open Access journal: they do not charge for subscriptions, but do have article processing fees for the authors
    • Or, it might be in a hybrid journal: they have subscription fees, and for the people or institutions who subscribe, they provide open access to material



Why not just use a traditional publisher? We’ve always done it that way!

Academic publishing is interesting. Researchers in science, and sometimes in social science, are funded by grants made up of tax dollars (federal or state). Researchers use that money to collect data over weeks, months, or years. Then they spend more weeks, months, or years analyzing it to see what they found. Then those researchers write it all up in a way that makes sense to others, and sends it off to be published. If they are affiliated with a university, or a similar organization, the expectation is that they will publish in the best journals possible.

Academic authors do not get paid, instead they will often (especially in sciences) be required to pay the journal a fee to get published. They will also be expected to do peer reviews of other people’s articles, to do quality-control for the journal to be sure the best articles are published, and sometimes to sit on the journal’s editorial board and solicit articles or to do larger-scale editing.

When an article is accepted by a traditional journal, the only way the hoped-for readers have access to it is by subscription. Subscription prices can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars – annually, for a single journal.

To sum that up: taxpayers pay for a lot of research, researchers pay (in time, effort, and sometimes money) to publish it, and then libraries pay to have access to that research.

It sounds like a reasonably broken system!


However, these traditional publishes argue it has to work this way. They provide better editorial quality in their journals. They do fact-checking and plagiarism checking. They help to preserve material and make it available to subscribers over a long period of time. (Elesiver is not going out of business and taking away access to all their journals any time soon; Random University Publisher however may not be so fortunate.) And none of these are wrong – these things do happen. So there will never be an all “this” publishing platform or all “that” – we will be using OA and traditional publishers for a while still.


How does this affect libraries?

We are the organizations who provide material to our community members, so we not only pay the direct costs but we also act as the gatekeepers to information. This means we are responsible for educating our community members on the ins and outs of Copyright (see our episode #11 podcast on Copyright issues!). And we need to educate them on how expensive journals are.

  • In 2012, Harvard started encouraging faculty to publish in OA journals, and to resign from editorial boards with paywalls. They said they could not continue to fund the price hikes from publishers, and were spending $3.5 million each year for journal subscriptions in the library.
  • Harvard has an endowment fund valued at $37.6 billion as of 2015 – the largest academic endowment in the world. If they can’t afford these journals – who else has a chance??

Training our community members in how publishing works, the expectations, and the costs, and everything that goes into providing access is tricky. (Again: CMLE is here to help you!) Giving them information about Open Access is a part of that process. You need to be sure they understand that it’s NOT all on Google! That academic journals can NOT be replaced with Wikipedia. And that digital preservation does not mean just scanning something, throwing it online, and forgetting about it. There is a lot of work involved in every single step of information sharing; and the more people are educated about our role in it, the more they will respect our work a- and the less likely they will be to think we sit around reading books all day!

So, let’s celebrate! And share that celebration with our communities! This week is Open Access week – Oct 23 – 29. It is an international event, to learn about the benefits of OA, to maximize research and investment in research, and to help people conduct research across all of the literature! Go to their website today, and look at their resources while browsing through events in your area!! www.OpenAccessWeek.org


Guest Host: Susan Schleper

Books We Are Reading


A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver ” In A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver returns to the imagery that has come to define her life’s work, transporting us to the marshland and coastline of her beloved home, Provincetown, Massachusetts. Whether studying the leaves of a tree or mourning her treasured dog Percy, Oliver is open to the teachings contained in the smallest of moments and explores with startling clarity, humor, and kindness the mysteries of our daily experience.”


The Jeeves & Wooster Boxed Set: The Collectors Wodehouse, by P. G. Wodehouse, “Whether you’ve read them all or have only begun to reckon with the genius of P. G. Wodehouse, The Jeeves Collection is a set your bookshelves simply cannot live without. A gorgeous boxed set with special editions of three of Wodehouse’s most beloved masterpieces, this is a gift that fans of Jeeves and Wooster will cherish. A collection of books that includes The Code of The Woosters, The Inimitable Jeeves, and Very Good Jeeves!”


It Takes a Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery, by Heather Blake “Darcy Merriweather has just discovered she hails from a long line of Wishcrafters-witches with the power to cast spells by making a wish. She’s come to Enchanted Village to learn her trade but finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation…”



Our mission is to provide our communities with information. Open access is one tool we can use, and it’s growing fast! Is it right for you? Let’s talk about it! Are you already using it? Tell us about it! This is definitely an area where we all need more information, and sharing it freely is the way to go!

That’s it for this week! Check out our website at cml.org, and subscribe to Linking Our Libraries on your favorite podcast app!

Next week we look at Reference work in today’s library!

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