The librarians I’ve met at workshops, at conferences, and on the web, are generally strong supporters of open access. My impression has always been that our professional philosophy of providing information to our users free of charge (to them) fits very nicely with the philosophy of the open access movement.
Recently, I’ve started to wonder if our actions with regard to open access have any correlation with our professed opinions.
A recent article in the (subscription only) journal College and Research Libraries seems to support the idea that while we talk the talk, we aren’t very good at walking the walk, so to speak.
In this study, the authors surveyed academic librarians about their attitudes and certain actions regarding open access.
The authors conclude that while librarians believe that libraries should be educating users about open access and encouraging faculty to publish in open-access journals, they aren’t actually engaging in conversations about these activities. Librarians are also hesitant about devoting library resources to support open access.
One significant problem with this study was the failure to examine the publishing actions of librarians. The actions discussed in the article mainly involved reading about open access and talking about open access with colleagues and faculty. I was disappointed when reading the article, because to me, publishing in open access journals is one of the highest profile actions a librarian can take in support of open access.
In fact, if librarians are to have any credibility with others when we encourage them to explore open access publishing options, shouldn’t we be publishing in open access journals ourselves?
Symptomatic of the problem seems to be the lack of high-impact open access journals in library and information studies. Open access journals in librarianship exist – there are 96 listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals website – but many of these service particular countries, specialties or publish infrequently.
This is something that librarians can change – publish in an open access journal, then talk about the experience with your colleagues and the faculty at your institution. Support your beliefs with measurable action.
UPDATE – A College and Research Libraries Pre-print was posted this morning – The Open Access Availability of Library and Information Science Literature (PDF) – indicating that 27.5% of articles from the top 20 library journals could be found in open access full text online (either on the publishers website or in an institutional repository). So we aren’t publishing in OA journals, and we aren’t self-archiving most of the time either.