November 05, 2007

Why university libraries should promote OA resources more than paid–for resources

Writing about web page http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/spec300web.pdf

The 2007 survey of Open Access Resources has finally been published as SPEC Kit 300 (SP300) by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). A four-page Executive Summary is freely available.

It would make sense for libraries to make promotion of OA resources to teaching staff a priority, but most (75%) of the respondent libraries are not promoting OA resources any differently than other resources, with several respondents saying they promote paid resources more than OA resources. According to the summary, “OA resources have a lower priority in general and libraries have a hard enough time getting patrons to use paid resources”.

Why this focus on promoting paid-for resources? If resources are not used, their subscription cannot be justified and the library’s budget could be reduced accordingly, would be the obvious answer. Nevertheless this defensive rationale could be short-sighted.

The more OA resources that libraries can provide for researchers in addition to any paid subscriptions, the richer the library’s resource provision in support of research and therefore, the more added value the library is providing to the research mission of the institution. This ARL survey does a good job of describing the library work associated with providing such added value through OA resources.

Let us now speculate that the more popular OA resources become among academics, both as authors and readers, the greater the proportion of OA journals in their recommended readings for students, and therefore the less the pressure on library budgets to keep up with escalating journal subscription prices and the more money left to buy print monographs for researchers and text books for students.

In the UK at least, a large proportion of the library budget typically goes into buying multiple copies of undergraduate key-text books, copies which are never enough to satiate students’ assumptions about their library’s stock.

Why not make consultation with faculty about particular OA resources a priority of liaison?

If libraries are caught in a vicious circle of promoting paid-for resources to academics, the academics then including these resources in reading lists, and then the library not being able to afford resourcing those reading lists, whose fault is it?


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