Very commonly, visitors to the library’s Research Help Desks are seeking help identifying relevant sources and literature on a particular topic. The starting point for providing assistance with these searches is often the “A-Z database list” featured on the Library’s main page. This list includes a wealth of electronic resources licensed for the DePaul community covering a vast range of subjects. While the majority of these electronic resources are behind a “paywall” – meaning that the library pays a subscription for providing access to these resources – there are also many that are openly accessible. During Open Access Week, we highlight open access resources like these – available online to all, free of charge, and largely free of copyright and licensing restrictions.
A rewarding part of my role here at DePaul involves being a connecting link between patrons and articles, books, media, newspapers and other materials available to them. Luckily, quite often I feel I am able to construct this link and to connect the patrons to relevant resources, and yet, there inevitably comes a time when a patron requests an article that is “hidden” behind another paywall – one through which the library cannot provide access because a license is not in place to cover the collection or journal in question. In situations like this, I turn to alternate ways of searching for literature and obtaining the content that the patron is interested in. I scour the Internet for author web sites to determine if they have posted a preprint of their article, I search the author’s institutional repository, and also pre-print repositories, such as arXiv.org, a repository for preprints in the sciences. Very often, to the patron’s benefit, the scholarly content can be found using one or a combination of these methods without needing to resort to more traditional avenues, e.g., I-Share or other interlibrary loan services.
SPARC, an open-access coalition whose goal is to make unrestricted access a default for scholarly and educational researchers, plays a significant role in the movement to allow libraries to establish this link and to identify the literature a patron is interested in reading or consulting without needing to borrow the material from other institutions. More specifically, it was SPARC that came up with the Author Addendum, a resource that instructs authors how to retain rights to their research output and helps them to avoid signing all their copyrights away to a publisher when signing a contribution agreement. This addendum stipulates the conditions under which authors retain the right to publish (or republish) their article or essay on their own and/or their institution’s web site and/or to include it in open access digital repositories. By signing the addendum, authors maintain greater control over their scholarly output and have a chance to increase the overall impact of their work. Authors are increasingly adopting these recommendations and retaining the rights to post copies of their work on their personal or institutional web sites, which in turn allows us to make the connection and provide a channel between those who seek research and those who produce it.
Another method of searching for articles not covered by institutional subscriptions is via the Open Access Button. By entering an article url, doi, pmc id, title, or citation in the main search box on the page, a search of thousands of sources is activated. If the article or data is not found, the Open Access Button will contact the authors to request a copy. This initiative not only connects those who seek scholarly outputs and those who produce them but also lets authors know that there are potential readers of their work who are not able to access it.
In contrast to last year’s Open Access Week, which focused on stakeholders taking steps to make their research more openly available, the theme of the 2017 International Open Access Week is “Open in order to…” This is an invitation to scholars to answer the question of what concrete benefits and outcomes result from having openly available scholarly outputs. The initiative also encourages participants to take concrete steps to realize this goal. To celebrate Open Access week this year, from October 23-29, DePaul University Library is committing to:
Open in order to:
- increase the impact of scholarship
- broaden access to scholarly resources
- create better conditions for the reproducibility of research
- create more equitable participation in research
“These steps are part of a larger plan to provide more efficient ways of searching and classifying open access resources on our web site. For more information on the 2017 International Open Access week, visit: http://www.openaccessweek.org/.