Posted on 4 September 2010 by Michel Wesseling
Contribution to the discussion: Open Access and the Library’s Missing Mission
It is a good thing that librarians and scholars discuss these matters among themselves: it makes scholars much more aware of the huge costs involved to get the scholarly information to them. Scholars tend to think that they do have free access and have no clue what portion of the library (and for that matter also the university) budget is used to pay for that “free” access.
In the short term we serve our scholars best if we continue to provide them this free access, that’s obvious. Instant user satisfaction and therewith higher scores on our annual library satisfaction surveys are important for us, and it might well be that for that reason we (librarians) tend to consider this more important than the longer term mission.
But we need to take that future situation into account and invest in it today. This obviously means that we need to encourage our scholars to publish their articles in golden open access journals. This means that the university should pay the price related to it. Whether this should be carried from the library budget or from the faculty’s is less relevant because eventually it all comes from the overall university budget.
In my organisation we have decided to add some funding to the library budget (in 2007 for the first year) that would be sufficient to cover some 25% of publication fees, assuming that the total number of articles published by our academic staff would stay at the same level. We also decided that if we needed more money, we would discontue subscriptions to journals or cut other library budget items.
Up to now we have not used up the Open Access budget: there is still a lot of evangelisation to do among the scholars in making them aware of open access, but we will hold on to this special budget item.
We need to invest in making scholarly information freely accessible: this has taken time and will require even more time, but eventually our efforts will be rewarded.