#ICanHazPDF vs. #ICanHazLibrary: Where Librarians Need to Rise to the Occasion

At the end of last week, a blog post by  Alex Bond, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Saskatchewan, on the blog: The Lab and Field caught quite a bit of attention on Twitter.  The blog post is entitled: “How #icanhazpdf can hurt our academic libraries.” The post describes a twitter stream based on this hash-tagged phrase where researchers, academics, students, and other interested parties basically ask one another to share PDFs of articles to which the originator of the post does not have access but hopes to gain free access via someone who does have access to the content. Librarians jumped to attention and re-tweeted the blog post throughout the next couple of days pointing out that Inter-Library Lending (ILL) through libraries could also supply PDFs or articles for free. Some researchers countered that ILL takes too long (up to two weeks still at many institutions) and is still delivered at many institutions in print form as opposed to sending an electronic file to the requestor. In some cases, the researcher/academic wrote they were invited to come into the library to find the content they needed but either couldn’t because of time constraints placed on their research or due to wanting to access content when libraries were closed and unavailable. For a sense of the growing use and development of #icanhazpdf, I recommend the blog post by Jean Lui at AltMetrics entitled: Interactions: the Numbers behind #IcanHazPDF.

In the information glut society in which we now reside, librarians have opportunities to expand services and provide more content at the point of need. First, we need to insure that all open access content is made readily available through our discovery systems, include all OA articles and do not “not include” resources within our library catalogs/discovery systems because they do not represent a complete journal issue or journal run. There are times when access does trump ownership and open access content is one specific situation we can readily remedy by providing broader access through our current systems. Secondly, we need to explore how to provide context sensitive content delivery when possible and make it happen. This means document delivery. Build into your service and/or collection budget a fund for rapid supply of article delivery to the desktops of faculty and graduate students. It has to be article delivery that is useful to the end-user, it cannot just be a PDF that can only be used for a short period of time or not printed-out. It has to be full on article delivery to the end-user. There are service providers, some from within our very own community, who can make this happen. This type of service may in fact, be more important than the addition of more journals or journal packages. Lastly, establish a 24 hour article delivery option of print resources to faculty and graduate students by offering to scan and deliver to desktops, content that reside within your stacks or storage facility. It is worth the staff time and resource commitment to do this as this type of service will be greatly lauded by faculty and researchers on campus.

Librarians cannot fully compete with Twitter but we can improve both access and availability to the content we’ve collected and the content our end-users demand.

 




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