ALA conferences always seed something valuable for me.Â Midwinter was no exception, with the ALCTS CMS Forum, â€œScholarly Communication and Collections:Â From Crisis to Creative Responseâ€, yielding interesting questions about library investment in and the cost of open access.Â As librarians, we seem to agree that open access is a good thing and a model we should advocate.Â There is less agreement about our financial role in transforming the scholarly communication system.Â Below are some of the questions that have preoccupied me of late…and a plea for further conversation.
When are we going to see costs decrease because of open access?
This question was raised at the forum and is filled with expectation.Â I donâ€™t regard OA as a means for reducing cost.Â I think it is a more productive and efficient model for scholarly and scientific exchange and that library investment in OA publishing is a difference in kind from money spent on fee-based access models.Â SCOAP3is an excellent example of this thinkingâ€”the consortium members are focused on re-directing, not reducing, their expenditures.Â To paraphrase Kevin Smith, I believe that to realize significant change, libraries must be willing to apply their collection budgets to open access.
But is it a matter of will or capacity?
My library is a member of Public Library of Science, Hindawi, and Biomed Central.Â Our support â€“ drawn from our collection budget â€“ allows OHSU authors to publish in open access journals at a reduced cost.Â The money we spend on subscription journals dwarfs this investment.Â Our subscription decisions are driven by faculty requests, publication and citation activity, and cost per use data.Â Thereâ€™s not a lot of fat.Â Additional investment in OA would require difficult decisions about cuts to other resources that our patrons want and use.Â Initiatives like SCOAP3 offer strategic models to emulate, but weâ€™re still wanting for everyday, practical tactics that meet my institutionâ€™s content needs.
Why does it matter where the money comes from?
My friend Jill Emery and I have been talking about this as we prepare for our ACRL program on hybrid open access models.Â I think there is something to be said for libraries contributing to the cost of open access besides the investment in building a better scholarly communication system. Â Faculty value highly the libraryâ€™s role as a buyer (see the 2009 ITHAKA S+R Faculty Survey).Â Open access is not free.Â By supporting OA financially â€“ ideally in partnership with other stakeholders â€“ libraries can preserve an evolved but familiar connection to the scholarly record.Â Moreover, open content still requires management and curation, library expertise representing significant costs.
What are your answers to these questions?Â
Mine are obviously still evolving.Â So this is a call to continue the conversation we started at Midwinter within and across our institutions.Â Ultimately, our conclusions will guide how we work to transform the scholarly communication system.