Presentation Open Access

Is the Library Open? Correlating Public Access to Academic Libraries with Open Access Support

Wilson, Katie Sarah; Neylon, Cameron; Montgomerty, Lucy; Huang, Chun-Kai

As open access publishing options and mandates expand, how does this ‘openness’ extend to other sources of research and knowledge such as academic libraries? In this study we investigated the connection between academic library access policies and institutional positions regarding open access or open science. Analysis of library access or use policies and related documents from twenty academic institutions in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, North America, South Africa and the United Kingdom shows that access to libraries for the unaffiliated public is often the most restricted. Many libraries impose financial and sometimes security barriers on physical entry to buildings and this limits access to the collections still in print and other non-digital formats. This has occurred over several decades as a result of factors such as budgetary restraints and increased demand. Yet increasingly academic institutions are providing open access to digital research output through institutional repositories and open access publishing policies. We contrasted library access policies and practices with those of open access publication and research sharing for the same institutions and found limited correlation between both sets of policies. This suggests the intentions expressed by the two policy actions have not been applied in similar directions, in other words to reach the same ends. Comparing the two assessments using Spearman’s rank correlation confirmed open access policies have a direct association with the narrow aspects of public access provided through online availability of formal publications, but are not necessarily associated (in the universities in this study) with delivering on a broader commitment to public access to knowledge.

In this presentation, we discuss the process and the outcomes of this research. The results suggest that while institutional mission statements and academic library policies may refer to sharing of knowledge and research and community collaboration, multiple layers of library user categories, levels of privilege and fees charged can inhibit such access. This indicates disparities in openness between institutional library access policies and open access policies. As open access publishing options and mandates expand, physical entry to academic libraries and access to print and electronic resources is contracting. This varies within and across countries, but it can conflict with global library and information commitments to open access to knowledge. The study is continuing on a larger scale as part of an Open Knowledge Institutions project.

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