OA cake 3, originally uploaded by Paul Stainthorp.

Last week LibPunk Radio discussed Open Access Week as only two people tangentially involved with it all can. I’m sort of ambivalent about the whole thing, but it’s mostly because right now I don’t think libraries are in a position to do much other than talk about OA and why it’s good.

As I said on LibPunk Radio, libraries are in the middle of it all. We don’t create and we aren’t really in the publishing business, nor are we really the consumers though we’re expected to pay for the content. We see the real costs of scholarly publishing and know how much the established publishers are jacking up their prices. We also deal directly with the people frustrated that they can’t track down articles or papers they are interested because of opaque licensing and not always logical restrictions. I guess that’s our job, insulating them from the pain. (People need to thank libraries for this more.)

I try to explain the value of OA to students and faculty, and I think some get it but most just tune it out. They don’t care yet, they just want that paper somebody told them they needed to read.

So given my ambivalence, it was nice to see somebody shared my feelings. Check out Steven Bell’s blog post on ACRLog yesterday.

So excuse me if I’m not in the mood to celebrate. I’m feeling frustrated. What else can you feel when the system is broken, you know that system must change, but there is little incentive for those perpetuating the system to change it for the better.

This hits really close to home. I’ve spoken with the faculty I work with about the benefits of OA journals and making their work more available. One was refreshingly (though also depressingly) candid about the whole thing. They only publish in the handful of refereed journals published by the likes of Elsevier and Springer because that’s where everybody else reputable in the field publishes, and that’s what they trust. They said TRB publications were acceptable, but not in the same regard, and that in-house publications weren’t really worth the time. This is the sort of person we need to get to appreciate the value of OA in a practical sense, but we’ve got a long ways to go.

This need for better outreach to faculty is the critical next step for OA. This recent Book of Trogool post really does a nice job of explaining why faculty involvement is critical. Right now I’m at the casual conversation stage. When I get to the more serious, “Let’s have an actual discussion” phase with my faculty, then I will really get active. I wish it would happen sooner, and I wish I had more time and energy to push for OA within my group, but I also recognize I already have too many things going on and transportation is a pretty conservative field.

But just as Steven Bell did in his post, I end with hope. Maybe next year I’ll have more of a reason to care here at MPOW?

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