Open Access and libraries: Lessons from COVID-19 and our path towards the future

This is the second of three blog posts based on webinars presented by CPDWL

Libraries as we knew them were forever changed by COVID-19. The pandemic brought up an opportunity to re-envision libraries to provide services in a way that reflects specific needs from communities deeply affected by it. This global situation also taught us to prioritize and shone a light on inequalities. How to start addressing all of these to create the libraries we deserve?

Recently, I coordinated and moderated an online event part of IFLA CPDWL and New Professionals webinar series with ALA entitled “Open Access and libraries: Lessons from COVID-19 and our path towards the future.” This event also highlighted advocacy efforts from IFLA which are guiding and supporting the path of libraries as we move towards the future, post-COVID-19, its aftershocks, and beyond.

Open Access and libraries: Lessons from COVID-19 and our path towards the future

This webinar presented on January 12 spoke to the challenges of accessing information brought up by the pandemic. IFLA has affirmed that comprehensive open access to scholarly literature and research documentation is vital to the understanding of our world and to the identification of solutions to global challenges and particularly the reduction of information inequality.  

IFLA has also championed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for a long time and see that “There is an obvious link between Open Access (OA) and access to information, and therefore between open access and the SDGs. Open access is key to ensuring that society benefits from scientific knowledge, by informing further research in the area or simply the end user.”

Coalition S which is hosted by the European Science Foundation, has stated that full and immediate Open Access to research results can provide fast answers to protect lives and curb disasters. European organizations such as Open-Access-Büro Berlin are actively collaborating with libraries in Germany.

On its website, MIT libraries states that in the face of unprecedented global challenges, the need for open, equitable digital access to information has never been more critical or more compelling. Because this crisis demands an accelerated transformation of their library into a platform for the creation, discovery, use, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge that is fully open and equitably accessible. They are working on the basis that Now and always, the MIT Libraries will support, equip, and inspire each other and the MIT community to solve complex problems in the service of humankind.

Open Access carries the promise of moving knowledge from the closed doors of privileged universities to professionals and anyone interested to reporters and public policy makers (Willinsky 2006). The benefit and value of academia can extend beyond the walls of the University and fulfill our hope of benefiting the public good. The open academy / Open scholarship invites submissions from * everyone * so that we have a more informed and participatory society. Therefore it is also important that these jobs available through open access are also easy to find.

The Berkeley Library at the University of California in its toolkit: “Social Welfare Research Toolkit: Open Access” tells us that Open Access – which as we know is digital, online and free for users – is also a public good. Academics want their publications to be read by other researchers in their fields, by academics, by public policy makers. They contribute their time for free as authors, editors, peer reviewers, and the University buys the content they have given away.

Inefuku and Roth (2016) tell us that diversity in perspective, based on race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic status or disciplinary study, can transform academic communications – these that we also publish in Open Access.

The transformation that many are calling for in the production and consumption of these publications requires sustained commitment. We can be agents of change in all stages of academic communications, from research to consumption (2016). Then, we need to ask ourselves How can we encourage and support marginalized voices in the open access publishing conversation?

SPARC has said that Ensuring immediate, free open access to research results is vital to accelerating the global research community’s progress towards COVID-19 testing, treatments and vaccines. Therefore, SPARC fight for Open Access has intensified as policymakers, funders, university leaders—and increasingly, the general public—recognize that eliminating unnecessary barriers to scientific research is critical for societal health.

UNESCO is promoting and supporting the online availability of scholarly information to everyone, free of most licensing and copyright barriers—for the benefit of global knowledge flow, innovation and socio-economic development. 

All the actions and collaborations I have mentioned are very inspiring and support pronouncements from global bodies stating that full and immediate Open Access to research results can provide fast answers to protect lives and curb disasters. We have come a long way and still need to continue working on finding solutions to these complex matters.

Therefore, it is time to make full use of that potential for other global crises that are threatening us. Partnering with different stakeholders will strengthen libraries to provide services to communities at academic, public, school and all types of libraries deeply impacted by COVID-19. It is crucial that we continue strengthening these types of partnerships to impact change and policies to guide works in countries around the world.

I encourage everyone to continue collaborating together to bring the change we need to this area for more open access to help libraries serve communities deeply impacted by COVID19. Let’s continue building strong communities because libraries=strong communities; libraries=hope!

Webinar information:

“Open Access and libraries: Lessons from COVID-19 and our path towards the future”

January 12, 2021.

Moderator: Loida Garcia-Febo

Speakers:

Chris Bourg, Director, MIT Libraries

Stephen Wyber, IFLA Manager, Policy and Advocacy

Nick Shockey,  Director of Programs & Engagement, SPARC

Agnieszka Zofia, Open-Access-Büro Berlin, Open-Access-Referentin im Projekt open-access.network

CPDWL has presented webinars for the global library community since 2012 when I together with CPDWL and IFLA New Professionals established the “New Professionals Global Connection: Best practices, models and recommendations” webinar series. Over the years we have collaborated with other IFLA Sections to present webinars in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. See available recordings on the CPDWL YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj-wuXjzoITokcO5qr0R4xA/videos  and on the IFLA New Professionals website: https://npsig.wordpress.com/webinars-2/

Cited works:

Inefuku, Harrison W. and Roh, Charlotte, “Agents of Diversity and Social Justice: Librarians and Scholarly Communication” (2016). Digital Scholarship and Initiatives Publications. 5. https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/digirep_pubs/5

Willinsky, J. (2006). The access principle : The case for open access to research and scholarship. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

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