Open Access Week 2020: Libraries continue to support equity and inclusion

From 19th to 25th of October 2020, Open Access Week focuses on taking action to build structural equity and inclusion. These principles, a core value of the library field, need to be supported by policies and capacity-building efforts in order to become reality.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries have faced restrictions due to the closure of their facilities, preventing access to legally accessed and paid-for resources such as scientific articles, books, newspapers, textbooks, and additional educational resources to their users. Due to an inadequate copyright framework, libraries in many countries are prevented from, or faced with legal uncertainty in, giving digital access to copies of legally acquired books or legal uncertainties.

This situation reinforces structural inequalities which disadvantage citizens who are not in a position to buy a book to pursue their studies.

This is however not a situation limited to the time of the pandemic. Library facilities are not equally accessible to all citizens. Users can struggle because of the lack of libraries infrastructure in their district, in their city or because they need to access a specific resource which is in a specialized library in another city, another region or another country.

The knowledge is out there but not always accessible to them.

How can libraries continue to support an access to information and to scientific resources to support their users to benefit from all scientific articles in their field notwithstanding their locations and means?

How can libraries continue to provide access to educational contents (e.g. textbooks, articles) to all their students and users without financial barriers, and give students with lower incomes with the best possible resources and environment?

Clearly one response to this is meaningful copyright reform. However, a parallel approach is to ensure that the restrictions often associated with copyright do not apply in the first place.
Open Access and Open Science approaches more broadly do this, and in doing so aim at providing a better access to resources no matter where you are or your means to access them. They are based on the idea that no research should be dependent on funds to access relevant scientific articles. Users should not be asked to travel to access resources physically, or via a monitor on-site as this creates financial and time barriers for all researchers at a time where research funding is largely diminished.

As librarians, we continue strengthening our capacity by training our teams and colleagues to address these access issues, support the development of training and tools for our users (students, researchers, lecturers and teachers) to retain their copyright, encourage them to publish their works in open access with scholarships, to create open educational resources to support all students wherever they are.

Strong and consistent policies have been developed to support these actions such as SDG’s UN Agenda 2030, Unesco’s 2019 OER Recommendation and the principles related to plan S, supporting the implementation of these objectives within our institutions.

We continue to move forward to facilitate these steps by advocating and raising awareness of the importance of this work throughout the chain of stakeholders involved, from the creators of resources and articles, to the users (students and teachers), policy-makers, head of libraries and universities to provide support and means.

We encourage you to check the #OAweek or #OpenAccessWeek to discover all tools and articles related to this topic!