How IFLA’s volunteers are building understanding and action on Open Access

Happy Open Access Week 2021!

How to achieve Open Access – and in particular the theme of this year’s week, ‘it matters how we open knowledge’ – is a question mobilising libraries and library organisations around the world.

With the world far from a situation where all scholarly communication is open, and important questions being raised both about how to avoid creating new inequities and how to avoid inadvertent harm. The value of exploring these questions together, to share perspectives and ensure a more complete picture, is high.

IFLA itself is currently looking again at its own Open Access statement, and looking forward to sharing a revised version in the coming months. In this blog, we wanted to bring together some examples of what volunteers from across IFLA are currently doing to advance understanding and progress the debate.

Open Access and Serials Assessment: our Serials and other Continuing Resources Section dedicated a session at the World Library and Information Congress to the impact of OA on serials assessment, looking at what can be done to tackle a phenomenon which has received a lot of attention – the rise of questionable journals.

The session brought together representatives of publishers and reference platforms (in Latin America, Africa, and global), and looked at the criteria and tools being developed to weed out poor quality journals, and the impact that they have had, highlighting the different approaches open to the topic.

Power of Transformation: OA and Library Collections: our Acquisition and Collections Development Section also focused on Open Access at the World Library and Information Congress, looking at the impacts of open access in their area of focus – collections development.

With perspectives from libraries in developing and developed countries alike, speakers addressed the disruption that OA could cause, and how libraries can respond, as well as the importance of investing in infrastructure.

Drawing on Openly Licenced Materials in Education: the Information Technology Section looked specifically at the use of open access materials and tools in education (Open Educational Resources – OER), and the role that IT systems play in making this work. It noted the role that ICT can play in developing and enhancing OER initiatives, boosting discoverability and quality, while keeping costs under control.

Speakers focused on the leadership role that librarians can play in the movement, including through the open education librarianship movement, as well as how the development of new systems could help ensure easier access to the huge and diverse range of materials available to support learning.

Rights Retention and Open Access: the Academic and Research Libraries Section ran a series of three webinars with Plan S, discussing the latter’s proposals for a strategy on rights retention could apply in different parts of the world. The webinars – for Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia-Oceania, and the Middle East and North Africa/Sub-Saharan Africa – included presentation on the Plan S Strategy, but also opportunities to highlight the impacts that this could have on existing open access practices, as well as raising important questions about different approaches to openness.

Document Supply and Open Access: the Resource-Sharing During COVID (RSCVD) Initiative run by IFLA’s Document Delivery and Resource Sharing Section, the winner of IFLA’s Dynamic Unit Award in 2020, worked closely with Open Access Button in order to enable access to knowledge during the pandemic. The work provided a great opportunity to highlight the power of open access to support research, as well as familiarising more of the field with Open Access Button as a tool.

Open Access Library Publishing: IFLA’s Library Publishing Special Interest Group brings together expertise and experience from around the world in order to discuss practices and models for sustainable and effective publishing through libraries. The Group has organised webinars and other tools to build understanding, including insights around how to manage open access publishing programmes that respond effectively to the needs of researchers and users.

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