Georgia State University (GSU) Library recently launched a new campaign promoting open access (OA) to the campus research community. Librarians distributed 150 copies of Peter Suber’s new book Open Access from MIT Press to new faculty and campus administrators in a push to increase awareness about OA in general and provide practical information to GSU faculty about their “copy rights.”
Copies of Suber’s book were made available at the New Faculty Orientation at GSU’s Rialto Center for the Arts in downtown Atlanta on August 16. Included in each personalized copy was a bookmark explaining OA; information on the university’s institutional repository, the Digital Archive @ GSU; and contact information for a subject specialist librarian in the faculty member’s field. In addition to handing out copies to 112 new faculty members, copies were distributed to the academic deans and other key administrators on campus. Response has been so positive that additional print copies from MIT Press are on order, and the library plans to further promote the book when it becomes an open access ebook in 2013.
The GSU Library OA campaign comes on the heels of the recent copyright lawsuit concerning the library’s e-Reserves service. Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and SAGE Publications—with financial backing from the Association of American Publishers and the Copyright Clearance Center —filed suit against Georgia State University in 2008, arguing that the university violated copyright law by allowing its professors to provide students free electronic access to selected portions of books purchased by the library. Just days before new faculty orientation in August, GSU learned that it had prevailed in this lawsuit in a precedent-setting decision that will help determine the future of fair use in the digital age. [Editor’s note: the plaintiffs have since filed an appeal.]
Some faculty who took the stand during the trial “actually had no idea that they had signed away the rights to their own work,” Dean of Libraries Nancy Seamans said in her in remarks to new faculty. Though there may be legitimate reasons to give up copyright, Seamans encouraged faculty members to be aware of their rights and to hold on to them whenever possible. And though encouraged by Senior U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans’ decision that the library did not deliberately infringe on the book publishers’ copyrights, GSU librarians are also aware that this may be the beginning of a long-term debate, both in and out of the courts.
Scholarly communication models of the past are not sustainable from an economic standpoint, according to Seamans, especially as the cost of library resources continues to rise and universities and libraries experience belt-tightening in almost every state, including Georgia. By promoting Suber’s book and OA publishing on campus, the library hopes to increase awareness of scholarly communication alternatives and help faculty make their work more accessible to the broader research community.
Suber is a self-described advocate for OA and the “free circulation of science and scholarship in every field and language.” On the OA front, he wears several hats: Director of the Harvard Open Access Project, Faculty Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Senior Researcher at SPARC, Open Access Project Director at Public Knowledge, and Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College. “As we looked at what to do for our new faculty we looked at issues surrounding scholarly communication and started to focus on OA. When we learned that Suber had a new book coming out, we jumped at the chance,” Seamans said. MIT Press was also particularly helpful throughout the process, working with deadlines to accommodate the GSU schedule, she added. GSU’s campaign involving the recent book is an “honor to me and a boost for open access,” according to Suber. “I’m thrilled that you’re giving out 150 copies of my book to new faculty and deans. It’s better than a good review. Or it’s a good review by other means.”
According to Suber in Open Access, “When a library must provide access for thousands of faculty and students working on tens of thousands of topics, and when the volume of new works grows explosively every year, price barriers become insurmountable,” and these barriers to research harm authors and readers both. But OA provides alternatives. Researchers still have the ability to share their work with a worldwide audience that is “digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” To Suber, open access benefits literally everyone, for the same reasons that research itself benefits literally everyone.
GSU Library and Suber are likeminded about the benefits of open access, and plan to maintain their relationship in the future. “I love this,” commented Suber in a recent email, “When I told Harvard what GSU was doing, the Office for Scholarly Communication was inspired to buy and distribute copies—30 so far—to selected faculty, librarians, and administrators.”
Other research libraries, who learned about GSU Library’s program via social media, have also expressed interest in doing similar book programs around Suber’s book. GSU Library will follow-up with faculty via a survey on how the book changed their attitudes and opinions. The library will promote the open access ebook version when it is made available next year, and the subject specialist librarians will step up their efforts in promoting the Digital Archive @ GSU, which facilitates greater sharing of GSU’s intellectual capital among all researchers.
For more information about Peter Suber’s book and the OA movement, the author has created a book page for sharing updates, supplements, and other notes:; for more information about OA at GSU Library visit http://research.library.gsu.edu/openaccess.
Bryan Sinclair is Associate Dean, Public Services, at Georgia State University Library. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.