This fall, as part of a $10,000 grant program funded by the NC State University Foundation, NCSU Libraries has invited faculty members to develop alternative course materials. The Alt-Textbook Project is a competitive grant for faculty members to develop free or low-cost alternates to traditional textbooks using open source material.
Looking back, the irony is so heavy-handed that it seems contrived. As my colleagues and I were preparing for our MOOC on Copyright for Educators and Librarians, which launched for the first time last week, the only resource that we wanted to use but could not successfully negotiate the permission for was Susan Bielstein’s book about negotiating permissions. It would have been great for us and, I am convinced, for the Press if we could have offered a single chapter of it for our over 8,000 MOOC participants to read. In the event, however, we rediscovered the fear and lack of sound business sense that grips the publishing industry, but also discovered the richness of the free resources that were available to us.
In response to my column a few months ago on ebooks and the demise of ILL, I received a depressing email from an independent scholar noting the numerous obstacles he faces because of the increasing restrictions on access to ejournals and now ebooks. He wrote that he lives near a major public university in the southeast and has been using the university library for years. Despite being publicly funded (at least as much as any state university is publicly funded these days), the library has restricted access to all the databases only to university affiliates with IDs, which means most of the journals are inaccessible to guests. And with the increasing licensing of ebooks, more and more books are inaccessible as well.
The library community has been talking about a “journal pricing crisis” for over two decades. What we have not seen so far is any kind of concerted effort to break through this cycle. But two growing movements—the push toward open access and the growth of library publishing programs—make me think that we may be reaching a tipping point. In a white paper released last month, library administrators Rebecca R. Kennison and Lisa R. Norberg describe the need for “deep structural changes” in the systems through which scholarship is created and communicated. I honestly do not know if their proposal is the one that will trigger these changes, but I know that they are pointing us in the right direction.
Journal price data is important for budget management processes, but price alone is not the sole factor determining value. Some metrics, like Impact Factor, have become important in assessing value, and similar value metrics will only increase in importance in the future. The implementation of the Counter 4 during 2014 will expand the availability of usage data from journals, databases, ebooks, and multimedia to support better decision-making. Building upon COUNTER (Counting Online Usage of Networked Electronic Resources) and working with the digital object identifier (DOI) and ORCID (open researcher and contributor ID) identifier, the PIRUS (Publisher and Institutional Repository Usage Statistics) Code of Practice is designed to provide usage data at the individual article level, consolidating usage across platforms.
Oregon State University (OSU) is helping faculty produce their own open access textbooks for courses. The university press, an arm of the OSU libraries, is starting work on a series of open source e-textbooks that officials hope will ease the rising textbook costs that are a consistent cause of student complaints. To make the etextbook program work, the library and press are partnering with OSU’s Ecampus program, which administers distance and online learning programs for the college.
Open Access (OA) is usually associated with academic scholarship and its relationship to the “paywall” by proponents and critics alike. It is essential to consider the question of OA not only in terms of its impact on publishers and scholars, but in terms of its teaching and learning potential for students and educators.
The first phase of the Lever Initiative is nearly complete, so it seems a good time to share what we’ve learned. In 2010, I sent an email to a group of liberal arts college library directors suggesting a crazy idea: what if we jointly investigated the possibility of starting an open access press? We formed a task force to explore the idea. The next step, should we decide to go forward, will be to explore what exactly we might do and how we would fund it.
My last column critiqued a science/religion analogy regarding debates about the future of libraries and scholarly publishing. It seems to be the season for science and religion analogies when discussing scholarly publishing, because this post at Scholarly Kitchen also uses the analogy, sort of. The post argues, rightly in my opinion, that extremists make discussion and cooperation impossible.