Monday, May 12, 2008

Referring patrons to open access resources

As I've been reading up on open access journals and open access archives (AKA open access repositories), I've been wondering to what extent I have been intentionally and unintentionally guiding patrons to these resources. I have to admit that I can't remember a time when I explicitly referred a student to search for content in an open access archive or suggested they use a tool to locate articles in OA journals.

I do know that several databases I recommend and demonstrate index OA journals (Medline is the best example of such a database), but I am curious to find out whether other databases I rely on have many OA journal titles covered. My library subscribes to over 200 databases, including large clumps of them via Proquest, EBSCOhost, and Wilson. I think I am going to do a little research project to see what OA journals are covered in a few databases. Doing this sort of a project comprehensively is probably something more appropriate for research in service of a journal article, so for now I'll maybe check to see what OA journals in library and information science are indexed in Wilson's Library Literature. I sure hope I find that my favorite OA journal in LIS is there: Evidence-Based Library and Information Science Practice.


At 4:27 PM , Anonymous Marc Abrahams said...

This is tangentially off topic. Our journal went open access a while ago, and we have been having the devil's own time getting the word out to libraries. This is slightly ironic, as over the years quite a few libraries have suggested have suggested that we go open access. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear from you.
-Marc Abrahams (marca AT, editor, Annals of Improbable Research (

At 6:12 PM , Blogger Steve Lawson said...

Marc, I think if you get listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, libraries and their users will be more likely to find you:

At 11:12 PM , Anonymous Marc Abrahams said...

Thank you, Steve!

At 5:24 PM , Blogger Austin Duffy said...

Why refer patrons to open access resources when the patrons are students who pay (through their tuition) for access to databases and electronic journals?

At 3:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is the publishing model of the journal relevant to the user? It isn't.

At 2:12 PM , Blogger Stephen Francoeur said...

Austin: When you asked why I would refer students to open access resources, I'd like to suggest the following:

(1) It is not an either/or that I am proposing ("Either you search licensed databases or search open access journals." Instead, it should be a both/and. We should, when the situation merits it, be prepared to recommend both licensed resources and open access content. In a similar fashion, we often find ourselves referring our patrons to both our databases and to specific web sites (or search engine strategies). In some situations (depending on your library), it may be that some subject areas are better covered by open access sources (such as arXiv for physics) than the licensed resources your library has.

(2) There may be times that you are doing a known-item search and discover that you don't have access via your library's licensed resources. It is possible, though, that the author self-archived a pre-print or a post-print in an institutional repository or a subject repository. If that fails, then you might recommend ILL or referral to another library.

(3) When I working on the post, I was interested in seeing how well the licensed databases were indexing content from open access journals. Since the content is freely available on the web, it would be great if database vendors would take the time to index it in their products and make it more findable for our patrons who rely on our databases.

(4) A good portion of our students are using search engines to find articles. Librarians should be as savvy as possible about what scholarly content is openly accessible on the web so that we can better advise our students when they ask about it or encounter it or need it. Understanding what open access journals are out there and what tools to use to find it is not only essential for reference work but also for instruction (course-related lectures, workshops, credit courses, etc.) that we provide. When we teach our students how to find scholarly articles, it is not reasonable to say that scholarly content can only be found in our databases when in fact it abounds in open access journals. We should be teaching our students how to search Google Scholar intelligently in much the same way that we try to with our licensed databases.

At 2:20 PM , Blogger Stephen Francoeur said...

An anoynymous commenter suggested that the publishing model of the journal is irrelevant to the user. I'm not so sure about that. If we've been teaching our students that scholarly journal articles can't be found on the web, just in our licensed databases, what do we say when a student then pulls up (perhaps via Google Scholar) a scholarly journal article from OA journal? How do we explain to them that anomaly? "Oh, never mind those articles. What you really want is only here in our databases." No, I'd rather be prepared to explain OA publishing. Most of us already take the time in our instructional venues (course-related lectures, workshops, credit courses, as well as reference service points) to explain how to evaluate web sources so that our students will know when to use them and how to evaluate them; OA content then is just another piece of the web world that we should be ready to explain to them (just as we should know things like how Wikipedia works; how to evaluate web sites; etc.)


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