Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Sunday, May 17, 2009

An OA pledge from the Gustavus Adolphus library faculty

The library faculty of Gustavus Adolphus College adopted an Open Access Pledge on May 14, 2009.  (Thanks to Stevan Harnad.)  Here's the pledge in its entirety:

The Gustavus library faculty believes that open access to scholarship is critical for scholarly communication and for the future of libraries. For that reason we pledge to make our own research freely available whenever possible by seeking publishers that have either adopted open access policies, publish contents online without restriction, and/or allow authors to self-archive their publications on the web. We pledge to link to and/or self-archive our publications to make them freely accessible.

Librarians may submit their work to a publication that does not follow open access principles and will not allow self archiving only if it is clearly the best or only option for publication; however, librarians will actively seek out publishers that allow them to make their research available freely online and, when necessary, will negotiate with publishers to improve publication agreements.


  • This is the fourth library faculty to adopt an OA policy, after Oregon State (March 6, 2009), Calgary University (May 1, 2009), and the University of Oregon (May 7, 2009).  Note that three of the four were adopted this month.  That's momentum.  Also note that the the fourth one puts library faculties or departments ahead of computer science departments (and hence, all other departments) in adopting OA policies in advance of their institutions.  It's also the first departmental OA policy at a liberal arts college. 
  • If we interpret a mandate self-imposed by faculty vote as pledge, then we can interpret this pledge as a mandate.  If we do, then it has the equivalent of a Harvard-style opt-out, but not the equivalent of the Harvard-style license for the institution.  The Harvard-style OA mandates are stronger than this policy primarily in securing permission for OA even when authors publish in journals that do not permit it on their own.
  • I'm collecting policies adopted by unanimous faculty votes.  Does anyone know the vote tally for this one?

Update (5/18/09).  Barbara Fister, Chair of the Gustavus Adolphus Library Department, tells me that the vote for the pledge was unanimous.  Congratulations to all. 

Also see Barbara's blog post about the pledge:

...[A]t our last librarianís meeting we adopted our own Open Access Pledge. Itís not as sophisticated as the ones that have been making news. We are a small library, with only six librarians, and we havenít had the time or money to start up an institutional repository. We also, quite frankly, donít have a terribly sophisticated grasp of all the OA arguments, the copyright issues, and the color choices. (Green? Gold? What about mauve?) Weíve also very, very busy trying to wrap up a big project, working with departments to make enough cuts that we can balance our budget next year - without scuttling our commitment to undergraduate research.

And that is precisely why it seemed time to take a stand, even if itís not a sophisticated one. Our pledge is simply to make every effort to ensure that our scholarship is freely available online, either because the publisher posts its content online [without charge]..., itís a truly OA journal, or because the publication agreement allows self-archiving, which most credible library publications do. We also pledge to do the work of self-archiving, which really isnít a lot of trouble for librarians who are tweaking the web daily. It mystifies me that so few librarians can be bothered.

This wasnít a simple decision. Half of the department is on the tenure track. Their continuing employment depends on establishing professional credibility through publication. But we feel strongly that this is the right thing to do, and that taking these simple steps wonít damage the ability of our emerging scholars to thrive.

Weíve submitted a sobering report about the libraryís finances for our next faculty meeting. In the last paragraph we wanted to show one way that our choices, our individual actions, can honor the spirit of open inquiry. Itís the least we can do.