Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, August 15, 2005

David Magier on OA

In India's Frontline magazine for August 13, V. Sridhar interviews with David Magier, the Director of Area Studies at the Columbia University Libraries. The primary topic of the interview is the need for libraries in the age of the internet, even the age of OA. Here are some excerpts relevant to OA, quoting Magier:
[W]hat the Net made possible was, gradually, since the 1990s, the extension of the culture of cooperation among libraries in the U.S. to the international realm. It was no longer just Columbia talking to Harvard and Chicago; it became Columbia-Harvard-Chicago-Berkeley talking to libraries such as the RMRL, the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram (SVK) in Hyderabad and the Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya in Kathmandu....You know about the Urdu collection in the SVK. That is just one example. To purchase the collection, rescue it and save it for library use required lots of money....Where did that money come from? Libraries such as those in Chicago and Columbia each put in $10,000. The librarians who were in charge of South Asia [collections], like me and James Nye, had to take the money from our budgets which were normally used for buying books there and spend it here. But the collection did not come to the U.S. It stayed in India. How do I explain to my boss there that I do not have anything to show for having spent $10,000? What I can show is that users in my university can now access the material using the Net....Of course, even without the Net it would still be right to preserve, catalogue and microfilm the material. But having the Net has made it easier to justify the expenses because the benefits are now available to a much wider universe. [...]

[Open access] is a vast field. The open access movement has grown in the last few years, especially in the West. There is greater realisation that if we do not observe and react to the flow of information in terms of its ownership, there will be consolidation of ownership. Large corporations will control larger and larger quantities of content and knowledge. Owning information is not like owning a factory. When you own information and you restrict access for profit, it has negative consequences for society. Society has to find a way to deal with the problem. Open access is a way in which libraries and scholars try and gain some power in the equation with commercial interests so that we do not get into a situation of entirely monopolised content. It is not socialism, but it is simply a statement that there needs to be a balance for the sake of society. Otherwise, all the information will be only available to the very rich or to large institutions paying for super expensive journals. It would not be appropriate for the field of scholarly study; it is certainly not appropriate for the development of societies. [...]

There are very intelligent things that people can do to counteract this. A corporation may own a journal and they may have a monopoly over it. They can charge what they want and we have to pay. But where did the articles in the journal come from? Who wrote them? Not the corporations. It is the scholars who wrote them. They are not getting any money. Their motivation to write is not from profit....So, what if they do not give their articles to the journals published by the corporations, and instead, give it to an open access journal? They can work with the universities and libraries to find ways to disseminate their articles in new ways [PS: such as OA repositories]....

(Thanks to Valisblog.)