Open Access News

News from the open access movement


Friday, May 18, 2007

Disciplinary attitudes toward libraries affect the IR

Dorothea Salo, Disciplinary culture, libraries, and IRs, Caveat Lector, May 17, 2007.  Excerpt:

I cannot take entire credit for the insight in this post. It came out of a three-hour meeting today on the topic of research computing....

The natural constituency of institutional repositories as they are generally envisioned is the STM world óscientific, technical, medical. Thatís where the serials crisis is most acute. Thatís where funders are starting to mandate open access to research results and the underlying data used to generate them. Thatís where the digital revolution in scholarly communication has made the most progress.

Thatís also the group least invested in academic libraries, especially in their traditional image as The Book Barn....

[S]urveys have shown that because the access technology is the same óthat is, the web browseró [these users] simply cannot distinguish between a resource on the free web and a resource that their libraries have paid dearly for....Books? They donít use books. The OPAC? Is irrelevant to them, because they donít use books. Reference service? They donít use it much if at all, and (as a rule) they donít send their students to it. Instruction? Typically has the least penetration into these disciplines....

These researchers do not see the library, do not go to the (physical) library, do not care about the library, do not think about the library. So insofar as institutional repositories are a library service (and as I have repeated ad infinitum, they are that nearly everywhere they exist, at least in the United States), they are just as invisible as every other library service....

The arts and humanities tell a different tale. The library is a major locus of arts and humanities research, with librarians a major part of the facultyís working lives, both as scholars and as teachers.  This means in practice that librarians often play a key role in introducing arts and humanities faculty to technologies that can help them ó...yes, [including] the institutional repository....

I need to think about this situation some more before I can formulate a coherent response to it. My first impression, though, is to follow an instinct Iíve had for a while and market to STM departmentsí local IT staff, who are both less contemptuous of the library than those they serve and more likely to see the IR as a solution to genuine problems they have.