Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, June 12, 2008

More on OA to ALA publications

Charles Bailey, On ALA, CLA, and Open Access, Digital Koans, June 11, 2008.  Excerpt:

The Canadian Library Association recently issued a new, strongly worded open access statement ("Position Statement on Open Access for Canadian Libraries")....

The American Library Association is a member of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and the Open Access Working Group, and. as such, has signed a variety of targeted statements about free access to government-funded research. The most active ALA Division in terms of open access support is the Association of College and Research Libraries, which has a number of activities geared towards promoting it.

Such statements and activities are praiseworthy, but the question remains: What kind of open access to these associations provide to their own journals?

CLA appears to embargo the current issue of Feliciter. If so, CLA cannot be said to be providing full free access to the journal; however, as embargoes go, it is a generous one.

Since it publishes more journals, the situation for ALA is more complex, and it is summarized below in a discussion of its major journals....

[PS:  Here omitting Charles' review of individual ALA journals.  In sum:  four with no free access and six with free access after an embargo.]

One thing is clear: it would be very helpful if ALA journals would clearly and prominently state their open access policies. Although it will not be discussed here in any detail, several journals have conflicting or unclear copyright agreement policies....

While it is not uniform, ALA is making progress towards providing more free journal content; however, it cannot be said that ALA fully supports free access to all of its major journals. Moreover, to my knowledge, ALA itself has never made an open access position statement that is similar to CLA's and those of other library organizations, such as IFLA's (this excludes any statements by ALA divisions or joint statements). As the open access movement nears the decade point, it would seem desirable for it to unambiguously do so....

PS:  For background, see Charles' previous report on OA for ALA publications (July 2006).  In my comment at the time, I pointed out some of the ALA's public statements in support of OA:  "(1) the ALA Washington office has a page on OA, (2) the ALA Council adopted a resolution in support of FRPAA at its June 2006 annual meeting, and (3) the ALA has signed on to several public statements in support of OA, most recently a July 12 letter in support of FRPAA and a May 31 letter in support of the EC report on OA."

Update.  Inspired by Charles' detective work, Klaus Graf investigated the five leading library journals in Germany.  He found that two are TA and three have moderate embargoes.  Read his post in German or Google's English.

Update.  Charles has replied to my comment and makes the good point (which I intended myself but failed to make explicit) that the ALA's public statements on OA don't rise to the level of the CLA statement.  He goes further:

Here's more information on ALA's "green" and "gold" policies.

Let's assume that both ALA copyright agreements are in effect for all journals. The Copyright Assignment Agreement explicitly supports limited self-archiving ("The right to use and distribute the Work on the Author?s Web site"). The Copyright Assignment Agreement further says that the author has: "The right to use and distribute the Work internally at the Author?s place of employment, and for promotional and any other non-commercial purposes." While "any other non-commercial purposes" seems to permit broad self-archiving, the specification of the "distribute the Work internally at the Author's place of employment" right seems to imply that the right to distribute the work outside of the author's place of employment is in question, which would mean that self-archiving in digital repositories could be done only in the author's institutional repository and only if access to the work was limited to institutional users. Moreover, if broad self-archiving is permitted, why single out the right to self-archive on the author's Web site? I find the wording ambiguous, and I would not recommend that anyone who wants to self-archive use this license. If its intent is to allow broad self-archiving, this should be spelled out. The Copyright License Agreement supports all types of self archiving ("Copyright of the Work remains in Author?s name, and the Author reserves all other rights"). Consequently, we can say that ALA supports "green" self-archiving, but this may be very weak under the Copyright Assignment Agreement.

Without further information, it is not possible to say that any of ALA's major journals are "gold," although Public Libraries and School Library Media Research might be. If this were true, ALA's Public Library Association and its American Association of School Librarians divisions would be ALA's gold journal publishers, with the Association of College & Research Libraries division nearly being one.

Update.  Also inspired by Charles' investigations, Gavin Baker looked into the state chapters of the ALA.  Excerpt:

I remembered having been shocked that the Florida Library Association, a state ALA chapter, didn?t provide OA to its journal. So I decided to investigate a little and see how the other state and regional chapters fare.

I went through the states, starting with A and stopping at Louisiana (after which I lost interest). I also checked the regional chapters, as well as the chapters in D.C., Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The verdict:

  • Of the 18 state chapters reviewed, 7 appear to provide OA to the journal they publish. (That number increases to 8 out of 19 if you include D.C., which ALA counts as a state chapter.) Methodology: I browsed the chapter?s Web site and searched Google for the journal named on ALA?s chapter list. (In a few cases, I couldn?t find the chapter?s ?journal? but did find the chapter?s ?newsletter? ? e.g. Kentucky, Colorado, Alabama.) Louisiana is borderline, since the most recent issue online is from 2000: I?m not sure whether that?s the most recent issue published, or whether more recent issues haven?t made it online yet; I counted Louisiana as OA in my count. So that?s 42% of this (non-random) sample, or 58% if you include the newsletter-but-not-journal states.... 
  • All four regional chapters representing the states provide OA to their journal....

I?m sure it would help if ALA would provide tech support for the chapters? publications, e.g. allow chapters to use ALA?s publishing platform, or facilitate the chapters in pooling resources to fund a system they can all use. (In almost every case for the states I reviewed, providing OA meant simply posting a PDF of the journal issue, with no HTML or Web-formatted version. This suggests the technical/administrative burden of providing OA may be an important factor, beyond any fear of lost revenue ? or at least that there?s a learning curve to be overcome.)