Tag Archives: open access

Open Access for the Humanities

During my first week at my new job, my team hosted an event called “Open Access for the Humanities” in conjunction with SPARC Europe. It was a free event, open to anyone who was interested, and consisted of four talks – two by OA publishers, and two by researchers from the University, giving their perspective on OA.

The first speaker was Frances Pinter who, as well as being the CEO of Manchester University Press, is also the Executive Director of Knowledge Unlatched, a project which sounds a bit like Kickstarter for publishing. Essentially, the idea is that academic libraries each pledge some money to make a book OA. If enough libraries pledge, then the book is “unlatched” and will be published OA (or made OA if it has already been published). The more libraries who participate, the less they each have to pay, as the cost to publish each book (the Title Fee) is a fixed sum decided by the publisher. The pilot project involved a package deal where libraries pledged to pay for publishing a set of 28 books, spanning a range of subjects. It was a success; 297 libraries participated, and ended up paying less than $50 per book. I like the idea, especially given that OA for books is something that really needs work, but I’m not sure if scaling up to larger book collections would go down as well – libraries still have to pay for the ebook licenses for non-OA textbooks and don’t have unlimited resources. This interview with Frances on Semantico.com explains more about KU and addresses some of the scaling-up issues.

Something else that was quite interesting was the collection of author interviews on the KU website: they give a good snapshot of the attitudes that authors in the humanities have towards OA publishing.

After Frances, we heard from Brian Hole, the CEO of Ubiquity Press. UP enable authors to publish their work for much lower fees than those that the large publishers charge. You can publish in one of their OA journals, or you can set up your own; they provide the support for universities or libraries who want to set up a press or a journal but haven’t got the resources in-house. They’ve got a large peer review database which is shared between all the journals, so their publications are held to the same rigorous standards as other, more established, journals (fighting the perception of OA as inferior quality). You can also publish books or other types of research – Brian said they’ll publish anything, including research data, software and wetware (I think he meant cyberware), but I haven’t been able to find any unusual examples on their website.

UP’s aim is to make OA publishing affordable and sustainable for everyone, so they offer a range of options to reduce costs, for example fee waivers or simple file hosting (without editorial support etc) for institutions in developing countries. I really like this as it gives everyone a chance to make their research visible without having to go through the expensive traditional routes.

The two Leeds authors who presented at the event gave their own takes on OA publishing and what it means for them. Malcolm Heath spoke about the tension between the author as a publisher, and the author as an author, two personas which can often want quite different things. Alaric Hall then illustrated some of the benefits of OA using examples from his own career; he got a job based on the fact that his interviewer had been able to access and read one of his recent publications, and he built new international research partnerships thanks to his work being freely discoverable online. He also mentioned how he uses Wikipedia as a pre-publication research space, reading, editing and creating articles relevant to his research, and collaborating with other editors to improve the information. It was good to hear an academic being positive about Wikipedia for once!

Overall the event was really interesting and I enjoyed hearing about initiatives that go beyond green vs. gold. I was also very happy to go away with some post-it notes, a pen and a lovely sticker which is now on my notebook.

SPARC Europe are hosting four more OA events before Christmas, in London, Coventry and Scotland. See here for more details.

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Silence in the library

I’m getting worse at updating the blog – it’s not unexpected though, as less new and exciting stuff happens to me these days! However, I thought I should probably just do a quick update on what’s going on with library life at the moment.

Exams and dissertation season has been and gone, and blimey, that was busy. People were banging on the doors fifteen minutes before we open, so desperate were they to get their hands on our thesis collection, and the demand for laptops was so high we had to turn people away. What amused me were the “regulars” who would come in every day for two weeks and ask for the same three theses – why didn’t they just photocopy the relevant bits?! There was also one guy who would come in every day and ask for a laptop – it got to the point where it felt like I worked in a pub (“the usual?”). There was, of course, all the stress and frustration that comes with exam season – not for me, but for the students. We had printer problems, network problems, printing credits going missing and essays disappearing. It meant I got to use all my customer service and “dealing with difficult situations” skills from those training sessions earlier in the year! 

The past couple of weeks have been noticeably quieter – yesterday we probably had about 50 people come in during the day, and it’s only going to get quieter now that the majority of the students are finishing their year and going back home. We’ll still have some nursing students and postgraduates, though, so it’s not going to be completely dead, but it is noticeably different to the atmosphere a few weeks ago. It’s just so quiet! Term doesn’t finish for another three weeks, but after that we’ll be on summer vacation hours until the Autumn term starts (and I’ll be gone by then!) – three more late Wednesdays and then I’ll be on regular hours for the rest of my job. We had a team meeting the other day and it was the first time that anyone mentioned that I’ll be leaving quite soon – it was quite weird to hear that said out loud! I know that the new GTs have now been chosen, and I’m looking forward to getting put in touch with them quite soon (or at least I assume this will happen, as it did for us last year). 

 The other week I went to a public lecture on digital humanities, which I was expecting to be quite interesting – and it was, but not for the reasons I expected! It was about Doing things Differently: writing, academic journals and social media in the online world. It was presented by the editors of an online journal, and the blurb made mention of Open Access, which I wanted to learn more about. I’m interested in social media too, so this sounded really good. However, the actual event did not live up to expectations, and there were some mentions of “Creative Commons” which made all the library staff whistle through their teeth like builders. (Creative Commons doesn’t mean you can use any old thing off Google image search!!) It was interesting to hear about journals and OA from the perspective of two academics, but it was a bit of an eye-opener too, as I somewhat naively expected researchers (and editors of online journals) to be a lot more clued in on technology, resources and social media. It shows that there is a lot of work than can be done by libraries and information professionals to support researchers and improve their knowledge and skills when it comes to these areas.

Last week I had a surprise delivery of 120 new books – rather more than I usually get! It is nice to be able to tell the academic staff that we’ve bought all the books they wanted, though, and the monthly new books newsletter looked very impressive! We’ve used up all our budget for this year now, so the book deliveries will dry up until next term. That takes a big chunk of work out of my day, but there are other projects to be getting on with over the summer, so I’m sure I’ll still have plenty of things to do.

We’re currently running a Patron-Driven Acquisition exercise with e-books, which is where hundreds of titles get loaded onto the catalogue, and if a student clicks on one and reads it for more than five minutes it triggers the purchase of the book. Some of the titles are interesting, to say the least – we found one about Jungian theory in relation to sand. Bit odd! The purpose of the PDA is to provide more material online while the book stock at one of the site libraries is unavailable as it moves into the main library over the summer. The move is now underway and we are having to keep on the ball when it comes to sending books to other sites – books might say one thing on the system while actually needing to be sent somewhere else. Needless to say there’s a lot of signage around to keep everything straight!

Now that the academic year is coming to an end the big project is renewing all our digitised material for the next year. This is the first time we’re doing it with the new software, so it’s a big learning curve for everyone. My first task was to write out the instructions for the renewals process, which is easier said than done – we kept getting updates to the instructions as people tried them out and discovered bugs. We are now in the process of contacting all the academic staff to find out what they want us to keep – if all goes to plan then we can upload or delete the relevant files before September and get everything straightened out. This has involved two new spreadsheets so far and I’ve been using my newfound Excel skills to add fancy conditional formatting and other bells and whistles, which has been fun in a nerdy way. The whole process is just a bit weird for me though as although I’m setting up a lot of the work, chances are I won’t be able to complete it all before I leave (depending on the speed of responses from lecturers), so I won’t get the satisfaction of seeing this through to the end.

We’re coming towards the end of the stock take as well – we’ll finish scanning the shelves with the digital library assistant this week, and then it’s just a case of tying up the loose ends and getting everything to add up. It’ll be strange not having scanning to do as part of my daily tasks!

One last thing that’s happened recently is that I gained two new qualifications – I’m now a Microsoft Office Specialist in both Word and Excel. I had to sit an exam for each of them to prove I’ve got the skills, which meant a lot of quick learning of things I’d never really done before. It’s already come in handy as I have been able to “decorate” some  spreadsheets with special formatting to improve their functionality. It’s a handy thing to put on a CV too, especially seeing as I haven’t got the time or money to take the ECDL, which some job applications require.

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