Can you feel it in the air? No, not the pollen, I mean spring fever! Here in Portland, Oregon, I’m experiencing my first “real” spring in several years. In Florida, spring meant that the weather went from Not So Hot to Full Blown Sauna overnight. Now I see that spring can mean the rebirth of stunning blooms and plants that played dead all winter. And the cherry blossoms!
One thing I missed this year in my job transition was going to ACRL. I heard from my colleagues that it was another terrific meeting of the library minds and that Carla Hayden’s speech brought the house down. One of my colleagues who was able to attend brought back news of a new open access initiative that caught my eye: Unpaywall. You can read more about it here in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Essentially, it’s a browser extension that automatically searches for open access copies of scholarly articles when you run across them online. If an open access version is available (via institutional repositories, PubMed Central, Directory of Open Access Journals, etc.), you’ll see a little green unlocked icon on your screen and you can link to the full text of the article. I’ve had fun testing it out this week.
Librarians, is Unpaywall something you would mention to faculty? Or do you think it’s something nifty that they would never use? If you’ve ever read my previous Hot Topics, you know I get excited about these new developments that seem to promise so much for the advancement of open access, but I find that if they require our users to do any more work than they’re already doing in their research and teaching, they fizzle out pretty quickly. I can’t help but think that it seems like extra work on top of what’s already an arduous publication process, with the benefits not clearly articulated. If libraries are going to keep subscribing to high-dollar journals anyway, why care about open access?
We all know that our users need more education and awareness surrounding open access, and I believe that librarians should keep pushing for that awareness and education. But, until institutional repositories and Unpaywalls and Open Access Buttons become something that our users start bringing to us because they want them, they’re going to be a hard sell for us.