ITAL: Why not open access your content, really

LITA’s Information Technology and Libraries actually does have some interesting content in it. Here’s the latest issue. 

Oh, but you probably can’t read it, unless you are a LITA member with a login.

I suspect this has been a topic of some back-and-forth within LITA — their current policy is that “Issues older than six months are open to all,” not just LITA members.

I’m not a LITA member, but I discovered I have access to the latest issue, with no embargo, anyhow, through my employer’s EBSCO subscription. Oh, and alternate access through a Proquest subscription. Oh, and alternate access through a Wilson subscription. Look at my link resolver.   As of this writing, the September 2011 issue which just came out is available from both Wilson and EBSCO to me (the Proquest link from my link resolver results in an infinite HTTP redirect, ah Proquest).

Now, I’m curious, are these in fancy expensive EBSCO/Wilson/Proquest packages that my library has but not all libraries might? I’m not sure, curious from my readers if your library also has ITAL access through an aggregator like this. Since I have access through all three of our major aggregator vendors, I’m suspecting that probably most libraries buy some package with access.

If that’s true, that would mean that the majority of ITAL’s target audience already has access to ITAL anyway, even without being a LITA member. So if they’re resisting open-access-right-away thinking they need it as a membership incentive…   well, it’s not much of an incentive if most people who might become LITA members already have access to ITAL anyway through an institutional aggregator license. 

Meanwhile, they’re sacrificing the potential to reach the largest possible audience for their ideas and content, which are presumably good ones they’d like to get out there. They’re sacrificing Google-ability probably.  Without being open access, you can’t be a first-class citizen on the web, where people can for instance link to your articles in blog posts or a listserv post and have their readers be able to read em — this is where professional communication about technology happens, this is necessary to influence the conversation in our corner of the profession at least.

Yeah, six months later it’s open access, but when someone sees on a listserv that the new issue of ITAL is out and sees an article of interest in the table of contents — they really want to just click on it then, they’re not going to remember to go back and view it six months later.

So you’re sacrificing usability and exposure, in order to preserve an incentive to join LITA that, if I’m right that most potential LITA members have access anyway through an institutional aggregator, isn’t much of an incentive at all.

Oh, but wait. I’m guessing LITA gets paid by the aggregators to include ITAL content. And if LITA content were just open access from the start, they probably would lose that income stream, from EBSCO, Wilson, Proquest. Why would the aggregators pay them to resell content that is free on the web anyway?  So if that is significant income (no idea what aggregators pay for something like this), that could be a real worry.

Oh well. 20th century business models get us again.

But meanwhile, if you see those ITAL announcements on the listservs, and think, gee, that sounds like an interesting article, but I’m not a LITA member — it’s worth checking to see if you’ve got access anyway through your employer’s subscriptions. I’m guessing you probably do.  (If your institution doesn’t have an infrastructure that makes it simple to check if you have access or even bookmark the link resolver page, well, consider Umlaut!)

And if there are a bunch of us librarians and library technologists that hadn’t realized until now we had access to that content — imagine how often our actual patrons run into a paywall for the many journals we pay for, and don’t realize they could get access through their library!  If it’s not on the free web, it is much harder for our patrons to figure out they’ve got access and utilize it, even when we’re paying for it.

3 thoughts on “ITAL: Why not open access your content, really

  1. I’ve got access via Proquest and Gale courtesy of my institutional subs – thanks for the heads up, it does look like an interesting issue. OA will grow, just not as quickly as we’d like. We’ve had this ‘cost as quality filter’ paradigm for so long – and there isn’t really an equivalent in the OA world, maybe crowdsourcing will do it, depending on the crowd of course.

  2. It’s sad that subscription would be used as a bargaining chip for membership. The best incentive for membership to *me* are the ideas and discussions and networking that go on in the group. The best way to advertise those ideas and discussions is to make them (or, presumably, the outcome of them) freely available through your publications. ie- if I see interesting articles in your publication, and I am able to actually read them (with ease), I will want to join your group, to be part of the discussions that went into those articles.

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