Academic libraries in a mixed open access & paywall world — Can we substitute open access for paywalled articles?

This post was originally published on this site


In 2014, I wrote about “How academic libraries may change when Open Access becomes the norm” which attempts to forecast how academic libraries will change when “50%-80% or more of the annual output of new papers will be open access in some form”.

I’ve come to realize a more interesting and critical question for libraries would be on what to do during the transition period, when open access becomes a significant but not yet majority pool of articles, say 25%-40% range. In other words, while not fully dominant enough for large scale disruptions but at a stage where it is too big to ignore.

Note that the implicit assumption in this piece is that open access (OA) will inevitably stabilize at some high level (say 75%+) , but of course there is no reason why this will definitely occur (see book/ebook transition for example)

A TLDR summary of this post is, as open access levels rises and our tools begin to properly work with open access items to provide better coverage, more reliable linking and more data on open access, librarians may face many interesting choices that didn’t used to exist as we move towards a mixed open access and paywall environment.

Among the many choices we might make, some involve the question of Gold OA. Some examples include whether to support Gold OA via APC big deals, or contributing to funding in consortiums to flip journals to Gold or open access projects like Open Library of Humanties or Knowledge Unlatched, or even start publishing journals of our own via overlay journals.

But whatever our stance towards Gold OA is, most of us definitely support Green OA. In a mixed paywall and OA world, one of the questions we face is this.

Can we substitute open access items, namely Green OA articles for the paywall versions for our users whenever possible? Should we? This often means providing versions to users that while are post peer review are not as nicely formatted or edited as final published versions. Will our users care?

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