Open Access Week 2015

It’s International Open Access Week (19-25 October 2015).  You can get involved by learning about OA, teaching someone else about OA, and helping out on a project.

Things to read

Things to discuss

  1. What is OA?  A simple definition is “unrestricted online access to research outputs”. There are many others. Think about why this variability exists.
  2. What does this definition mean?  Consider defining the main terms: unrestricted, online, access, research, output.
  3. Notice the absence of the word “free” from the definition. Learn about the two meanings of free – gratis, and libre.  If access is to be free, who is going to pay for it?  How much should be paid?  How much does scholarly publishing cost?  And how much is it worth?
  4. If the definition above were adopted, what barriers might still exist? Which people and what materials might be excluded?
  5. If the definition above were adopted, what would be the effects on the following? Publishers’ revenue, subscriptions contracts for libraries, inter-library loans, copyright, the role of trust in scholarly publishing, peer review, institutional repositories, resource discovery systems…

Things to do

  • Participate in the SPARC & Wikipedia Library Open Access Week Edit-a-thon – the goals are (1) to improve already existing Open Access-related pages, (2) to create new content where it needs to be added, and (3) to translate Open Access-related pages into languages where they don’t yet exist. No previous experience is required.  Get started here!
  • Find people and organisations involved in Open Access to follow on Twitter.
  • Join GOKb and add information about OA status of journals – GOKb is a “knowledge base that will describe electronic journals and books, publisher packages, and platforms… [its] enhanced data model will track changes over time, including publisher take-overs and bibliographic changes, and an expanded set of identifiers”. Thank you to Owen Stephens for this suggestion.
  • Contribute to Wikidata (thanks again to Owen for the idea) – Wikidata is “a free linked database that can be read and edited by both humans and machines”.  Find out how you can contribute, take an interactive tutorial and make your first edits, improve a random item, and organise or attend an event.

What I wish vendors knew about academic libraries…

I’ve recently had a flurry of meetings with account managers and other representatives from a number of our subscribed databases and journals.  It struck me how often I had to explain certain things about the higher education environment which I had incorrectly assumed account managers would already know about.  So here’s my wish list.

What I wish vendors knew about academic libraries

  • The serials crisis
  • Older and newer universities – effect on incomes, assets, (perceived?) status
  • Jisc banding and differentiated pricing
  • Student fees and their contribution to universities’ funding (it’s only part of the picture)
  • Effect of international students and their higher fees
  • Lifting of the cap on undergraduate numbers from September 2015 and effect on recruitment & revenue
  • Not all universities teach all subjects (so don’t try to sell me something we don’t need…)
  • Other factors affecting budgets: VAT, exchange rates

If vendors knew about these things, perhaps they wouldn’t be so surprised when I tell them about shrinking budgets that can’t cover what we had this year, let alone allow for new subscriptions.  Or that I don’t want a free trial if there’s no hope of responding to  positive feedback with access next year.  Or that I am not interest in Resource Y, however fabulous, because we don’t teach that subject.

What else would you add?  Let me know in the comments!

Journals and platforms – a stable relationship? Neigh!

I’ve told this tail so often, it’s making me horse!

Some ejournals are published on one platform only, and all their content can be found in place.  However, some journals’ content is found across multiple platforms.  Note the routes and years covered in this example:

OJLS multiple access routes

OJLS – Oxford Journals Archive 1981-1995, HeinOnline 1981-1998, LexisLibrary 1999-present

To explain this, I’ve developed a story about racehorses and stables.  Journals are like racehorses, in that they are born in one stable (or publisher, or platform), and may be traded during their professional lives.

OJLS racehorseConsider the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (OJLS).  This racehorse started its career at the stable called Oxford Journals.  Some time later, a new racehorse owner called HeinOnline was interested in buying OJLS, and moved OJLS into a new stable*.  After a while, LexisNexis bought OJLS from HeinOnline and the journal moved again, this time to LexisLibrary.

Archive access travelled with OJLS in the move from Oxford Journals to HeinOnline, but not  in the move between HeinOnline and LexisLibrary (hence the lack of overlap in content).  This is due to differences in the contracts agreed at each sale.

When you look at one journal over the course of its history, its content may be hosted by a number of platforms.

OJLS stablesIf you consider any individual platform at a particular point in time, it will host a variety of journals, and this will change over time as its parent publisher buys and sells content.LexisLibrary stableE-resources software acts like a kaleidoscope for viewing our ejournal collection. There will be a way to view all our platforms (equivalent to the stable in the equestrian metaphor), another to see a list of all journal titles (the racehorses), and possibly a discovery layer which allows you to search all article records regardless of journal or platform (let’s call that the horseshoe level).

Here are these views for EBSCO and Ex Libris systems:

EBSCO and ExLibris interfacesLeave me a comment to let me know of others!

See also: Journals and matryoshka (Russian) dolls

*Update: Thanks to Terry Bucknell for his comment that in the OJLS example, some content was licensed to Hein and Lexis aggregators, but the title did not change ownership; and Damyanti Patel who revised this as a tale about what local access is available from various places and why, rather than the history of the journal.

Just goes to show what I can’t see because my access is limited by paywalls!

Journals and matryoshka (Russian) dolls

2014.12 2014 vol 77 Modern Law Review

Year – volume – issue – page numbers – months

The structure of a ejournal can appear very strange if, like many of my current students, you have never known the world of print journals.  I’ve found the following story useful in explaining to my students why online journals are structured in the way they are.

'Matrioska eyes' by _Zeta_ CC-BY (adapted)

‘Matrioska eyes’ by _Zeta_ CC-BY (adapted)

When an academic writes a document about their particular area of research, this document often takes the form of a short paper called an article.  In the pre-internet days of print publishing, academics would send their article to a publisher, who would then publish it together with other articles by other academics, in an issue.  An issue would be printed at intervals throughout the year: perhaps monthly or quarterly.Article IssueIn the library, issues were arranged in order on the shelves.  At the end of each year, they would be stitched together and given a hardback cover for protection, and this collection of issues was called a volume.  The volume may have been named after the year (e.g. 1997), or given a number (e.g. Vol. 40).Article Issue Volume JournalThe journal is thus made up of volumes, each containing a number of issues, each containing a number of articles.
Although many articles are now published electronically, rather than in print, the same structure is used for online journals.

See also: Journals and platforms – a stable relationship? Neigh!

Much ado about licences and subscriptions

  • This resource is free – therefore we don’t have a subscription
  • Why do we need a licence if the subscription doesn’t cost anything?
  • Why can’t we give walk-in users or retired members of staff the same access to e-resources as current students and staff?
  • I don’t pay for this resource, therefore it is free
  • Why can’t I share my login with my housemate/friend/partner?
  • Logging in to library resources is a pain – why do we have to do it?
  • If the library has bought this resource, why can’t we do what we like with it?

I am regularly asked these types of questions, and this blog post distills the essence of my responses.

What is a licence?

To license means to grant permission.  A licence may be issued by a licensor to allow a licencee an activity that would otherwise be forbidden.

What is a license?

An American licence :) Licence and licenseSee also: practice/practise, and advice/advise.

But it’s ‘licensor’ in both British English and American English…

Examples of licences

The CLA licence is well-known in universities, where it allows University members limited rights to legally copy, share or re-use legally works which would otherwise be covered only by copyright law (which prevent others from copying or reproducing someone’s work).

Examples of licencees

A licence can be agreed between a licensor and an individual licencee (e.g. relating to ebook on a personal ereader), or by an organisation on behalf of and for many individuals (e.g. a university library, for the library’s users).

In the example of the university library, a licence will usually have a section relating to authorised users, which sets out which library users are included in the agreement.  By omission, it also indicates the types of users which are not permitted.  This is why some user groups such as walk-in users are allowed access to some e-resources and not others, because we can only legally give them access to resources whose licences name walk-ins as authorised users.

E-resources access is limited to authorised users only by the use of authentication – usually by logging in with a valid university user ID and password.

What is a subscription?

A subscription is an arrangement to receive something.  It can apply to publications which are updated on a regular basis, such as journals, where the subscriber receives the new content at intervals as part of the agreement; or to a database, or archive database.

Subscriptions often involve payment, but not always. Examples of payment-free subscriptions include databases to which a national agreement is in place to allow access for users in higher education, but for which individual universities are not required to pay.

It is important to realise that even if a subscription is free, a licence will usually apply nonetheless.

 Multiple meanings of “free”

“Free” can mean that no payment is involved, or it can mean that users are at liberty to use a product or service as they wish.  Because “free” can mean these two very different things, it is helpful to use the terms “gratis” (no payment) and “libre” (liberal use) to differentiate between them.

A gratis subscription is rarely also libre, sometimes because of the relevant licence, and almost always because of copyright law.

See also my post An introduction to Open Access for academics, explaining gratis and libre in terms of Open Access.

Liability and awareness

If the terms of a licence are not followed, there can be a range of consequences.  It is important that users who will be bound by such terms are made aware of them.  This is why the CLA Licence is displayed next to university library photocopiers, and when accessing a database, users are often asked to accept the terms as part of the process of logging in.

Unfortunately, the wording of many licences is verbose and impersonal, which leads to many people not reading the details, or realising that they have important legal consequences.

“I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the above Terms and Conditions” is often reported to be a checkbox ticked by software users without reading the documents, let alone agreeing to them.  It also annoys my academic colleague Chris Baldwin, who teaches Contract Law, and has to point out repeatedly that ‘conditions’ means the same as ‘terms’, making the duplication a grammatical tautology.

The lack of attention paid to reading the small print has been the subject of pranks where clauses included forfeiting your soul, or assigning your firstborn child to the licensor for the duration of eternity (the “Herod clause”).   Luckily for the licencees, these clauses were not enforced.  The moral is: read the terms.

Apple terms and conditions

Adam & Eve: the first people to not read the Apple terms & conditions

Source: Reddit (warning: some fruity language in the comments)

Resource discovery and hard-to-reach users

I gave this presentation at the recent EDS Conference in Liverpool.  EDS stands for EBSCO Discovery System, a type of resource discovery interface which allows users to explore a whole library collection from a single search page, rather than multiple catalogues (e.g. for books, e-resources, and special collections).

Find out more about the EDS Conference on the conference site, and from Emma Coonan‘s Storify summary.

EDS and hard-to-reach users

What makes a group hard to reach?

Presentation slide 1Hard-to-reach users fall into 4 broad groups:

  1. Can’t – obstacle such as geography or technology e.g. partner college students and staff; IT/email issues
  2. Won’t – passive non-engagers e.g. students, library staff
  3. Shan’t  – attitude of change-resistance or even hostility e.g. academics, library staff
  4. Last mile, or the last 10%, or the high-hanging fruit – law of diminishing returns.  It’s hard to get everyone on board. Give yourself a break about this group – you can’t force them; you can only provide opportunities for them to engage.

The adoption curvePresentation slide 2

Source: Rogers, E. (2003) Diffusion of innovations, 5th ed. New York: Free Press, p410.

The adoption curve is often applied to technology, but applies to all change.  People respond to innovations in very different ways.  Rogers groups these behaviours as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

User behaviour typesPresentation slide 3

  • Innovators – first to adopt, risk-tolerant, social
  • Early adopters – more selective, highest opinion leadership, and highest social status.  These are the people with influence, not the innovators.
  • Early majority – after a slow start, the innovation is taking hold once this group are on board.  They are seldom opinion leaders, but have above-average social status.
  • Late majority – a sceptical group, with little opinion leadership, and below-average social status.
  • Laggards – these are the last to adopt, as they treasure tradition.
  • Also – leapfroggers! When former resistors upgrade, they will often need to skip several generations in order to reach the most recent technologies.  Maybe you know someone who has never had a home computer, but has a tablet.  Another example is telephone networks in rural areas – landlines were too expensive to set up, but once mobile phones and better reception became commonplace, such communities went directly to having mobile phones, skipping over the landline stage.

StrategiesPresentation slide 4

Use different approaches, and with different groups of people, as the implementation of your resource discovery tool progresses.

Pilot it with the innovators – these people will enjoy testing the system, and will perceive bugs or gaps as challenges to overcome, rather than as flaws of the system.

Nail it with the influencers, whose buy-in you need in order to bring the early majority on board.  This is a time for final tweaks only; the system itself must be reliable by this point.

Scale it with the early majority, and milk it with the late majority.  Do what you can for the laggards, and don’t be too hard on yourself and your marketing efforts if they refuse to join in.

Although the resistance of the laggards is an obvious obstacle, the late majority can also be a difficult group to win over because they tend to be sceptical.  Continuity makes people feel secure (especially in academia), and the late majority may feel stressed if they can see that those around them have adapted and they haven’t.  Furthermore, if they took an entrenched negative view early on, it will be hard for them to change their minds and come on board.

Tailor-made messagesPresentation slide 5

Tailor-made marketing messages are essential for spreading awareness of and engagement with your new discovery tool.

For whom? Consider your audience.  Different messages for different users.  Are you communicating with new students, returning students, academic staff, library staff, other groups?

What?  Sometimes the core message is enough; others may need more detailed or more technical information.  Pitch your message according to how much your target group need to know.  For academics, use flattery – a key academic liaison technique!  This could involve making it clear that interface is primarily for students, or aiming high with detail in the hope that 10% might be retained.  Academics are impressed by someone who knows details, even if they don’t understand them.

When? Don’t just do it once!  Repetition.  Don’t be afraid to do virtually the same thing again and again.  Repetition.  Other factors, not least of all the participants’ willingness to co-operate, and need for your information, will be different each time.  Repetition…

How?  Recycle and repackage your messages.  Use a variety of methods: live presentations, demos, leaflets, videos, screenshots, handouts, webpages – different media appeal to different people.

Don’t give up hope with laggards – one of them may be a leapfrogger!  If you have an academic who resisted the shift from print to electronic journals, a new tool could provide a way for them to appreciate the flexibility of e-journals from a different perspective.

We need to talk: using structured time to facilitate unstructured chat

Have you ever wished you had more opportunities to chat informally with your colleagues, to get to know them and learn from each other in a relaxed atmosphere, with no agenda, minutes, or actions?

Here’s a solution: use structured time to facilitate unstructured chat.

In many workplaces, employees are scattered between offices, buildings, and campuses. Mechanisms exist to bring us together for formal meetings, but we rely on fleeting moments to build relationships, chat about problems, and share helpful tips.

People are often full of goodwill about chatting over coffee or welcoming unscheduled drop-ins, but these Want-Tos are often squeezed out by our Have-Tos, and they fall down in our list of priorities.

Enter: a series of monthly get-togethers to help us make time to chat, and seed crystals of collaboration and support.  At Sunderland University Library, we did this for the first time in 2013-14, and named the series Professional Practice Forum (PPF).

Crucially, these sessions are put into diaries just like formal meetings, and each one has a theme in order to provide focus, and help attendees to justify their time there.

To help attendance across a range of working patterns, PPF sessions are scattered across different times of day, and different days of the week. For each month, a facilitator is appointed, and they are responsible for choosing the theme, how it will be approached, and organising the venue.

Our themes this year have included blogging, information skills teaching, hobnobbing with students (“the biscuit one”), dissertation support, technology and distance learners, TeachMeet, and student support for maths and study skills.

The theme provides a core topic for discussion and exchange of ideas, and our conversation will often veer off in other directions.

Here is some feedback from this year’s participants:

  • Useful networking opportunity especially working with [colleagues] I wouldn’t normally see/talk to. 1 hour a month when I take the time to think specifically about my professional development. Wouldn’t do this otherwise.  Intro to TeachMeet idea made attending one less scary.
  • I found the practice sharing aspect to the forum particularly useful and it gave everyone an opportunity to contribute and share their practice with colleagues.  Thanks everyone!
  • The sessions I attended were not only interesting but a good opportunity to discuss practices with colleagues – we don’t really get to do in other areas e.g. team meetings.
  • Useful opportunity both to share ideas and practices but also picked up some new information which I didn’t previously know about.
  • A really valuable forum for liaison discussion and sharing ideas/best practice. I really enjoyed the sessions and have used material either developed/created from ideas discussed here or shared from others in my liaison and skills sessions. Looking forward to seeing what’s on the agenda for next year!

So, if you and you colleagues sometimes feel that you could benefit from some less formal interactions alongside your official meetings, try this format of structuring the opportunity to meet, then letting the conversation flow.