Why, yes, lack of access IS a problem

For the last few months, amidst interview rounds and subbing in both public and academic libraries, I’ve been working on a research paper that’s set to be published in September. While I’ve always been a supporter of open access, two things have happened in the last few months that has lit a bonfire for my support:

  1. Working on this research paper has been quite challenging without steady, full-time access to quality research. ¬†While this hasn’t been impossible, it has pushed me to do things that are inconvenient on the simple end and to make flat professionally questionable decisions on the more complex end. I can’t say that I’ve broken any rules, but I’ve definitely toed the line and, unfortunately, been forced to ask others to do the same. Luckily, I know some wonderful librarians who believe in accessibility and professional courtesy and have helped me access pay-walled information, anyway. Thank you to you all and I’m in your debt.
  2. The second occurrence that has caused me to quite feisty in this area is more important because it directly impacts students. I was preparing for a teaching demonstration at a local community college and used their resources to prepare. This, of course, just makes sense because if I’m doing a demo on teaching their resources, I’m going to prepare activities that use their resources! What I was met with was a system that was clunky and frustrating. I’m a trained, experienced Librarian and had difficulty searching for and retrieving information that should’ve been simple to find. I had better luck on google scholar. This has a few implications:
  • This puts me back in a position to have teach click-and-point skills to students. This is much less important to me than focusing on authority, how information is created, how those who create it have agendas, and how to deal with manipulative info on a daily basis.
  • This puts community college students at a stark disadvantage bc of the affordability of intuitive packaging. Four year students are already at an advantage in many ways over comm college students and this just makes it worse! How can anyone properly prepare a 2-yr college student for a 4-yr library when you have to dedicate so much time to teaching them how to use an outdated, clunky system that you have to wage war against just to get simple information? The packaging this college has is well-known and often purchased. I wonder if they have any clue how difficult it is to use.

This is just another example of how the publishing industry makes it more and more difficult for students who aren’t pouring money into the system to access information. They’re not second class citizens. Those who argue that open access is killing scholarship should try to use these systems. We can’t even grow scholarship properly if our students don’t have access to quality resources.

You want me to support the current publishing industry when my students use google scholar because it’s user-friendly and intuitive? You want me to encourage them to use a database system that adds more obstacles to their learning? For the sake of what?

What message are you sending students when all of the “quality, reliable, and valid” information sits behind a paywall? It’s time to stop supporting this hierarchical, authoritarian system and concentrate on what matters – the information, the data, the actual scholarship. What the research actually means and its importance to our society and our world.

Support your researchers and their efforts, evaluate factors that actually matter (not the title of the journal they published in), and for goodness sake, make it more accessible. If it’s not open, at least make it accessible in a system that doesn’t cost every penny an institution has. We can do better than this.

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