October 22–26 is Open Access Week, a weeklong “global event, now in its 6th year, promoting Open Access as a new norm in scholarship and research.” (from the Open Access Week website)

What is open access anyway?

“Open Access” to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need – has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.” (from the Open Access Week website)

Sounds great – so what’s the hiccup? Implementing Open Access takes a long time because it requires an overhaul of the scholarly publishing process, which affects hot topics like faculty promotion and tenure.

To institute real change takes time and involvement from many, many people. Open Access Week provides ideas and opportunities for everyone, not just librarians, to get involved at the local level and to carry the momentum year-round.

Learn more about Open Access Week.

Why it’s important to libraries

Open Access is especially important to libraries at research institutions because it facilitates access to scholarly research and data at a time when the subscription costs of serial publications (scholarly journals) is increasing at an unsustainable rate for library budgets. Exclusivity means that huge publishers can charge astronomical subscription prices to libraries, and libraries, to keep their collections relevant and useful to their users, must pay them. Even research libraries with large endowments cannot keep up the pace, and the problem is more severe for small institutions and those in the developing world.

International advocacy campaigns and initiatives like Open Access Week are vital when it comes to increasing awareness about the issues surrounding scholarly publishing and information access. To create real change, everyone in the research community from students to faculty and researchers to librarians to research funders must be aware of the issues and know how to effectively address them.

Learn more about libraries and open access.

Here on campus – SLIS-ALSO

The Academic Librarianship Student Organization, a group run by students in the School of Library & Information Studies here at UW–Madison, helps host the conversation about Open Access here on campus. To celebrate Open Access Week 2012, the group brings us a panel of academic librarians who will speak on topics like Open and Closed Access Journals, Institutional Compliance with open access policies, and Open Access textbooks.

Learn more about SLIS-ALSO.

Special thanks to Carrie Nelson, academic librarian at College Library, for her assistance with this post.