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Re: Question about open access and print

In the unending debates about the future of journals, libraries, 
open access, ad infinitum, we are not giving equal attention to 
the most important factor in this equation -- the user. Users are 
given cursory attention. Instead debates focus too much on the 
business side of publishing. Let's look at the user.

Academic research libraries have an obligation to meet users' 
needs for information. Researchers and students do not want to 
leave their offices and laboratories to go to another facility, 
usually a library, and search for an article. They want it 
available electronically on demand and NOW. That means that the 
majority of research libraries will opt for the electronic 
version whether it has a price or is open access. As a research 
library administrator, this is a given. We are here to give our 
researchers what they want.

Secondly, we have the researchers who want to get their results 
out to other scientists promptly. The fastest way to do that is 
electronically whether open access or via subscription titles. 
And, in the midst of this demand and supply scenario, we have the 
journal publisher that seemingly thrives on print subscriptions. 
I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to see that print is 
being replaced by electronic delivery and at an increasingly fast 

I don't think there's a definitive answer to the open access vs. 
subscription supported journal or article. At least not in the 
immediate future. We may see of mixture of open access, 
professional society, and commercially published journals for 
some time. But there is a third concern here that is given even 
less attention than information users. That concern, one so 
important to the future of scholarship, is the stability and 
usability of existing electronic products in the future. How many 
clay tablets and papyrus scrolls do you have in your collections? 
What will happen to our electronic information in the future? 
Will this become another Dark Ages because future researchers 
won't have the tools to access what current researchers have 
committed to databases?

Certainly, we have some groups working on storing information but 
is that adequate? This is an extremely important question that 
cries out for a resolution.  I have been in this profession for 
four decades and have seen rapid changes in storage media and 
changes in electronic media: CPM-based databases, the old 12-inch 
InfoTrac disks, DOS, Windows, the Internet, the Web, CDs, Ipods, 
PDAs, databases, e-books, and what comes next? A hundred or 
several hundred years from now, will researchers be able to 
access our information banks?  Our history and literature as well 
as our science??? To me, this is a question that should be far 
more challenging to us in the information world than the open 
access question which will work itself out in the marketplace. 
What will happen to our massive stores of electronic information 
in the future?  Are we leaving behind information that will be 
indecipherable to future generations? Will it even be available 
to them?

Jane Kleiner
Associate Dean of Libraries for Collection Services
The LSU Libraries
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Phone: 225-578-2217
Fax: 225-578-6825
E-Mail: jkleiner@lsu.edu


"Sally Morris \(ALPSP\)" <sally.morris@alpsp.org>@lists.yale.edu on
03/08/2006 05:59:53 PM
Sent by:    owner-liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu
To:    "Liblicense" <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Subject:    Re: Question about open access and print

Would a library cancel its subscription if all the content were 
freely available online?

The experience of the British Medical Journal, among others, says 
that they do (see 

And our recent study of librarians suggests that, though not by 
any means the most important factor in cancellations at present, 
more than half of our respondents thought free availability *in 
repositories* was 'important' or 'very important' and over 80% 
think it will be in 5 years' time.  Since some of their reasons 
why not had to do with it not being the final version, or issues 
around permanence and reliability, I'd guess the figure would be 
higher had we asked about free online access to the journal 
itself.  The full report will be published in the next week or 

Sally Morris, Chief Executive Association of Learned and 
Professional Society Publishers Email:  sally.morris@alpsp.org