Monday, February 25, 2008

European Universities Explore Open Access

We read about Harvard University’s decision and now in Europe OAPEN - Open Access Publishing in European Networks will be negotiating with the European Commission in March about funding for their initiative to “fully explore the possibilities of Open Access in the humanities and social sciences.” The project, first of its kind, will launch in September 2008 to the degree it is funded. Presently, the members are: Amsterdam University Press, Georg-August Universität Göttingen, University of Copenhagen, Museum Tusculanum Press, Manchester University Press, Presses Universitaires de Lyon and Firenze University Press.

Web 2.0 in U.S. LIS Schools: Are They Missing the Boat?

In an article, “Web 2.0 in U.S. LIS Schools: Are They Missing the Boat?,” in the latest issue of Ariadne Noa Aharony asks whether library and information science schools in the United States are underestimating the opportunities offered by Web 2.0 applications. The author reveals the results of an examination of the web sites as well as a survey of 59 US LIS programs which show that only a small proportion of programs offered a specific course on Web 2.0 or even courses which include several issues based on Web 2.0 concepts.

The author concludes by recommending “that the different issues and applications of Web 2.0 be thoroughly taught as a separate course in the LIS curriculum and not as partial topics in another course. Expanding the curriculum will equip new generations of librarians with competencies and skills that fit a modern, dynamic and changing work environment. This course should include theoretical explanation as well as practical experience of the various applications of Web 2.0 such as: blogs, wikis, RSS, flickr, collaborative favorites, tagging and Folksonomies, instant messages, social networks etc.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Boston Globe Editorial on Harvard and Open Access

An editorial in the Boston Globe (19 Feb., 2008), "Open Access to Brilliant Insights", praises the recent vote by Harvard's A & S faculty to place their scholarly journal articles in a digital repository so that they will be accessible by anyone with internet access.

. . . . The policy is a bold move to boost the unrestricted, global use of research articles. This open access policy fulfills the great promise of the Internet: Someone in Finland, Japan or Kenya will be able to browse faculty members' articles on literature, science or history. It should mean fewer treks to academic libraries and fewer roadblocks on journal websites that now deny access to nonsubscribers unless they're willing to pay.

Proposed by computer science professor Stuart M. Shieber, the open access policy presumes that the mission of academic publishing is not to make money but to create, preserve, and share knowledge. As envisioned by Shieber, once a faculty member publishes an article - after it has been peer-reviewed, revised, and edited - a copy will go in Harvard's repository. Faculty members will have the right to opt out, publishing the article exclusively with professional journals and not putting it in the repository. But the hope is that most scholars will want their work to be read and cited as widely as possible.

Other schools should follow Harvard's lead. The move will also let arts and sciences faculty reclaim the right to use their published work from journals that have traditionally restricted the use of such work. . . .

Other schools such as the University of Oregon have digital repositories. But unlike Harvard, they don't require faculty to participate or deliberately opt out.

The Internet offers the means to free knowledge. The world's knowledge-brokers have to provide the will and the ways.

Full Editorial

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Few Thoughts on the Google Books Library Project

Charles Edward Smith has published a short thoughtful essay on Google's Book Project in the January-March, 2008 issue of EDUCAUSE Quarterly. One of his cogent conclusions is that "Google's initiative will not make books obsolete; it will make the information in them more widely available."

. . . .

Recently, while making final changes to another article for publication, I accessed a nineteenth-century book by Justice Joseph Story, which had been scanned and was available on the Internet through Google's efforts, and I marveled anew.2 This and other digitization endeavors will preserve and perpetuate the ideas of thousands of authors by transferring them to today's technology. Pause to imagine the absence of Google's initiative, and it immediately becomes apparent that books and other printed material would quickly reach obsolescence if not easily accessible through digital technology. That is precisely what the Internet has changed in our everyday lives—we expect information of all kinds and from all sources to be only a few keystrokes away. Search engines are the new subject indexes to virtually infinite amounts of information on the Internet.

Numerous studies have testified to the increasing use of digital sources by students from primary to graduate school. The journal database JSTOR is one example of how fervently academia has embraced the new technology, while furtively disposing of the cumbersome method of accessing articles via subject matter indexes and paper journals. The breadth of this transformation is much larger, however, spanning reading the news online to finding driving directions and purchasing everything from groceries to cars online. We all realize, at some unconscious level, that society is changing apace. No matter how unwieldy or even frustrating using a search engine sometimes can be, simply because of the mass of information it accesses, I suspect we all still marvel occasionally at how this technology has changed our lives. . . .

Human knowledge is a temporal thing and susceptible to loss. (Consider, for example, the destruction of the ancient library of Alexandria.) Loss, in the case of physical representations of knowledge, includes not being used. If a hard-copy book or article disappears in the transfer of information from paper to bits, does anyone notice? Not after the transfer has taken place, certainly. The only people who might notice are the academic and computer professionals who plan for this transfer and watch it occur.

The technology exists to transfer knowledge and stories in print into a new, digital format for the consideration of this and future generations. The book, like ancient and medieval manuscripts, will continue to be a pathway for the transmission of knowledge. It is, after all, the ideas that are essential, and while many of us will never lose our love of paper books, the wonderful stuff inside them should survive for generations to come. Otherwise, collected human knowledge will be partial, mutated, and far too recent.

Looking at the breadth and complexity of the issues involved in this endeavor—from technology to copyright, indexing, and beyond—the successful transfer of knowledge is the task that lies before us. Any effort that responsibly furthers the task benefits all of us.

Full Article

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Below is the text of a news item in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscriber only access) announcing Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences adoption of a policy to make their articles open access:

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences adopted a policy this evening that requires faculty members to allow the university to make their scholarly articles available free online.

Peter Suber, an open-access activist with Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group in Washington, said on his blog that the new policy makes Harvard the first university in the United States to mandate open access to its faculty members’ research publications.

Stuart M. Shieber, a professor of computer science at Harvard who proposed the new policy, said after the vote in a news release that the decision “should be a very powerful message to the academic community that we want and should have more control over how our work is used and disseminated.”

The new policy will allow faculty members to request a waiver, but otherwise they must provide an electronic form of each article to the provost’s office, which will place it in an online repository.

The policy will allow Harvard authors to publish in any journal that permits posting online after publication. According to Mr. Suber, about two-thirds of pay-access journals allow such posting in online repositories. —Lila Guterman

I think that this Harvard vote implies a number of questions. I’m not sure that very well formulated policies have been thought out yet. Though it seems to be a very strong move in the right direction, I wonder what the practical outcome will be in a year’s time. Here’s another overview of the approved proposal:

Stevan Harnad is not totally enchanted with the Harvard move, believing that it is the wrong strategy:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"Born Digital" and "Print-on-Demand"

Most if not all of the readers of this blog are familiar with e-books. Many if not most readers have qualms about reading a book on their computers or even on the latest, most user-friendly e-book reader. However, e-books haven't faded away despite such resistance. Notably, made the news recently with its new Kindle e-book reader, thereby raising public awareness of this publishing format and possibly opening up a larger market for it.

Scholarly interest in e-books has been spotty at best. But there are numerous examples of e-book projects that give us an idea of what may lie ahead for this form of scholarly communication. One of the best examples is ACLS Humanities E-Book. (ACLS stands for the American Council of Learned Societies.) The BC Libraries subscribe to this collection, and there are records for each title in Quest. The majority of the ACLS titles are viewable as page images; the entire collection is keyword searchable. The look and feel of this portion of the collection are probably familiar to readers who have consulted similar collections on the web.

I would like to focus on two aspects of ACLS Humanities E-Book which may not be as familiar: books "born digital" and "print-on-demand." Among its over 1,700 digitized books, 55 are in XML format. Being in the XML format means that the reader is no longer viewing images of print pages but XML-encoded text. Explanations of XML-encoded books are available on the ACLS e-book site. Of the 55 XML-encoded books, 35 exist only in XML format; there are no print versions with the standard page numeration. They are often described as "born digital." A natural question: If there aren't any pages, how does one cite text? The answer is by paragraph number. Here is an example of an XML-encoded book: Sweated work, weak bodies : anti-sweatshop campaigns and languages of labor.

The next possible question: Why would digitized monographs find any readers? Most of us do not want to read a whole book online! This kind of book would be useful, of course, because it is searchable, but no one would read it entire. To meet an obvious need, the ACLS e-book site offers something called print-on-demand. According to the site:
"Print-on-Demand is a fairly recent technology that uses digital printing techniques to produce standard print books in a rapid and cost-effective process." More information is available.

In our consideration of
ACLS Humanities E-Book, are we glimpsing future publishing trends? The only possible answer: "Time will tell."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New SPARC Discussion Forum to Address Author Rights

SPARC has created a new forum for the discussion of author rights:
The list will focus primarily on the U.S. and Canadian legal environments, though members of the international community are welcome to join. Educators, researchers, policy makers, librarians, legal counsel, and all who have an interest in responsible author copyright management are encouraged to contribute. The SPARC Author Rights Forum is moderated by Kevin Smith, J.D., Scholarly Communications Officer for Duke University Libraries.
To request membership in this SPARC Author Rights Forum, send any message to

More information on SPARC's various Author Rights initiatives and aids is available at

Monday, February 4, 2008


The February 2008 issue of SPARC eNews is now available.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Teaching Exceptional Children Plus (TECP)

The current issue of Teaching Exceptional Children Plus (TECP) is now available through eScholarship@BC. Volume 4, number 3 is the 21st issue of the electronic journal. TECP represents a partnership between the Council for Exceptional Children and the Boston College Libraries and is an open access, scholarly, peer-reviewed journals.

Podcasts of select journal articles are also available.