Open Access

As many of you may know I’m a huge fan of the whole open access movement. I think that research (especially research paid for by the taxpayer) should be easily accessible and not hidden behind paywalls.

My main area of interest is health libraries and I think in this area more than any other it is so important for us to get behind open access. Open access allows for information to get to the consumer quicker, and makes it easier to find and use. We expect doctors to practice evidence-based medicine and removing paywalls can only help to encourage them to access research and allow it to inform their work. At the moment doctors access to information may very much depend on their place of work or whether they are involved in extra training (i.e. undertaking courses in universities).

The NIH open access policy in the US has really helped to provide access to quality peer-reviewed health research. Many other governments and other organisations are now getting in on the action.

The Irish government launched the National Principles for Open Access Policy Statement last year and the Health Research Board also has an open access policy. Lenus, the open access health repository has just been added to RIAN which is a site that harvests research from different institutions, mainly Irish universities, into one portal.

Of course, open access is not just relevant to health research. There are many people who would benefit from less paywalls and more access. I know personally I would like to continue researching my own field of library and information studies but it is far more difficult without the access I had through UCD.

Whatever your own opinion of open access, one thing that is clear is that it is a growth area and it is garnering increased support.

Today saw the launch of the Open Access Button which is a project attempting to track the impact of paywalls and help people to gain access to the research they need. You can read the press release here.

I think this is a really interesting project and hopefully it will help to highlight some of the problems with paywalls.

Go to http://www.openaccessbutton.org/ to read more, or download your own button to become part of the project.

Best of luck to all those involved and I’m looking forward to following the project.

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Vocation and Advocacy

Disclaimer: I speak about librarians but I think a lot of this could relate to any information professional. I chose the term librarian for the sake of simplicity.

Personally, I think that becoming a librarian is a vocation. It is a career particularly suited to those that want to provide people with access to information and are willing to acquire the skills necessary to ensure that they can provide this access, to the absolute best of their ability. The reason I am in this MLIS course is because I was inspired by the librarians in the Boole library in UCC. They were teaching an embedded research and library skills module for my English Masters course and they taught me how to access the information I needed. Effectively, they were teaching me how to learn for myself, how to gain knowledge outside of the classroom and evaluate it. I realised that providing others with information or how to access information was what I wanted to do with my life. I also wanted to be able to learn for the rest of my life and being a librarian means you can learn not only through the content of the library but also you need to continually develop your skill-set in line with new technologies.

Unfortunately, the profession seems more than slightly misunderstood. In fact, it is hugely frustrating when people ask me why I need a Masters to become a librarian, especially as I am working such long hours studying, learning and researching in order to do my best. There is so much involved in becoming a librarian and some people have absolutely no idea what we are capable of doing. This is especially relevant to this week’s class and my own interests, health libraries. I find it amazing that libraries and librarians are not being utilised to their full capacity by medical staff when evidence-based practice is of such importance. I do think that Bernard Barrett is correct to establish himself as a “fellow” professional. We are highly qualified and well trained individuals. We are of no less importance than other professions and in fact if employed correctly we could enable people to be better at their jobs by providing them with the information they need to succeed and excel. Although many librarians make huge efforts to ensure they are visible within their organisations, there is still a very wide gap between the perception people have of librarians and the reality of what we are capable of doing.

I have to admit I don’t agree with Barrett’s views on the vocabulary surrounding the role of the librarian. User, service…these words are not an issue for me and in fact there are problems related to the words library or librarian; however, I think dwelling on vocabulary is problematic as we will never re-write the dictionary. I think advocacy is the answer and I was very interested to read his thoughts on advocacy because I think they are very relevant. Barrett outlines advocacy as being Personal, a Positive and Planned Process, Co-ordinated and involving Clear, Logical and Analytic Thinking. I think this is very helpful because I think advocacy could be a hugely successful venture if it was forward-thinking and logical in approach. Although it is unfortunate that we should have to fight for libraries, it is essential. I believe we, as current and future librarians, need to be passionate about our profession but also be logical and sensible in our approach to advocacy. Being passionate is not enough! We have to articulate the importance and potential of libraries and librarians in a way that makes sense to those that could be the possible users and also to those that provide the budgets.

We know that we are capable of so many things. We know that libraries are of huge importance and far more than people perceive them to be and it is up to us to ensure that the perceptions begin to change.