Hosting Open Access Week events is a targeted approach to raising awareness of the Open Access movement — an initiative helping to keep academic libraries relevant in today’s Google age. (Check out my introductory post on Open Access for more background information). However, there are several barriers to hosting successful OA Week events — particularly for small academic libraries, which may not have the same resources or research activity as larger institutions. In fact, they likely have fewer staff and lower budgets to contribute to organizing OA Week events (which typically are in the planning process by May or June) and their patrons may also have a lower interest in scholarly communication due to fewer publishing faculty members and graduate students at their institutions.
Taking up staff and budgetary resources while offering limited guarantee of success, hosting events for Open Access Week can seem daunting for a small academic library to undertake. There are plenty of ways small academic libraries can scale back their OA Week celebrations to limit the risk they take on though.
After looking at websites for Canadian and American academic libraries at institutions with around 1,000-2,000 students enrolled, I have come up with some examples of ways to host small Open Access Week events at small academic libraries.
A popular low-risk way to observe Open Access Week is to put up informational displays in the library, which provides patrons with a low-commitment opportunity to learn about Open Access and why it matters to them.
- Staff to research and design the displays;
- Budget to print displays; and,
- Space to put up the displays.
- There is the option to re-use elements (or all of the components) of these displays each year.
- Patrons can choose to engage with the displays for however long they like.
- Displays are passive and don’t require staff to actively deliver information or run a program.
- They have the potential to reach a large number of patrons.
- Patrons may not engage with the displays, either because they don’t pass through that area of the library or because they are not attracted to them.
- The static nature of displays may not make the information memorable to patrons.
- Place your informational display in a high-traffic area of your library, ideally in a place near where you regularly have staff (i.e. the circulation desk) so patrons have somewhere to direct any questions they may have about the display.
- Check early to see if you are required to do any departmental printing through an internal service at your institution as they may have longer processing times than at private printing companies.
Informational display examples:
Cape Breton University – Sydney, Nova Scotia
CBU’s informational displays were particularly innovative because they featured the market prices of scholarly articles, providing clear examples of the high costs of scholarly communication and illustrating the need for Open Access to patrons.
Many small academic libraries are already blogging regularly, and so posting Open Access content during OA Week is a great way to roll OA-specific programming into your library’s regular activities.
- A blog platform; and,
- Staff to write and post the blog.
- This option doesn’t require any additional resources if your library already has a staff member dedicated to blogging regularly.
- OA blog posts will be available for patrons to access year-round through your blog’s archive, index, and tags.
- Posts can be easily shared via social media channels.
- Your blog may not be highly visible on your institution’s website and so your post may have a limited reach.
- Share your blog post via your library’s social media channels in order to attract visitors.
Blog Post Examples:
Colby College – Waterville, ME
Colby College’s arts librarian observed Open Access Week by blogging about a different Open Access art resource every day of the week, from catalogues of Cezanne’s paintings to collections of Mexican American music recordings, to titles of MetPublications. I think this is a great approach to engaging patrons with Open Access Week because this useful and interesting content is likely to attract students to the blog posts, where they will then also be exposed to information on Open Access.
Emily Carr University of Art + Design – Vancouver, British Columbia
While not technically a blog post, this news and events post provides an overview of the basics of Open Access Week. Sharing this information in a visible location on your website such as the news and events section is an easy way to promote awareness of Open Access. I personally like how they embedded the PhD Comics video “Open Access Explained!” in their post to provide some fun and interactive content to educate visitors about Open Access.
If you have institutional access to modify your library’s website and also have a tech-savvy staff member with some web design experience, you can do some fun and interesting things with your library’s website to celebrate Open Access Week.
- A website (and access to update or modify it); and,
- Staff with web skills to update, modify, and maintain the library website.
- Alterations to the library website will be highly visible to patrons.
- There is the potential to reach a large number of patrons.
- Website modifications provide opportunities to design innovative and interactive engagement with patrons on Open Access.
- You may face institutional barriers when it comes to modifying your library’s website.
- Modifications could cause unforeseen technical issues on your website.
- Lack of staff web skills and knowledge could make creating and maintaining any modifications difficult.
- There is the possibility that some patrons may be confused and frustrated with website modifications.
- I would only recommend this route if you already have someone available on your staff, web, or IT team who is familiar with web design and maintenance and will reliably understand the amount of time and effort a project will take and also be able to resolve any glitches that may come up.
Library Website Examples:
California College of the Arts – San Francisco, CA
In order to celebrate Open Access Week and raise awareness for the initiative, California College of the Arts put an OA search tab on their library’s website. This seemingly small observance of OA Week likely took a fair amount of technical knowledge and resources, but I am sure it caught the eyes of patrons!
Hosting events is a higher-risk option for small academic libraries to celebrate Open Access Week since they often require pretty significant staff, budget, and space resources in their planning and execution with no guarantee of attendance. That said, hosting a well-planned and engaging event will be memorable for attendees who may become informed champions of the Open Access initiative themselves.
- Staff to organize, market, and execute the event;
- Budget for any supplies, equipment, speaker fees, and marketing materials; and,
- Space to host the event.
- Events are an engaging and memorable way to educate patrons on Open Access.
- Hosting events requires more resources than other options for celebrating OA Week.
- Events reach a limited number of patrons.
- Set clear goals to help measure the success of your program in ways other than its attendance, as it is unlikely that your OA event will attract more than 30 participants.
- Target a specific audience to help focus the goals of the event (i.e. a program designed for faculty will likely look different than one for undergraduates) and increase interest within that particular group.
- Collaborate with other departments at your institution to limit the risk undertaken by the library.
City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Centre – New York, NY
CUNY’s Graduate Centre hosted workshops and events to celebrate Open Access Week for the past two years. In 2014, they presented a workshop on understanding and protecting your rights as a scholarly author. They also screened the film The Internet’s Own Boy, which examines the life and contribution of internet and information activist Aaron Swartz, followed by a discussion. In 2015 , CUNY Graduate Centre hosted similar workshops on who owns published scholarly material and also hosted two installments of an Academic Works Upload-A-Thon. These are all good examples of events to target specifically at a researching graduate-level student population at your institution.
Davidson College – Davidson, NC
The library at Davidson College collaborated with two partners to host their Open Access Week events, which is an effective way to compile resources, spread out the workload, and attract patrons associated with each collaborator — therefore reducing the risk taken on by any single department. They hosted a panel on Open Access and also screened The Internet’s Own Boy to celebrate Open Access Week.
Sources / Further Reading
- International Open Access Week. Retrieved from http://www.openaccessweek.org/
- Johnson, Paula C. (2014). International Open Access Week at small to medium U.S. academic libraries: The first five years. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(6), pp. 626-631. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/command/detail?sid=98e17371-12a4-4b08-9a07-4f6c0121ee4d%40sessionmgr113&vid=1&hid=110