When students graduate from college or university, they usually leave behind access to many of their institution’s library resources, and alumni seeking to access a journal or database online through their alma mater’s library website are often surprised when their institutional credentials no longer offer them access to resources they once took for granted. License agreements for databases and other online resources dictate who can gain access through an institutional subscription, and they often exclude alumni. This makes students expecting to graduate soon an important target for information about scholarly communication, Open Access, and OA resources they can continue to access after graduation. Importantly, tactics for engaging alumni on issues surrounding scholarly communication is a good lesson in targeting your approaches to unique patron needs.

How to engage alumni with Open Access

In her article on engaging undergraduates in scholarly communication published in College and Research Libraries News, Stephanie Davis-Kahl highlights the importance of reaching out to students by their final year of post-secondary to educate them about their limited access to library resources upon graduation and to point them in the direction of Open Access resources that will still be freely accessible after they graduate. She suggests these conversations about copyright and Open Access could be incorporated into classrooms by assigning in-class work involving searching databases or finding appropriately-licensed media to remix, which could be a launching-point for discussion on copyright, scholarly communication, and Open Access. Davis-Kahl goes also recommends that libraries could work with their institution’s alumni office to create subject-specific alumni guides listing Open Access resources relevant to their life and careers after graduation. These guides might be particularly useful for students graduating into what Davis-Kahl refers to as “high-need/low-paying jobs” such as in education or social services. Therefore, guides for these subject areas might be a good place to start for academic librarians seeking to create alumni guides for their institutions.

Examples from small academic libraries

Pacific University – Forest Grove, OR

Pacific University has created guides which highlight Open Access journals for its alumni  and for health professionals seeking freely-available information. I think having a guide targeted to health professionals is particularly interesting because it has an obvious application and therefore may be used more frequently.

Bridgewater College – Bridgewater, VA

While not necessarily educating patrons specifically on Open Access, Bridgewater College’s “After Graduation Library Tips” guide is a useful resource to begin a conversation with students about their limited access to institutional resources upon graduation — which may help ease students into later engagement on the importance of Open Access and other scholarly communication issues.

Aiming for a target in your Open Access engagement

I agree with Davis-Kahl that students expecting to graduate soon are a key target for information related to Open Access, and I think her approach to promoting scholarly communication by showing patrons how these issues apply to their immediate situation is a very effective tool for engagement. I have mentioned the importance of using a targeted approach to communicating issues surrounding scholarly communication and Open Access in my previous post on small Open Access events for small academic libraries, but I think it is worth reiterating here. Educating patrons on Open Access in terms they understand and applying them to issues that directly impact them is critical to effectively delivering these messages. Issues surrounding copyright, scholarly communication, and Open Access impact diverse groups of patrons in vastly different ways, and your approach to engaging these groups should reflect this difference in experience. Your plan for engaging patrons on Open Access should begin by identifying patron groups and determine their unique and overlapping needs, allowing you to successfully target populations with tailored information and programming that will be both useful and engaging to them.

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Featured image by the University of the Fraser Valley via Flickr Creative Commons.