What role will Academic Libraries play in moving towards an open access future?

    In April, leading independent academic and professional publisher SAGE convened a roundtable in association with the British Library into the role of the academic library in an open access (OA) future. Chaired by publishing consultant Simon Inger and attended by an international panel of 14 senior librarians and other industry experts, the conclusions of this discussion have today been published in a report, “Moving towards an open access future: the role of academic libraries”.

    The report is a summary of the discussion around what support and skills librarians will require in an OA future, and how institutions, publishers, funders and other parties should be supporting their library partners, including variation by discipline and geographic region. Representing librarians from the UK, Europe, USA and the Middle East, attendees indicated that the concept of the individual library is changing. Panellists highlighted an important shift, recognizing that attention will shift from the library to the librarian: the information professional will be the library of the future. Academic libraries and research communication will have to evolve as open access grows in importance, but while traditional roles may change, librarians will still play an important role in managing and advising on information and information-related budgets.

    Key discussions include:

    • Addressing the culture of mistrust and misunderstanding regarding OA amongst researchers
    • The varying uptake of OA and the subsequent impacts
    • The key roles that librarians will play in:
      • Sharing discovery and support services amongst libraries and institutions
      • Managing services such as institutional repositories
      • Providing licensing and related advice to researchers
      • Supporting preservation and managing metadata and recognising the importance of recommender services
      • Explaining open access to researchers.

    Open access calls for a greater move towards communication and working together. The report concluded that to remain an important part of the research process in institutions and beyond, the librarian has to be creative and support users in new ways through communication, collaboration and tools.

    Stephen Barr, President SAGE International said, “SAGE is committed to supporting the sustainable dissemination of scholarly and educational material. The shift to open access raises issues for the whole scholarly communication process, and we are committed to working with our stakeholders to navigate these changes together. We were delighted to work with the British Library in hosting this workshop to review the potential challenges for academic libraries. Events since the workshop, such as the Finch report and restatement of the position of the EU on access to and preservation of scientific information, have increased the importance of engaging with these changes for many stakeholders. We are part of a changing scholarly landscape and are committed to supporting our publishing partners, including launching new SAGE Open journals and widening the availability of our SAGE Choice programme at a lower rate for the humanities and social sciences.”

    Caroline Brazier, Director of Scholarship and Collections, The British Library, said, “The research library community has been awaiting a ‘sea-change’ in the world of scholarly communications […] and it may finally be arriving. Open Access is expected to speed up research progress, productivity, and knowledge transfer as well as promoting the democratisation of knowledge. While research librarians have been amongst the strongest advocates of open access models, the implications of these models for research libraries and their future role in supporting the research process are less well understood. With this in mind, we very much welcomed the opportunity to work with SAGE to host the roundtable at the British Library and to participate in stimulating discussions. We hope this report conveys the urgency and significance of these issues to the wider research community.”

    The report, “Moving towards an open access future: the role of academic libraries”, forms part of a suite of research-led resources commissioned by SAGE for the librarian community. Others include: “Working Together: evolving value for academic libraries” and “Improving Discoverability of Content in the Twenty-First Century ”. The full report can be viewed here. For further information about this report and the other white papers for the library community, please visit  SAGE ‘s Library page.