Open Access as a point of principle for Librarians

I wrote this some time ago, and it remained in my pending queue.  I’ve finally finished it.

LIANZA members should be obligated to publish in Open Access Journals, through the code of conduct of the Society.

I tweeted that during RLL2, the bi yearly (and excellently run) conference for Librarians who do research, under the auspices of LIANZA.  It seemed like a reasonable idea after a workshop on Open Access had got everyone in what seemed to me like a consensus on the value of Open Access.  Its hard to tell with Librarians though, sometimes they need to sit and think about something, and then they’ll respond, in full sentences and paragraphs with thoughtful responses that absolutely destroy your line of thinking.

That’s why I tweeted it.  That’s why I’m writing this, to give people a space to discuss if this is a good idea or not.

I have got a few things wrong though.  The Association doesn’t have a code of conduct for members.  What it does have is the Objects of the Association (which I’ve repeated here:

Objects of the Association

3.(i) The core object of the New Zealand Library Association (operating as LIANZA) is to support and promote the provision of quality library and information services which deliver positive economic, social and cultural outcomes for communities in Aotearoa through:

a) equitable, free access to information
b) opportunities for lifelong learning, literacy, and creativity
c) democratic engagement and participation

3(ii) In order to achieve this object, the New Zealand Library Association:

a) works with library and information organisations to support the delivery of library and information services that are vital  to the economic, social, and cultural wellbeing of New Zealand Aotearoa;
b) provides professional development services and forums to library and information professionals;
c) recognises and honours the attainment of professional standards and distinguished professionalism through professional registration, honours and awards;
d) promotes the role of library and information services in Aotearoa New Zealand and of library and information professionals;
e) promotes and encourages research into issues and challenges in the library and information profession in Aotearoa New Zealand; and
f) promotes, encourages and monitors ethical standards of conduct in the library and information profession

3(iii) The New Zealand Library Association is committed to the recognition and implementation of the Treaty of Waitangi and the role of its membership in informing and educating their communities in Aotearoa New Zealand.

My reading of these are that if you take publishing OA as progressive, something that supports democracy and equity, then the aims of the association imply you should be publishing in truely OA venues.  

I suggested this on twitter, and the following conversation occured


Continued 9 Sept 2019…

That response from the Copyright Licensing NZ CEO put me back a little. Was I really being a Stalinist authoritarian by suggesting LIANZA members should be obliged to publish OA? I left this idea in the queue and got on with life.

Since then I’ve published a few articles. All of them have been in so-called platinum OA – free to read, free to publish (the vast majority of OA journals are like this). Recently I was asked to contribute to a journal, and discovered, when I submitted it, that it was a subscription one. I was a bit non-plussed. They granted an OA waiver (for free) on request, but it made me think again about my call to encourage all members of my professional association to publish OA, if I could get caught out as easily as that. (Appeal to my vanity, that’s all it takes!).

After some thought I’ve become even more convinced that LIANZA should encouraged publishing OA. Why? Because it makes a statement of intent, and it makes people think twice, much like I had to think twice about my own publication. If there was no OA option, I would have withdrawn it, and published it here: CC0, or used my institutional repository to make sure there was a green OA (subscription articles available in manuscript form in a subject or institutional repository).

My aim is not to force anyone to do anything other than think about the consequences of their actions. Library research is funded by us, all of us, to the benefit of the greater good, and usually in our ‘spare’ time. How dare publishers provide products that actually hide it from people behind a paywall, and call it ‘freedom’?

Of course this begs a lot of issues at the heart of the radical act that is Librarianship – what do we do and for who, and why? A statement of intent that our research is available, for free, for those that paid for it seem the least we in LIANZA could do.

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