Open Education Spreading


I’ve been bookmarking open education resources for years now, but it always surprises me the number of big name universities that are offering open content so that we can all learn from home for free if we want!

A recent article on talks about this more:

The proliferation of so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCs, has the potential to transform higher education at a time when colleges and universities are grappling with shrinking budgets, rising costs and protests over soaring tuition and student debt.

Supporters say these online courses can lower teaching costs, improve learning online and on campus, and significantly expand access to higher education, which could fuel technological innovation and economic growth.

More on Open Access


I recently wrote about the cost of journal subscriptions for libraries and the argument for supporting open access. David Weinberger also recently wrote about open access, but his post was a summary of a few points from Open Access by Peter Suber (a book I’ll now be buying). One of the points that shocked me from David’s post:

“In 2010, Elsevier’s journal division had a profit margin of 35.7 percent while ExxonMobil had only 28.1 percent.” (p. 32)

Holy cow! That’s just insane. Read David’s post here and learn more about the book here.

Get more open access books

Back in March I attended Computers in Libraries and at one of the social events I learned about a new site to try and get more books released as open access – that project is called is a a place for individuals and institutions to join together to give their favorite ebooks to the world. We work with rights holders to decide on fair compensation for releasing a free, legal edition of their already-published books, under Creative Commons licensing. Then everyone pledges toward that sum. When the threshold is reached (and not before), we collect the pledged funds and we pay the rights holders. They issue an unglued digital edition; you’re free to read and share it, with everyone, on the device of your choice, worldwide.

I loved the idea so much I signed right up and started telling all of my friends. Today I realized that I never told all of you!! So, if you haven’t already, please check out and if you’re a publisher or author, maybe consider helping unglue one of your own works.

On a related note, is having an issue right now with Amazon cutting off their access to the crowdfunding platform. This blog thread explains it all and asks for help and ideas if you have any to share.

The argument for open access


The other night I was sent a link to an article entitled ‘Is the Academic Publishing Industry on the Verge of Disruption?‘ by Simon Owens. The title had me intrigued, but it did not actually prepare me for what I was about to read. In his article Owens summarizes what we librarians already know – academic journals have become way too expensive for us to maintain our subscriptions. Libraries are cutting budgets left and right and having such high fees for journals is not helping.

What I didn’t expect was the tilt of this article toward the value of open access journals. The fact that in recent years open access journals have become more viable and accessible. I know that in the library science world I have many open access journals that I keep up with (because they have great info and are free for me to learn from). The Directory of Open Access Journals boasts of 7988 journals (I’m not sure how much more that is from previous years, but it’s a nice number), 130 of which are LIS Journals.

In his article, Owens points us to the situation specifically at Harvard:

In the quiet, restrained world of research libraries, any controversies that arise are, for the most part, cordial and largely academic. So some within the industry may have been understandably surprised by the widespread attention paid when, in April, Harvard’s Faculty Advisory Council sent a letter to the faculty concerning what it alleged was a crisis with its scholarly journal subscriptions.

The letter reported an “untenable situation facing the Harvard Library” in which “many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive.” The letter revealed that Harvard is paying $3.75 million annually in journal subscriptions and that they make up “10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires.” A few of the journals, it says, cost upward of $40,000 a year–each. “Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices.” Its conclusion: “Major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained.” To underscore the weight of what Harvard had just done by releasing this letter, one blogger headlined his post, “The wealthiest university on Earth can’t afford its academic journal subscriptions.”

Though the letter’s short-term impact was to inform the non-academic world of the growing tension between research libraries and journal publishers, many in the industry say its long-term effect lies in its list of recommendations for how to ameliorate the situation. Harvard implores its top researchers to “consider submitting articles to open-access journals” and to “consider resigning” from the editorial boards of journals that don’t provide open-access offerings. Because an open-access journal allows anyone to easily and without cost read any of its published material, a large-scale migration to the platform would ease many of the financial burdens posed by subscription journals.

The article goes on for 6 more pages with a lot of great info on how open access works and how peer review works, etc. It’s shocking to me (someone who has never been on the purchasing side of journal subscriptions) to see prices like those mentioned in this article. As an author I know that I get annoyed when my publications are priced out of the market – how can any journal article author expect to reach their audience with prices like those these subscription services are charging?

If you’re interested in learning more check out the entire article and if you plan on publishing anytime soon maybe check out the open access journals or at least talk to the journal publisher about what they charge for their subscriptions to make sure that the pricing is fair and is going to reach the widest audience. The one thing I haven’t experienced with open access journals in the LIS world is being charged as an author to submit articles – but that is something you’ll need to look out for if you do decide to go the open access route to reach your target audience.

Open Issue of OLA Quarterly

This came over one of my mailing lists and I thought I should share with you all this issue of the Oregon Library Association Quarterly which is full of articles about libraries and openness.

The next issue of the OLA Quarterly is available for you to curl up with during rainy autumn days. You can find it on the OLA homepage at:

We hope you enjoy this issue edited by Matthew “Buzzy” Nielsen as he explores the topic of: Open Libraries: More than Just Open Books or Open Doors

Harvard Business School approves open-access policy

After coming from a conference where all of the publishers want to know how to make money if they give things away for free, it was nice to find this news item:

Two years to the day after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences became the first school at Harvard to vote an open-access policy, the Harvard Business School enacted their own policy on February 12, 2010, becoming the fifth Harvard school with a similar policy. Under the HBS policy, Like the previous policies, faculty agree to provide copies of their scholarly articles for distribution from the university’s DASH repository and grant the university a waivable license to distribute the articles.

The more colleges that enact open access policies the more accessible reliable research papers will become to those who can’t afford to pay for professional journals and/or databases.

Foolishly Optimistic

Sometimes when I talk to others I feel a bit foolish for being so optimistic – the thing is that I believe in libraries and librarians and always think that that others feel the same way I do. In the latest Library 2.0 Gang podcast, I deemed 2009 as the year of open. I honestly believed that we were finally on the right track in the library world. I had spoken to hundreds of librarians this year about open source and open data and always got positive responses. I have read online about all of the great open endeavors libraries were participating in. But today I feel less optimistic – like maybe I have been viewing these great steps with blinders on. This from Ed Summers on

On December 18th I was asked to shut off by the Library of Congress. As an LC employee I really did not have much choice other than to comply.

Back in May I added this resource to my bookmarks and thought it was a pretty neat tool. Now, it’s gone and I’m not the only one who finds this a bit disturbing. Tim Spalding (who has been speaking out for the freedom of information in libraries for ages now) says:

The time has come to get serious. The library world is headed in the wrong direction. It’s wrong for patrons—and taxpayers. And it’s wrong for libraries.

And Richard Wallis states:

LOC should have listened to Ed in the first place and taken the high ground in leading the work in to creating a semantic web of data with their valuable publicly available data. At the end of his post Ed hints that LC is still considering running a service like at, but it’s not there yet. Why-o-why did they not learn from his work and ride the wave of introducing their own service based on his great initiative. Instead they present to the world a short-termist not-invented-here attitude, that reminds me of other well established leviathans of the world of library metadata.

Today I feel like I did a few years back – negative and downtrodden – like no matter how hard I try or believe, libraries just aren’t going to change … the simple idea of sharing is just too hard to grasp. Maybe I’m being over-dramatic … but it’s these kinds of things that find a way to push all of the great strides we’ve made this year (Howard County going open source, SOPAC2, etc) out of my head and makes me depressed.

This reminds me of a spat my sister and I had ages ago. When my sister was younger we had very different tastes in music. I was listening to Indigo Girls in the car one day and my sister, hearing “The hardest to learn was the least complicated” said to me – “That makes no sense!” And I said, “It makes total sense.” Today, we see that the library world is having an awfully hard time learning something very very simple.

Open Access Day in October

October 14, 2008 will be the world’s first Open Access Day.

The founding partners are SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), Students for FreeCulture, and the Public Library of Science.

Open Access Day will help to broaden awareness and understanding of Open Access, including recent mandates and emerging policies, within the international higher education community and the general public.

Read more in the full Press Release.

Spread the word.

Free Book Covers from LibraryThing

Wow! LibraryThing is full of awesome announcements lately!!

A few days ago, just before hitting thirty million books, we hit one million user-uploaded covers. So, we’ve decided to give them away—to libraries, to bookstores, to everyone.

Learn how to get the covers and integrate them into your websites, opacs, etc.

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VALENJ: From Open Stacks to Open Source

This week I was lucky enough to attend an event at The College of New Jersey entitled Next Generation Academic Library System Symposium and hosted by VALE (Virtual Academic Library Environment of New Jersey). The goal of this day was for the members of VALE to decide if they wanted to join in on a shared open source ILS community.

The program started with an intro to Open Source by Joe Lucia, University Librarian, Villanova University and President of PALINET Board. Joe started off by letting us know that he thought of himself as an Open Source Evangelist – which made me say “hey, that’s my job!” :) Throughout his talk, Joe quoted so many great resources that it was hard to keep up. The video and slides should be available online soon (I’ll keep you posted) – but for now, here’s my summary.

Joe called his presentation a thought piece on why open source makes sense for libraries. I did a review of literature for Drexel that was pretty similar to this – but I have to say that Joe found some better resources and makes some better arguments than I did in my paper.

He started off by talking about the concept of the “commons.” Libraries exist to support and extend the commons for the community we serve – particularly the intellectual commons which fundamentally valuable to support access and innovation. — The commons can be a physical location like streets & parks – but is more related to ideas – like the theory of relativity and writings out of copyright in the public domain.

He recommended reading The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler. Benkler says that the “commons” refers to a particular institutional form of structuring the rights to access, use and control resources.

The library as a commons

Libraries are situated within the domain of three commons

  • they provide their communities with open access to intellectual and cultural resources – no single individual controls or uses up the resources of a library
  • our resources are accessible to anyone who walks in – accessibility to all translates into “open stacks”
  • open source is an extension to our culture of openness

The next book that Joe recommended to us was The Success of Open Source by Steve Weber. (start updating your wishlist – that’s what I’m doing).

Open Source & Libraries

If anyone should be doing open source anywhere – it’s us!! Open source shares our values & missions!!

We need to open up our sense of what we’re about – open source software with the “library space” enhances the library as a center for participatory culture and collaborative enterprise.

What is open source?

  • open source can be commercial – but is not proprietary – the commercial entities neither own nor control access to the code base
  • most good applications begin because a developer needs to “scratch an itch” – a response to something that has to be done that can’t be done with available solutions
  • it’s typically built on or extends what’s already been done
  • when it’s successful it’s modular – not a big monolithic package
    • this then results in a development process that can be scaled to a very rapid update process because you’re just updating pieces instead of the hierarchical approach of the monolithic packages
  • “to many eyes, all bugs are shallow” (from the Cathedral & the Bazaar) – if lots of people are looking at the code base it’s gong to get pretty lean and pretty clean pretty fast because anyone who seeing something wrong will fix it

Why not switch?

Some librarians are surprised to find the open-source products can cost a similar amount to the proprietary solutions. Joe argues (and I agree) that the issue isn’t the cost – but how the costs are distributed and what control you have over it – there is a greater investment in development for open source than there is for actual support. This means that you’re paying for improvements to the application when you’re paying for open source and with the proprietary stuff you’re paying to have someone answer the phone and read through a script with you (sorry that was my negativity – not Joe’s – based on recent experiences trying to get support).

Librarians will often ask “open source sounds all really nice idealistically – but how are we going to do it?” Libraries are sitting on a lot of assets that they invest in proprietary software it’s a matter of how you redirect the money you’re already paying for technology into a different arena. It’s not “can we do it?” it’s “how do we do it?”

Why not take 25% of what we currently pay to propriety software and put it into open source- that would be a significant beginning – could initiate a revolution in library technology. What an amazing idea! I love it – in fact John from WALDO mentions something like this in his talk (which I’ll summarize after this one). We may even need to re-allocate positions to technology development where possible – if we change where we’re putting money it will improve our work flow within the library. Having technologists on staff will make all the difference.

We need to deepen the culture of technology collaboration and resource sharing in libraries – and stop worrying about what’s in our little baskets and start sharing – there is a competition among libraries – who does such and such better – we need to get away from this. I always found this funny – I think of libraries as places to share information – and yet I often find libraries or librarians who are unwilling to share resources.

Joe ended with: “It can be done, and we can do it!”


What a great talk!! Joe did an amazing job of revving the audience up for the rest of day. I also think he gave us a lot to think about and a lot of great resources to check out regarding open source and how it fits into libraries. Keep an eye out for his slides and video!! It’s well worth a look!

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