Open Access Week promotes affordable scholarly materials

Eminent in the library and research realm is the concept of Open Access. This concept was promoted during National Open Access Week, which took place from Oct. 19–Sunday Oct. 25. The movement attempts to address the ever-rising costs of scholarly materials—an issue that concerns all students.

“It’s organized and coordinated by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition to highlight the importance of publications and research in scholarly fields that is available to everyone,” Milne Library Interim Director Kate Pitcher said. “In some respects, it’s a brave new world. There’s a lot of change; it’s happening really fast and I think it’s hard for faculty sometimes to keep up with it. Especially during weeks like this one, the library tries to educate and do programming because new changes come all the time.”

Milne Library annually schedules events regarding Open Access. The library holds forums for students and faculty about open textbooks and faculty panels about how to get students involved in Open Access. Furthermore, the library invites Open Access advocates to campus to speak about it with Geneseo students.

While the cost of educational and scholarly resources has never been insignificant, prevailing economic issues have made the Open Access effort more relevant now than ever. Prices of academic materials like books and journals have skyrocketed while funding for schools and libraries have remained relatively unaltered—if not decreased. This not only causes libraries to make difficult decisions about fund allocations, but also increases the burden of textbook fees for students.

A sub-category of the Open Access movement is Open Educational Resources, which the matter of textbook costs primarily falls under. “What we’ve done here at Geneseo is work with partner libraries for funding and grants—we got the [Instructional Innovative Technology] Grant for two years to actually produce a call for proposals and to get [State University of New York] faculty to contribute textbook proposals to create open textbooks for their courses,” Pitcher said. “Out of those two calls, we selected 30 originally, now down to 26 and we’ve published 10 of them.”

The monetary savings statistics from this mission have been meticulously recorded and the results have confirmed that vast savings occur for students when such resources are used in the classroom. “In spring 2014, a Geneseo geology professor with a course of 144 people enrolled saved his students approximately $13,000 by assigning his own textbook manuscript rather than demanding the purchase of an expensive textbook,” Pitcher said.

Milne Library hopes to do the programming for Open Education Week in March 2016. They also have a goal of highlighting open textbooks and raising student awareness to the movement.

Outside of the library and research sphere, there are misconceptions and a general lack of knowledge about Open Access. “Predatory publishers taint the name of Open Access publications by setting up bogus journals and then asking authors to pay for their articles to be published,” Pitcher said.

“We’re getting scholarly material out there into the public sphere,” she added. “It’s rewarding for all those involved.”