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Publish, don't perish – Instalment 20

Open access archives

Many librarian authors find that depositing work in online open access (OA) LIS archives complements writing for LIS journals. While a number of academic institutions offer space for faculty to self-archive their work (and some even require it), librarian authors should also consider self-archiving their articles, presentations and other work in a subject-specific cross-institutional archive. Archives generally take both published and unpublished work, as well as preprints, conference papers, theses, working papers and reports, and any other relevant material authors wish to contribute.

These broader services offer a number of advantages, and strong archives also help increase the visibility and accessibility of the library literature – a plus for the profession as a whole. As E-LIS manager Antonella De Robbio points out, OA archives "make LIS research more visible and accessible, which in turn will increase its status and public value".

Anita Coleman, assistant professor, University of Arizona, and editor-in-chief, dLIST, makes a similar argument, saying:

"LIS is a fragmented field. Our researchers and authors come from many disciplinary backgrounds, are based in different communities, and produce different types of scholarly products. This causes two practical problems…information scatter and research excellence/quality. By information scatter, I mean that relevant LIS literature is scattered across a large number of databases. By research excellence/quality, I mean that our research isn't visible, isn't respected as much as it could be, because its cumulation and replicability are problematic".

Beyond their benefits for individual librarian/authors, the use of OA LIS archives can help resolve some of these issues and strengthen both the usability and the reputation of the library literature.

Why post your work in an OA repository?

Individual advantages to participating in online open-access archives include:

Easy archiving

Provide employers or other interested parties with an easy single link to all of your work, and keep track of your own writing over time. Online repositories also provide consistent URLs, whereas documents posted on personal web pages tend to be a bit less persistent.

Increased citation

Recent studies estimate that self-archived, online open access articles are cited twice as much as others. Take advantage of an easy way to increase your citation impact.

Increased exposure

Not only is work in OA archives more likely to be cited, if your work is freely available, more people can access it. Posting your work in OA archives can in this way be seen as complementary to publishing in open access journals. Some OA repositories also give you an idea of the number (and location) of people reading your work, giving you one measure of its use and impact.

International representation

Especially in the USA, we tend to narrow in on our own local literature and miss out on important and interesting research and initiatives from other countries. Online OA archives actively encourage international participation, as well as international representation on their boards.

Long-term preservation

Journals cease publication; subscription databases drop coverage. The proliferation of LIS journals makes it difficult for institutions to collect even a fraction of the thousands available. OA archives also serve as repositories, so that future generations of librarians can retrieve today's work. (Keep in mind, though, that non-institutional repositories are generally grant- or sponsor-funded. Always keep local copies of your work as well, or consider depositing it in multiple locations, under the LOCKSS – "Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe" – principle.)

Projects that complement the philosophy of librarianship

Open access exemplifies our commitment to the free flow of information. Fiona Bradley, information services librarian, University of Technology, Sydney, posted her master's thesis in an OA digital thesis programme. She notes: "As a librarian, my overriding concern is access to information. So, in depositing my thesis, I was interested in ensuring that it was available for anyone who may choose to read it". She continues posting to OA archives, saying: "Having written about access to information, scholarly publishing and open access, contributing my work to an OA archive also makes me feel that I'm a part of a solution". You give back to the profession by making it easy for other librarians to access your work.

Stimulation of "open peer review"

When you participate in an OA repository, you open your work up to comment from the larger library community. Incorporating others' viewpoints can make your writing stronger, and you can help other authors by commenting on their work as well.

Choosing an archive

The two main OA LIS archives are dLIST: Digital Library for Information Science and Technology and E-LIS: E-prints in Library and Information Science. While each serves a similar purpose, each also possesses some unique features; take some time to familiarize yourself with each and decide whether to deposit your work with one, with both, or solely with your own institution's archive.

Both dLIST and E-LIS comply with the Open Archives Initiative metadata harvesting protocol, making them interoperable with other OAI-compliant archives. Each provides an RSS feed of new additions and highlights the latest entries on its home page; dLIST also highlights recent news. Both require users to register prior to depositing their work.

Established in 2002, dLIST offers viewing statistics for individual documents, allowing writers to see which of their articles are most-read. This is nice, in that it allows authors to see some measure of usage aside from citation (particularly given that the majority of LIS publications remain uncited). As of this writing, E-LIS contains 3,560 documents, and is both searchable and browsable by categories like author, journal, subject, country, year, and latest additions. E-LIS also offers a handy demo showing step by step how to deposit work with the archive.

Realize that you can get involved in other ways than by just submitting your work. dLIST, for example, offers an internship programme. Find more information at: http://dlist.sir.arizona.edu/pubs/interns/dlistinterns.html. E-LIS offers volunteer opportunities; see http://eprints.rclis.org/support.html#collaboration.


When placing your work with a journal publisher, consider that publisher's willingness to let you archive your work in an open access repository. Pay special attention to copyright agreements, which vary tremendously from publisher to publisher. Some leave copyright with the author and give you the right to archive your work (on your own website, or with a general or institution-specific repository) after a certain period of time; others will demand all rights to your work in perpetuity. Read before you sign, and think about how big a priority OA archiving is to you. If your agreement is unclear, clarify the issue with the publisher beforehand.

Using OA archives for your own research

You have a couple of options for finding documents across multiple OA repositories, including in institution-specific archives. One interesting project is the ColLib wiki, which harvests new records and organizes them by category. dLIST also hosts DL-Harvest, which currently indexes over 14,000 papers from 13 different OA archives. E-LIS offers METALIS, which harvests metadata from institutions offering full-text LIS documents.

OA repositories offer a useful starting point for researching many LIS-related topics. Since access is free, you can visit to easily ascertain what others have written in your area of interest and what trends bear watching, even if your own institution fails to subscribe to the journals in which the material originally appeared. Think also about subscribing to the RSS feeds at both E-LIS and dLIST to get an ongoing snapshot of what researchers are depositing.

Read all about it

You can find a number of online open access articles and other resources about OA archives. Here are just a few to get you started:

Coleman, A. and Roback, J. (2005), "Open Access Federation for library and information science: dLIST and DL-Harvest", D-Lib, Vol. 11 No. 12.

Harnad, S. (2005), "Fast-forward on the green road to open access: the case against mixing up green and gold", Ariadne, No. 42, January 30.

The SPARC Open Access Newsletter. Also access a blog, forum, and other relevant resources from this page.

Suber, P. (2004), "Open access overview." June 21.

Tennant, R., (Ed.) (2006), Current Cites, March . (Scroll down to the StevanHarnad entry for multiple links to articles on open access archives.)

However you may choose to use them, OA archives provide a welcome service for both librarian authors and the profession as a whole. Pay attention to the possibilities, both for your own work and for your research.