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Tuesday 13 November 2012

LIANZA and open access

Moving to a new job has been keeping me happily preoccupied, but the email I received from LIANZA yesterday was just about calculated to spur me to break radio silence. To quote, interspersed with my commentary in [square brackets]:

From November 22, parts of the LIANZA website will be locked to members only. As the cost of developing and maintaining the website comes out of LIANZA membership fees, LIANZA Council decided to make certain pages exclusive to members. The Council worked with the Website Advisory Group to determine appropriate members-only content.

From November 22 you will need to login to the website to view these locked pages:
  • LIANZA Blog
    [Really? Does anyone really think I'll log in to read a blog? I won't even click a link to read a blog; I certainly don't have time to log in to a website just to find out if there happens to be a post today. If the full post isn't in my Google Reader, I don't read it.]
  • Library Life newsletter features
    [I occasionally click a link from the email newsletter to read the full story. That's about to become even more occasional.]
  • Latest issue of the New Zealand Library and Information Management Journal (NZLIMJ)
    [This implies that previous issues will remain accessible, which is something at least. But still a tremendous disappointment. I thought I'd been seeing a move towards opening NZLIMJ up, and had hoped to see it soon appear in the Directory of Open Access Journals. In the current climate, I think a library association should be promoting open access, not locking information down.]
  • Conference papers
    Just... What a tremendous disservice this does to the authors! Conference papers are hard enough to search as it is; locking these behind a login only guarantees that no LIANZA non-members (and not many LIANZA members) will ever read or cite these. Don't we want rather to raise the profile of New Zealand LIS research?]
  • Copyright resources
    [...Okay, if you really must have an easter egg for LIANZA members I guess this qualifies as reasonable.]
  • Member profiles
    [Okay, sure, whatever.]
  • Advocacy Portal (already restricted to members)
    [Because it's... vitally important that only LIANZA members advocate for libraries...? To be honest I can see the argument for this as a valuable resource. I just think it'd be even more valuable if we all - members and non-members alike - cooperated on advocating for both our individual libraries and libraries as a class.]
  • Code of Practice
    [This comprises the "policy and procedures that are to be followed, day to day, in the running of the Association." So mostly only of use to members; otoh it seems a bit odd to keep it secret.]

Does LIANZA actually have evidence that there are significant numbers of people choosing not to be members because the content's there for free anyway? Enough people to be worth causing this hassle to existing members?

Because as a member, this does increase the hassle for me to access the content, and therefore reduces the amount of content I'll be bothered to look up. When I was a member of the Website Advisory Group, a big concern was getting conversations going on the website; hiding those conversations away just seems likely to exacerbate that problem. This move also reduces the visibility of LIS scholarship published by LIANZA, so makes it less likely I'd consider submitting to NZLIMJ (however see footnote). And philosophically, I'm not overly happy about paying a subscription to a library association that is working against open access to information.

Lucky for LIANZA's coffers, membership comes with other benefits that still make it worth the annual cheque. Because the moment its website content is locked behind a login screen, its value to me plummets.

Footnote for authors: If your conference paper is about to be locked behind the login screen but you actually would like other librarians nationally and internationally to have a chance at finding your research, you can deposit a copy at E-LIS - a subject repository for library and information science. (And/or in your institution's repository if it has one.)

Likewise for NZLIMJ articles - the author guidelines state a 6 month embargo for publication elsewhere, but I emailed editor Brenda Chawner to clarify this, and she says she interprets it to apply to formal publications, not repositories, and it would be fine with her if authors put copies of their articles into an institutional or subject repository.