On Access

openaccessAs we wrap up the academic year and head into summer, most of our undergraduates and many of our faculty head off to other locations across the country and across the globe, and we welcome a new set of students and faculty who join us for our language schools and our Bread Loaf School of English. It is during these transitions that I am particularly reminded of the need and challenges of providing access to the library’s collections.  People who are no longer on our campus network need to use the library’s website to gain access to our electronic resources, and of course they lose the easy access to the physical resources housed in our libraries. New arrivals to campus need to get connected to our network and learn how to navigate both our website and our buildings quickly. And for language schools and BLSE programs that take place on other campuses, we need to ship printed materials to various far-flung locations.

There is a future of the library that some envision where all resources are digital. While such a future brings with it promises of ease of use and access, the present reality is that the demise of print seems neither imminent nor, based on what we are learning about how people prefer to absorb information, desirable. It is also decidedly more expensive. One of the on-going questions we continue to wrestle with is how to make this transition to a more digital library in a way that neither breaks our budget nor damages our collective ability to engage with long-form texts.

This summer we plan to spend time talking with our graduate students within the language schools and at the BLSE in order to understand better how they approach their research, and how they engage both with digital and print texts. We’re also inviting back to campus Naomi Baron, author of Words on Screen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, to help us better understand the trade-offs associated with this move to reading on screen, and strategies for helping us all learn how to better focus in a world of increasing distraction.

Another important dimension of access is how we provide access to the intellectual property that our scholars create on our campus. This year we have have reviewed the national literature on open access, and through campus discussion, we have crafted an open access policy that will provide anyone with an internet connection with access to the scholarly articles produced by our faculty. This in turn will result in making improvements to how we manage and support the depositing of materials in our campus repository, and in connecting our campus repository to regional and national repositories.

These transitions and transformations are by turn exhilarating, exhausting, energizing, and enervating. Please do let me know your thoughts and questions on these access questions.  Our efforts to best serve your research needs can only be improved by your helping us better understand your own experience navigating this increasingly digital world of information.