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Dean’s Update: Exploring the Diverse Connotations of “Open Access”

October 8, 2020

We invite In Circulation readers to take a little time this October to continue to learn about the benefits of Open Access and help increase participation in the movement to adopt it. Most academic librarians immediately associate the concept of “Open Access” with making scholarship and research freely and immediately available online. However, as you read other articles in this issue of In Circulation, you may think of several other connotations of “open access.”

In one article, several Libraries staff reflect on both their genuine apprehension about returning to work on campus, as well as the pleasantly surprising benefits  from experiencing the reopened access to the Libraries’ physical facilities, which closed in March due to the pandemic.

We also appreciate the opportunity to “open access” to this year’s ScholarSip series to more people beyond the campus, and thereby extend the community that we nurture around offering informal access to Drexel research.

Working with students, faculty, and other Drexel staff, the Libraries’ election enthusiasts aim to inspire voting this fall through access to thoughtful, open discussions to help our Drexel Dragons make informed decisions when casting their ballots.

All the activities of the season reported in this issue continue to reflect the Drexel Libraries’ strategic directions toward improving the future of an academic library, as re-envisioned about four years ago. Numerous unexpected changes certainly have accelerated or restricted our own need to change how we imagine the future library. Disruptions in fiscal demands within higher education challenge us to address influencers of change differently. Voicing our values for equitable and uninhibited access to research and authoritative information is not sufficient. Applying our growing managerial expertise to ensure access to scholarship should reduce costs to our institutions and help increase the University’s commitments to contributing to society’s dependency on knowledge.  

Libraries attend to the bridges between the management of content and the administration of the resources devoted to ensuring their availability. They do so with guidance from their client’s interests—those of readers, researchers, learners, educators, decision makers, to name a few. Open Access calls for thinking beyond the challenges of going to a library to connect to its collections. Instead, it requires engagement with a range of interconnected conditions to ensure that academic clients are able to find, retrieve, integrate with other tools, and importantly, ethically reuse the products of research, creativity and critical thinking.

Libraries can help guide awareness and cost-effectively provide ways to organize, preserve, and manage shared use of content, while inspiring the quest of self-directed learning. We never can do so in a vacuum and continually encourage partners to help us achieve an open and accessible world of knowledge.

Danuta A. Nitecki, PhD
Dean of Libraries