Exploring Open Access Policies and the Humanities in an International Context

In September, Caitlin Pike and I attended the 3rd Annual Conference on Arts & Humanities (ICOAH) where we spoke about IUPUI’s Open Access (OA) Policy. The conference is organized by The International Institute of Knowledge Management (TIIKM), which is based in Sri Lanka, and its academic partners included Concordia University, Montréal, Canada and the Department of Communication & Journalism, University of Mumbai, India.

ICOAH conference photo

Official ICOAH Conference Group Photo

We presented about librarian involvement in implementing IUPUI’s faculty-adopted OA Policy. Discovering and archiving articles in the Humanities requires a different process than other fields. For example, many Arts and Humanities faculty authors do not appear in Scopus, so we used Google Scholar and created a new workflow that did not depend on a Scopus affiliation search. As librarians that work with Humanists, Caitlin and I spoke of those processes for finding and depositing articles, demonstrated who benefits from this work, and encouraged Arts & Humanities authors to use open access approaches to sharing their work. We also made a pitch to conference attendees to think about how they might advocate for OA in their institutions.

We believe that humanities librarians, and other subject librarians, can increase scholarly participation in open access. To demonstrate how we make a difference on our own campus, we shared the results of subject liaison participation in the IUPUI OA policy implementation.

We found that librarians who reach out directly to the faculty in their liaison area (School, Department, or Program) have a much higher response rate than the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS), which communicated through a generic organizational email account. In comparing the two, the librarians had better success following one attempt at email communication. Liaisons had a 28% participation rate compared to 19% for the CDS or the “Machine.” The factors that led to the success of the liaison librarians, among many things, included the work of the Scholarly Communications librarian, Jere Odell in fostering “embedded advocates” in campus Schools and Departments, and the formation of the library’s OA Policy Implementation Charter Group, which streamlined and piloted a process for depositing articles in the repository. But, we believe that relationships matter and authors are more likely to respond to a request from their librarian.

Librarians vs. The "Machine"  

Response rate for liaison librarians vs. the library's CDS

                                                                                      Librarian success by school

Based on a study conducted between Jan. 2015 and Mar. 2016

The outcomes our librarian-supported OA policy include global benefits. Our data shows that people from over 190 countries are accessing works from our institutional repository, ScholarWorks. Eight of the top 20 countries who access ScholarWorks are in Asia and Southeast Asia. Clearly a global audience is benefitting from our work, but we wanted to get to know how receptive the audience would be to sharing their own works and what questions they have about OA.

Downloads by country

File downloads for top 19 countries after the U.S. Data as of 17 Oct 2016.

Many conference participants told us they wanted to use open access approaches to sharing their work. We also provided the conference organizers with suggestions for software for their own repository. 

Open Access is a collaborative, inventive and progressive movement. It aspires the lofty goal of making the world a better place by providing free access to scholarly and educational works. The scholars, librarians, and technical support staff that work together to make OA possible are finding ways to freely share and preserve knowledge for years to come. Scholars around the world are benefitting from open access to knowledge and can reciprocate by building the infrastructure, skills, and relationships to implement OA sharing at their own institutions. According to Stephen DiGuilio, the ICOAH conference chair, “This conference asks the question: how can we join forces to cultivate the creativity and courage to forge a path to a more peaceful future?” Open Access provides a very real path to a global exchange of knowledge that is more inclusive and far-reaching than simply relying on subscription-based publishing.

We had a great time in Bali and enjoyed the feedback we received from a very international audience. Open Access is an international effort and we love making the humanities open for all.


(Bronwen Maxson is the liaison librarian to the English Department and Spanish Program and Caitlin Pike works with the School of Nursing and Department of Medical Humanities.)

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Updated Aug 14, 2017 by Webmaster