The Old Scholar's Historical Thoughts

November 21, 2009

Open Access is a funny thing

Filed under: Readings — theoldscholar @ 10:53 pm

Just have a lot of random thoughts this week.

Looking at the articles on Open Access News, I saw that the British Library had digitized their 500,000 item but they charge you for looking at their stuff. On the other hand the British National Archives are free. Many of the collections at the Library of Congress are free, but our National Archives is having someone else do the digitizing and it will cost you a fee to see the data. Digitized US Maps are free, British maps cost money. Government logic and consistency seem to be mutually exclusive.

By the way – did everybody notice the note published on the Open Access News site that said the blog would not be kept up to date as much as the Open Access Tracking Project. That is a wiki with updates about OA.

A problem with Open Access is the Chaos that occurs when there are not “the accepted” places to go. It may be limiting to only have the 40 or so  journals on Victorian England to look at for research but that is a lot smaller than trying to link up every scholars site from every university and make sense of them. If you want to see Chaos, just try and track down all the standards that people propose for creating data sharing that Willinsky talks about. He references the Open Archives Initiative but that is only one of many. Which ones are being maintained? I have worked with the W3C before, so I know they are a standards body with clout, but how about MINH – who follows them, who uses them.

Now take that chaos magnify it millions of times and try to sift through scholary ouput – using the methods proposed by Wineburg discussed in chapter 11. Where did this come from? Who is the guy who wrote it? How can I trust what I found on the web?

One of the great things about coming back to school for me has been the access I get through the library to journals. I have found some great information. I went looking for an article the other day and found an abstract of exactly what I was looking for. I could not access it through the Library Catalog System. I went to the library and Mike was working there so I asked for some help – after all he’s in CLIO-1 like me, he must know all the answers. Well, we both learned something that day. The George Mason Library subscribes to the Oxford Journals. But they do not subscribe to the Oxford Journals before 1996. For those you have to try and get an inter-library loan or you can pay $36 per one day use of an article. Needless to say I did not pay the $36 to see how the one day use was enforced and I was not able to use the research someone else had done. So this is another form of Open Access that needs to go into Appendix 1 of Willinsky’s book. I think it is called “Open – but not for you”.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] either Virginia Tech’s or George Mason’s library system. As the Old Scholar has pointed out, occasionally you will find an article that your library does not have access to, but I’ve […]

    Pingback by Open Access « John Cassara's Blog — November 23, 2009 @ 5:54 pm | Reply


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