The Canadian Library Association recently issued a new, strongly worded open access statement ("Position Statement on Open Access for Canadian Libraries"). Peter Suber commented on this statement, saying "Many organizations have called on their governments to mandate OA for publicly-funded research, but the CLA is first I've seen to regard embargo periods as a temporary compromise, justified only to help publishers adapt during a transition period."
The American Library Association is a member of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and the Open Access Working Group, and. as such, has signed a variety of targeted statements about free access to government-funded research. The most active ALA Division in terms of open access support is the Association of College and Research Libraries, which has a number of activities geared towards promoting it.
Such statements and activities are praiseworthy, but the question remains: What kind of open access to these associations provide to their own journals?
Since it publishes more journals, the situation for ALA is more complex, and it is summarized below in a discussion of its major journals.
|ALA Journal||Free Access?|
|Children and Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children||No|
|College & Research Libraries||Embargo (current volume?), with e-prints that are removed on issue publication leaving a free access gap|
|Information Technology and Libraries||Six month embargo|
|Library Administration and Management||No|
|Library Resources & Technical Services||Embargo? (last complete issue listed on site is from 2006 and last free volume is from 2006)|
|Public Libraries||Embargo? (last listed issue on site is from 2007)|
|RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage||Embargo? (last listed issue on site is from 2006)|
|School Library Media Research||Embargo? (last listed issue on site is from 2007)|
|Reference & User Services Quarterly||No (there are no issues listed on site)|
|Young Adult Library Services||No|
Given that several journals are far behind in listing back issues, some have no listed 2008 issues, and one has no back issues whatsoever, it is difficult to make definitive statements about their open access policies. It is possible that this confusion arises from difficulties in the timely maintenance of ALA journal Websites. What can be said is that, as of today, those missing digital issues are not accessible to anyone from the ALA site.
One thing is clear: it would be very helpful if ALA journals would clearly and prominently state their open access policies. Although it will not be discussed here in any detail, several journals have conflicting or unclear copyright agreement policies. It is assumed that ALA offers its two copyright agreements (Copyright Assignment Agreement and Copyright License Agreement.) for all journals, but this cannot be verified from all journal Websites.
While it is not uniform, ALA is making progress towards providing more free journal content; however, it cannot be said that ALA fully supports free access to all of its major journals. Moreover, to my knowledge, ALA itself has never made an open access position statement that is similar to CLA's and those of other library organizations, such as IFLA's (this excludes any statements by ALA divisions or joint statements). As the open access movement nears the decade point, it would seem desirable for it to unambiguously do so.
ALA is a major voice in the library community, and, if its open access efforts are to be taken seriously by publishers and scholars, it should state whether it supports green access (self-archiving), gold access (open access journals), or both. If it wants to support gold access, it should first reform its own journal publishing business model. If not, it would be helpful for it to clarify and make consistent the terms of its embargo access at an organizational vs. a divisional level.