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The Importance of Collecting Open Access Content at the Institutional Level

The library has a long history of collecting research at the institutional level. We have a responsibility for the collection of our graduate theses and dissertations. We have also always collected faculty publications albeit through subscriptions. However the emergence of open access means that we have begun to collect faculty content in a way that we didn't have to previously.

When the publishing industry made the transition from print to digital it became crucial for us to insist on local loading of content. Local loading meant that we would obtain, preserve and provide digital copies of the works , ensuring access to these publications in the future. It frees us from simply relying on the publisher as the sole access point for dissemination. We know that access to this content can be precarious, and in general lots of copies keeps stuff safe. If a subscription ends years of paid content is lost without local loading, if a publisher disappears the content disappears. We know that local loading of content has saved content that would have been lost otherwise. Libraries have a mandate to provide a stable infrastructure to research for users, and this continues to be the case in the open access era.

With the emergence of open access our responsibility shifts to ensuring a stable infrastructure to open access research. In many ways this infrastructure is even more precarious than the traditional subscription infrastructure. There is no body other than libraries that bears any responsibility for systematically collecting and ensuring continued long term support for open access content from our institutions. Funding agencies may require OA, but they don't typically play a role in supporting the infrastructure for it. As a result, libraries need to continue to systematically collect, preserve and provide access to this content at the institutional level at this time. Libraries around the world have taken on this local responsibility so that together we can provide a secure infrastructure to OA content into the future. This is typically done through institutional repositories. In Windsor's case, Scholarship at UWindsor. 

This is where our OA policy comes in. It is this policy that enables us to fulfil our role by ensuring that we obtain a copy of faculty research - at this time, Tri-Council funded research. An institutional requirement rather than encouragement has generally been shown to be the only way to ensure high levels of uptake (also see Open Access Policy: Numbers, Analysis, Effectiveness).

The reason we need to approach faculty has to do with the versions of the work that we are able to collect. In the older subscription model we would simply negotiate and obtain copies of the documents in their final published form from the publisher. However the problem with OA research collections is that they are largely built from peer reviewed accepted manuscripts. This is typically content-wise the same as the final version, but lacking the publisher’s final layout work as it appears in the journal. This is the minimal version the Tri-Council policy asks for, and typically the only version that publishers relent to allow to be posted in open access repositories. The publisher does not typically provide these on request. As a result, libraries have to go to faculty members to obtain the appropriate copy. The only way we have to systematically ensure that we can collect this research is through a policy that enables us to obtain copies of the work from our researchers.

It should be noted that none of this precludes any researcher from publishing their work in any other platform they desire. It is only helpful for you to share widely. You may publish in an open access journal initially and we can easily obtain a preservation copy - though in the majority of cases faculty do not publish in open access journals. If you publish in a traditional journal you may want to share your content or links on social platforms like ResearchGate. None of this is impeded by the Windsor OA policy. It simply ensures that we receive a copy of Windsor research so that we can fulfill our mandate to provide a stable infrastructure for open access research into the future, to help build a stronger culture of OA on our campus, and for the first time to have the opportunity to bring together, preserve and showcase Windsor research in one place.