In this month’s College and Research Libraries News, the scholarly communication feature article examines adoption of open access policies by liberal arts colleges. The author (Rollins College’s Olin Library director Jonathan Miller) explains that his institution adopted an open access policy as part of a “larger strategy to refocus the faculty and students on a larger world of information.” This strategy also involves migrating print journals to digital, acquiring more electronic resources, and promoting the use and creation of open access resources. The latter mandates the deposit of works by faculty and students into the college’s institutional repository. The author concedes that creation of institutional repositories (IR) and more so drafting of open access policies ordinarily are not the enterprises of liberal arts institutions (the 2007 report of the MIRACLE project supports this statement with only 10% of baccalaureate institutions reporting implementation of IRs) ; however, he urges, faculty and students should not “take advantage of open access to materials produced at the expense of others without also promoting open access to scholarly information that they create.”
I believe that the mandate for liberal arts colleges to participate in open access initiatives extends beyond the appearance of equal participation and giving back to the scholarly community. Liberal arts colleges should concern themselves with open access initiatives in an effort to remain vital and relevant in the larger education sphere. Last week, at the Council of Independent Colleges’ conference for presidents, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham addressed the problems facing the liberal arts. As reported in the Chronicle covering the conference:
President Obama has made much of creating a new “Sputnik moment” to put more federal emphasis on education and science, he said. Most people think of that in terms of high-end science and technology projects—the domain of Research I institutions, not small liberal-arts colleges, Mr. Meacham said. But he noted that liberal-arts institutions should make the argument that they are providing a critical service in today’s political environment: the ability to think broadly and critically, at a time when “everyone thinks they already know the truth.”
Demonstration of the relevance and necessity of critical thinking and broader ideas can be accomplished through open access to the scholarly works produced by liberal arts faculty and students. It also demonstrates a shared commitment with research institutions to dissemination of knowledge. Further, with open access comes discoverability and the increased likelihood of collaboration between large and small institutions.