The title of this article by Rowland Lorimer, “A Good Idea, a Difficult Reality: Toward a Publisher/Library Open Access Partnership,” may be a bit misleading. When one reads through the article itself, it seems to argue that libraries should not have a substantive role to play in OA, or at least in the publishing side of OA. (Is that a partnership?) Lorimer rightly acknowledges the complexities of scholarly communication, and the need for objective study into successful models. But its difficult to read such remarks as “Bold action in the implementation of open access by the research community at this point, given emerging reconsideration of actions taken in other countries, is both irresponsible and self-defeating in that it undermines the fundamental tenets of research and evidence-based decision-making” (5), and “…why is the call to implement open access so insistent? The answer is a dual answer: self-interest and a technologically determinist vision held by the library community” (5), as anything but heavy-handed criticism.
In comparison to Micah Vandegrift’s and Josh Bolick’s paper, “‘Free to All’: Library Publishing and the Challenge of Open Access,” which assumes that libraries are (or are quickly becoming) publishers without delving into the nature and pragmatics of such a role, Lorimer is very clear on what, or who, scholarly publishers are: “Scholarly publishers,” he writes, “are capitalists who transform drafts of research reports into effective communications directed at certain audiences” (3). He also maintains that publishers add considerable value to research output, as well as to its creators and consumers.
Citing the Canadian Association of Learned Journals (CALJ) response to a proposal by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) and the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), which aims to shift the journal economy, Lorimer argues that scholarly publishers should be kept at an arm’s length from researchers and authors, and should not be eclipsed by libraries or university administrators. He also provides recommendations for how the academy should move forward in regards to scholarly communication.
Overall, many of Lorimer’s points are well-taken, especially regarding the value of scholarly publishers as independent agents and the necessity of objective research into OA. But the indictment of the impetus toward OA makes this article a hard pill to swallow, especially 20+ years into the concerted action of the OA movement.
Lorimer, Rowland. 2014. “A Good Idea, a Difficult Reality: Toward a Publisher/Library Open Access Partnership.” Scholarly and Research Communication 5 (4): 15pp.
Vandegrift, Micah, and Josh Bolick. 2014. “‘Free to All’: Library Publishing and the Challenge of Open Access.” Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication 2 (4): 107 –16.