Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Digital Librarians and the Challenges of Open Access to Knowledge: The Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUAU) Library Experience
Date of this Version
The development of Internet technology has provided academic and research institutions with a very high level of visibility on the web. As a result, teaching, learning and research is widely improved in the global society today. The intellectual call for knowledge and information dissemination by countless organizations and educational meetings has given birth to a terminology called open access. This initiative is aimed at bringing the knowledge society to a state of free access to all kinds of information and learning material using the Internet and ICT tools. The library plays an important role in sustaining the open access initiative (Das, 2008). Librarians who ensure the organization and dissemination of full-text content of knowledge materials to online communities are the digital librarians.
This paper therefore examines the state of open access in MOUAU, discussing the challenges confronting the managers (digital librarians).
Digital Library and Open Access to Knowledge
According to Shiri (2003), the Digital Library Federation defines digital library as:
"Organizations that provide the resources, including the specialized staff, to select, structure, offer intellectual access to, interpret, distribute, preserve the integrity of, and ensure the persistence over time of collections of digital works so that they are readily available for use by a defined community or set of communities".
Digital libraries are an emerging concept in Nigeria, even though today's libraries in the developed countries are routinely providing information and services in digital form. Borgman (1999) agrees with the view of Digital Library Federation (1998) which states that digital libraries have unique characteristics that differ from traditional libraries and their approaches to information provision. From a traditional librarian's point of view, digital libraries present a transformative model of a large-scale, user-centric organization that is moving towards an integrated form with various components. However, the main purpose of digital libraries remains consistent with that of traditional libraries in that the purpose of digital libraries is to organize, distribute, and preserve information resources just as it is for traditional libraries.
Lynch (1994) says that, "digital Libraries provide users with coherent success to a very large, organized repository of information and knowledge." According to Trivedi (2010), the purpose of a digital library includes:
- To expedite the systematic development of procedures to collect, store, and organize information in digital form.
- To promote efficient delivery of information economically to all users.
- To encourage co-operative efforts in research resource, computing, and communication networks.
- To strengthen communication and collaboration between and among educational institutions.
- To take leadership role in the generation and dissemination of knowledge
Digital libraries promise new societal benefits. One is elimination of the time and space constraints of traditional "bricks-and-mortar libraries". Unlike libraries that occupy buildings accessible only to those who walk through their doors, digital libraries reside on inter-networked data storage and computing systems that can be accessed by people located anywhere in the world. When the full potential of a digital library is realized for a particular community, people shall be able to access all human knowledge hosted in that digital database from any location. Digital libraries that are accessible over the Internet provide opportunities to advance knowledge and to dramatically improve the quality of life.
On the other hand, open access to knowledge is a key contributor in providing universal access to information and knowledge. The issue of open access is recently gathering global encouragement and support. The National Knowledge Commission of India commissioned in 2005 is demonstrating encouragement for open access. The commission's success in India today is driven by her belief that "Open access material stimulates research and helps students, teachers and researchersacross the world".
Zuccala, et al. (2008), say that the term open access has been given a variety of definitions while its meaning is still evolving. However, following the Budapest Open Access Initiative meeting, a definition was produced as quoted in Bailey (2006):
First, open access works are freely available. Second, they are 'online', which would typically mean that they are digital documents available on the Internet. Third, they are scholarly works... Fourth, the authors of these works are not paid for their efforts. Fifth, as most but not all authors of peer-reviewed journal articles are not paid and such works are scholarly, these articles are identified as the primary type of open access material. Sixth, there are an extraordinary number of permitted uses for open access materials; users can copy and distribute open access works without constraint. Seventh, there are two key open access strategies: self-archiving and open access journals. (Bailey 2006:15)
According to Pinfield (2005), open access to knowledge is free, immediate, and unrestricted availability of content. Prosser (2003) defines open access as "free and unrestricted access on the Internet to literature that scholars provide without expectation of direct payment". He stated that the reasons for open access are to accelerate research, enrich education, and share learning across rich and poor nations. To further elaborate the acknowledgement of open access in the global society, Bhaf (2010) records that, presently, there are about 1,451 of open access repositories registered in Open DOAR (http://www.opendoar.org/ ), a directory of open access repositories.
Suber (2004) reminds that open access is free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. He reveals that the highest restriction observed in a fully open access portal is the demand of user name and password in accessing materials, which is like feedback information on statistics of usage and in the other hand serve as a check to miss-use of license rights. Consequently, this paper defines open access as a host of digital literatures online, which is free of charge for every one with an Internet connection.