As we approach the second semester in the academic year, we still await meaningful intervention in the ebook crisis from those in power. Arguably, we are in a far more critical situation than at the start of the pandemic when the severe lock-down began in March 2020. Students now have significantly reduced access to resources for the following reasons.
1) In March 2020, several academic publishers and 3rd party vendors announced, to much fanfare, that they were opening up access to many of their resources for free. Whilst this move was welcomed by many in Higher Education, much of the content was withdrawn as little as three months later while COVID was still raging. Access has not been reinstated during this most recent lock-down. (One has to wonder if the original offer was little but a cynical marketing strategy).
2) Unlike March 2020, many students are starting the semester away from campus and so cannot make the dash to access hardcopy resources as they may have done last year.
Furthermore, Semester 2 is when level 6 students have dissertations and final year projects to complete and will be heavily reliant on research methods books. Electronic research methods books are notoriously difficult to purchase because key research methods publishers, such as Sage, do not allow academic libraries to purchase their titles in ebook format.
Many libraries have had little choice but to provide new postal services to try to get books to students. Given that we supposedly live in the digital age, this situation is nothing but perverse. It is also far from ideal because the logistics of getting the books off the shelves and out to students, processing their return, and quarantining them is putting immense pressure on already stressed and exhausted library staff. Not to mention the emotional labour of supporting students who are frustrated and anxious at not being able to access the resources they need in a timely manner. This approach is also placing additional financial burden onto library services.
Librarians, academics and, more importantly, students, cannot wait for senior figures to act at this critical time in the HE cycle. Librarians are increasingly turning to the complex world of open access resources to fill the huge holes in information provision bought about by traditional academic publisher business models. There is hope that open access will become more and more commonplace going forward.
One example is a crowd-sourced list, compiled by librarians, of open access research methods resources . It can be accessed here – Research Methods – Open Access Resources
We encourage you to share this list with students and academics and to add anything you think might be helpful. We would like to thank Tobias Steiner for launching and overseeing this initiative . It will be an invaluable resource for students and staff.
Another inspiring example is featured in a new guest contribution entitled, Promoting Open Access Resources in Programme (Re)Validations. Posted here with kind permission from Dr Clare McCluskey Dean, Academic Liaison Librarian of York St John University