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How Will You Celebrate Open Access Week?
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Posted On May 27, 2014
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Marianne Reed, digital scholarship specialist at KU Libraries, has helped spearhead many years of successful OA Week programs for students and faculty at the University of Kansas. She emphasizes that “it takes a village” to carry off OA Week: local leadership, experts, advocates, and new, fresh voices. Lots of hands are needed, particularly volunteers among library staff in the planning and organizing of events (e.g., logistics, communication).

Successful events at Reed’s university involve food too, such as a grad student pizza lunch that speaks to them as “future scholars.” Speakers need not be in the room to be effective, with some, such as Impactstory, using Skype to participate. Hands-on workshops, such as one for humanities faculty on increasing research visibility, are always a good draw, as are faculty panel discussions. She recommends turning to student groups to plan student-led activities too. Her “lessons learned” include the following:

  1. A committee is really the way to go.
  2. Feed them and they will come.
  3. Plan at least one student event (e.g., Open Education Resources, Publishing in OA Journals, Copyright 101).
  4. Goodies (e.g., T-shirts and OA buttons), particularly for library staff who volunteer, provide friendly, helpful direction to events.
  5. Skype speakers in to keep travel costs down.
  6. Take advantage of SPARC resources, including handouts, bookmarks, videos, and webinars (a useful tool for the planning committee).
  7. Get the word out any and every way that you can.
  8. Don’t forget the library staff. You’ll need to “save the date,” schedule events in the library, and call for library volunteers. Each day during OA week, send a reminder to library staff about the next day’s events (and why they should come), encouraging them to share the news with others.
  9. Schedule a “lessons learned” meeting after OA week. Save the information for next year’s planning, and use this as an opportunity to thank the people who made OA week possible.

Daniel Mutonga, former president of the Medical Students Association of Kenya (MSAKE), led the organization’s OA Week campaign in 2012 which hosted events at medical schools across the country and educated a significant portion of Kenya’s medical students about OA. His presentation reminded participants of the Right to Research, noting the many nonprice barriers, language issues, censorship and filtering, handicap, and connectivity issues that make access to quality research throughout Africa difficult, particularly for students at smaller schools. (“If professors can’t read it, they can’t teach it.”) Taking his marching orders from the Berlin 10 Open Access Conference, Mutonga recommends that we “[p]ut students at the centre of OA advocacy.” In his country, OA events offered certificates for those completing the training. At each event, in-person or online, organizers should encourage participants to act (e.g., click to Like this post).

Mutonga recommends that OA advocacy be fun, but culturally appropriate for your nation/institution. Challenges facing all researchers no matter where they work or study include paywalls and a lack of mentors. In his country (and elsewhere), librarians play that crucial mentoring role.

Spreading the word about OA (beyond social media) is essential. Mutonga points to the efforts of SPARC, EIFL, and INASP, as well as to Publishers for Development, the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR), and the OpenUCT Initiative. He recommends working with multiple organizations to do bigger and better (“To go far, you need to go with others”): Partner, plan, participate, and publicize (record and circulate the recording post-event).

If your institution has attempted to hold an OA Week event in the past that did not live up to expectations, or you think that you might want to hold an event this year, take the speaker recommendations to heart by beginning the process now. Planners can turn to the Open Access Week website for inspiration. During the next few months, SPARC will sponsor additional webinars on such topics as how to engage the next generation and student-focused planning. At least one webinar will feature planning in progress at various institutions, so if you’ve got some ideas underway, SPARC wants to know (#oaweek on Twitter).


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Barbie E. Keiser is an information resources management consultant located in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

Email Barbie E. Keiser

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