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A “No access” insurance policy – would this work?

There’s something that’s been nagging at my mind the last few days. We are preparing for the open access “mandate” that our Dutch secretary of state has challenged us with. How can we link open access and toll access in a sustainable manner? What are successful examples (what can we learn from others, or what are pitfalls to avoid?), how can we make the transition without (too much) extra cost, what can we do on a national level?

During these preparations it occurred to me that we seem to make things pretty complex. And things are quite simple. We as librarians “just” want to make sure that our users have access to the content they need. And we feel annoyed by paying more and more for content that was produced in and reviewed by our university staff. We want to give our scientists and students the assurance that they have access. But at what cost?

So let’s imagine that we could buy a “no access” insurance (in the Netherlands we don’t arrange a health insurance, but a “sickness” insurance). We always get access to the information we need, and we insure ourselves in cases access fails. Our insurance broker gets an insurance fee from us for this.

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And we pay for publishing to quality publishers, if we think that this adds to our impact. Otherwise we “publish” through our own university channels. We all acknowledge that the quality publishers do not change or moderate our content (this is done by our peers), but that they can add value by making our content part of a highly-used platform and that they can add value to the user experience of this platform.  But now I am making things more complex again. Back to the basic question: How about a “No access” insurance?

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