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“Open Access is sacred”

On May 21 and 22 I attended the general meeting of the COAR (Confederation of Open Access Repositories) in Uppsala. Sweden.

Two things from the first day: first the presentation by Xiaolin Zhang (National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences), on institutional repositories in China, going strong and enriched. They increased in three years from 2 to 72 research institutes, not a giant uptake yet though. He advocates that we should see the institutional repository as a knowledge management services, not just as an open access issue or a library issue. He defines three roles, from high stake risk & task (explaining the researcher or group chair what can be accessed, and how achievements can be demonstrated), to high-level responsibility (for the Chinese Academy of Sciences, for the research institutes) to high-level involvement (both the institutional task as well as the CAS expertise).

Further Ralf Schimmer, from the Max Planck Society, Max Planck Digital Library. At MPS the open access commitment is driven by researchers and research directors, so coming from the heart of the researchers. The whole open access debate should be more than a monetary debate, remember the phrase out of the Berlin declaration, it is about “the full exploitation of the internet”. Ralf also tells us that licensing is more than paying to read! Libraries ought to be the organizers of the economic relationship of their institutions with the publishers, open their perspectives and eyes to accept new concepts. Libraries should not just be organizing access to content, but also be arranging use and re-use, archiving & hosting rights, or open access options. The licensing process is where the organised interests of publishers and research community meet, where services are defined and money transactions are organized. MPS has a unified acquisition and open access publication cost budget since 2005. For MPS open access is sacred, if choices need to be made, they cancel subscriptions not open access activities.

The afternoon of my second day was well spent by an elaborate (I refer to it as slow touring) guided tour through the Uppsala university library by Ulf Goranson. Carolina Rediviva is the oldest university library in Sweden, founded in 1620. The university was also the first one and dates from 1477. And then the Uppsala cathedrale, which is scandinavia’s largest and tallest church (and it is equally tall and long: 118,8 metres).


The library today contains 5 million books – with 700000 books from before 1850 – the duplicates are mainly used for decoration in the (not publicly accessible) library conference rooms.

The “new” library building (beginning 19th century) is an inpractical library building, you are not allowed to take your bags and drinks with you. But at least there is central heating now.
“Each library should have a globe”, says Ulf. And they have many in his library, mainly in the closed areas. In the exhibition area you can find the silver bible which is a Gothic (language) gospel book – the silver refers to the cover, which was made later. The text book is almost 1500 years old.
Ulf showed us (me) how a library director can be a story teller, about the building, the library, the university, the books, the history … really impressive. I invited Ulf over to Delft, but warned him that my stories would be different. His room really belongs to him.
I learned that back in the old days the book were reversely stacked, making it actually easier to open them this way.

At the second day the best experience for me was the rotating workshops where 5 topics were discussed with the same group guided by topic moderators. Perhaps not each workshop (we only had 10 minutes per topic) ended up in creative discussions, but altogether this is a way to get all participants to think and work.

The overview from DRIVER to DRIVER2 to OpenAIRE and OpenAIREplus by Donatella Castelli, CNR, Italy, was very useful. Donatella explained to us that each e-infrastructure can play both provider and consumer roles and that the most effective and sustainable e-infrastructure will survive. DRIVER served mainly the community of researchers (retrieval and access of open access scientific documents). The OpenAIRE pilot and now also OpenAIREplus serves the whole community of actors. Whereas OpenAire concentrated on supporting the open access mandate for peer-reviewed publications and monitoring its impact, OpenAIREplus adds all research outputs, and facilitates the exploitation of these outputs.


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