Cambridge University Press announced yesterday that they will begin a new service that will allow users to “rent” their journal articles for 24 hours for $5.99. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog provides a good overview.
I’m loathe to make library users pay for ANYTHING. I always tell students in information literacy sessions: “If you’re doing a Google search and find an article you like, NEVER pay for it. The Library can get it for you for FREE!”
The Cambridge plan looks like something that would primarily be marketed to faculty and researchers. And I understand its “I need it now!” appeal. However, I hope that these professionals would remember that their academic library is there to help them. They may not be coming through the library gates, but they use the online resources that we subscribe to (e.g., JSTOR, EBSCO, etc…) and we’re the real, live people in that brick and mortar library that make it happen!
Libraries need to step up their marketing and outreach efforts to both faculty and students.
A few points to emphasize:
1. Libraries must continue to promote FREE access. That’s what we’re are all about. Most academic libraries can get these articles to their users for free. Many academic libraries will have direct full-text access via their databases.
2. For those libraries that do not have full-text access, there’s always Interlibrary Loan. At many academic libraries, it’s free to their users. Turnaround times have been decreasing over the past decade. At my institution, when I request an article, I generally receive a PDF copy of the article within 1-2 working days. And it’s mine to keep–FOREVER–unlike Cambridge’s 24-hour access plan.
3. Online Connections: Library websites need to be improved for functionality. It should only be one click to instant message chat, call, or email a librarian for assistance. This info should be available on every library webpage and every database search interface.
4. We need to step up outreach to faculty. Start making connections. See if you can attend a department meeting. Send out email blasts and online newsletters informing faculty of new resources and tools.
5. Besides reaching faculty, we need to market the library as a place that helps students succeed academically. That could be accomplished through librarian embedding in course management systems or designing class-specific library guides, tutorials, etc…
6. Open access: this is admittedly a loftier goal–but I think we need to start educating faculty about open access v. traditional publishing. Budgets are shrinking. Scholarly journal costs continue to rise. Journals are being canceled. What are the alternatives to traditional publishing? This is where librarians can definitely play a part.
Library marketing never stops. There’s always something new to promote, or a service to remind people of. It’s not a battle. It’s an opportunity. What other ideas and goals do you have for library marketing? I’d like to hear them!