Access to resources (query)

Margaret DeLacy's picture


I am particpiating in a panel on "Democratizing Research Access: Overcoming Exclusion from Well-Resourced University Research Libraries at the American Historical Association in Washington DC in January.  Other members of the pane will include the convenor, Becky Nicolaides of UCLA, Tula Connell from the National Coalition of Independent Scholars, Kevin Norris, from ProQuest, Bernard Reilly of the Center for Research Libraries, and Virginia Steel from the UCLA Library.

Please share your ideas about practical ways to address the access problem.  What would work for you?  Would you be willing to complete a grant application, join a society, or pay a subscription fee to gain individual access?  What measures do you think libraries, donors, learned associations or universities could and should take that would at least improve the situation even if it is not a complete solution?  What measures do you think are unhelpful or impractical (such as going in person to every single archive or leaving a child as collateral).

Have you discovered any creative but legal workarounds?

What effect, if any, would easier access have on your work?








[editor's note: Wakelet is an app that allows users to create and post an online set of Internet articles: a "wake." If you also use this in yor work, please let us know how you use it--Margaret].

Dear Margaret
Thanks for posing the issues and questions!
When barred from access to a university library, I have: used ResearchGate,, and subscribed to publishers online resources and then accessed any free-to-access offers, such as time-limited ones, and also of course open-access. I have also contacted authors by email, and their blogs, websites and cultivated relationships that enabled sharing, communicating and access. I have used professional association websites, and Wakelet and any resource-sharing sites i can find! Advocacy and peak-bodies, as well as union websites, also provide resources which are open-access. It may be possible to get access to an academic library through services to Alumni, if one is a graduate of that institution.

I have encouraged colleagues and friends to check the open-access policy of their prospective journals, both for subscriptions but also for the submission of manuscripts.

I would be willing to join my union, a professional association and advocacy groups in order to gain access to journals, monographs, e-books, webinars etc, and use Twitter-chats. I have very limited capacity to pay, and support reduced fees for members on low-incomes, but have also found associations and groups need to be encouraged NOT to ask for proof by their very limited criteria of low-income as there are so many permutations by which people can have a low-income eg banned scholars, suspended without pay scholars, third-world and second-world scholars etc..

Another issue is accessing the internet - people can use internet cafes and public libraries in some places, usually with restrictions on the amount of time to access resources, and perhaps also with intermittent quality of access to the internet due to broadband issues etc. Not everyone has or can afford their own private devices so securing public domain resources such as a public library or free kiosks with computers at aurports has been an issue too.

Dr Ann Lawless

ps As part of revealing the range of practical strategies I have used while unable to access an university library but wanting to conduct schoalrly research, I should admit to being an Australian Magpie and/or Bower-bird: one deploys a lot of strategies to survive and thrive in the habitat! H-net / H-scholar has been a deeply valued network. ScholarlyHub is emerging and looks like an exciting development. National Libraries such as Australia's TROVE is invaluable, as are national bureau of statistics and other government archives. Likewise some other government websites have publicly accessible archives I have found useful such as Australia's Fair Work Commission website where arbitration tribunal documents are available in the public sphere.

Publishers have resources and fora - such as SAGE Methodspace.

Also worthy of mention is the kindness and generosity of friends, colleagues and mentors and mentees - a box of books from a sociology professor, gifts of books and journals, give-away books on tables outside a library, and borrowing and reciprocity of various kinds. Strong communities of mutuality and mentorship. Reciprocity and generosity are driving a whole community of scholarship, a sort of invisible village and invisible neighbourhood of supporting scholarly research!

Of course I should also mention that sometimes one can just walk into campus libraries and browse the shelves, see, touch and smell the books, and study while there. There are limits on accessing photocopiers and the catalog in some university libraries as they may be restricted to "registered subscribers". There are seminars and public lectures, Festivals of Ideas and other wondrous gatherings in the public sphere.

Dear Margaret DeLacy,
Since taking early retirement from a full (REALLY FULL!) professorship in order to devote full time to research, I have usually had "Independent Scholar" status with some degree of difficulty in access to collections and libraries. Sometimes my state university links are useful but more often not. I have not been able to access certain high status university libraries in US, for example, but no problem for the British Library and certain libraries in Germany , Austria and Italy. I am aware that there are costs to libraries and am willing to pay a reasonable fee for temporary or long-term use of services. "Reasonable" would take into consideration the modest wages of the majority of scholars, especially those who are adjuncts or independent.