Opening Up Content:
Laying the Groundwork
for an Open System of
Julia C. Blixrud, Assistant Executive Director, Scholarly Communication, ARL
t seems not so very long ago that an easy strategy for libraries to open up
content was to let people roam the stacks. Many library users did and still
think of library and information content as books and journals and,
more recently, audiovisual and other non-book formats. These materials were
located in physical facilities and library users looked for them using first card
catalogs and then online catalogs. How things have changed. Within a
generation, a significant amount of content became digital and is now being
delivered in a myriad of formats. As content has moved digital, there are as
many ways to make content open as there are kinds of content.
Technologies exist to mix and mash, morph and merge content to bring new
ideas together. Bibliographic information and metadata are pushed and pulled
through Internet and Web technologies that are now part of the library user’s
daily life. However, that same Internet has made it possible for content to
become less accessible. Barriers of cost and firewalls can prevent library users
from obtaining necessary information. Content can be so fragmented that it is
difficult to find. Digital therefore doesn’t necessarily mean easily available.
The research library is still challenged to find ways to bring its collections
and users together.
This issue of RLI focuses on several strategies now being deployed by
institutions and individuals to increase the amount of content that is open and
available to the research library community and by extension the larger world.
Research libraries may have a role to play in all of these strategies, but it is
important to note that the drivers to open up content often are others in the
scholarly and research community as well. The strategies discussed in this issue
APRIL 2010 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC