Before I dive into some thoughts on open access, I want to make sure everyone reading this is aware of the magnificent commitment that University Trustee Evans Lam ʼ83, ʼ84S (MBA) made to the University. It’s the kind of gift that sends a ripple through the University, directly and indirectly affecting the entire community. Evans has been a wonderful friend to the libraries, and I’m tremendously grateful that we are once again a beneficiary of his generosity.

OK—on to open access.

At the libraries, “open access” has become a sort of catch-all term for any resource we offer that is freely accessible. Another way to think about it is that it’s the unrestricted right to use something, particularly for academic writing or research.

You may remember a time in the not-so-distant past when physical distancing was prescriptive. The sudden loss of sources and materials we counted on had a major impact on how we consumed data, sought information, and created knowledge. (Some of this was academic, but some of it was for our personal health and safety.) As we have been creating strategic priorities for the libraries, I’ve been reflecting on what we experienced in COVID-19, particularly as it relates to open access.

What could open access look like in a post-pandemic world? What potential does it hold for how we learn, teach, and conduct research?

Democratizing our intellectual output, resources, and knowledge opens Rochester to the world, and to a large extent, the River Campus Libraries has been doing this for decades. There are long-term fixtures, such as the Middle English Text Series and the Camelot Project, and more recent examples, such as the variety of digital collections in Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation. And we’ve also started celebrating the adoption of open access through the Zero-Cost Heroes series.

This path to realizing the full potential of open access is long, but envisioning that journey is exciting. We’ve spent a lot of time learning how to walk. So, it’s only a matter of time until we figure out how to run.

Kevin Garewal
Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean
University of Rochester Libraries