Open Access to Knowledge and Challenges in Digital Libraries

Open Access to Knowledge and Challenges in Digital Libraries

Cary Francis Oyier (Rongo University, Kenya) and Joyce Nyambala (The Technical University of Kenya, Kenya)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3093-0.ch005
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This chapter discusses open access as an aspect of digital libraries and the effect of copyright laws on free access to information. The authors conclude that the future of scholarly communication rests on open access content. They submit that the bulk of scholarly output will be open access. These, they opine, will become a formidable pillar of digital libraries. In this recognition, different players have come up with successful interventions for dealing with the barriers posed by copyright requirements. The authors recommend that all the players in scholarly communication should fully embrace open access principles at all levels. Similarly, they propose that stakeholders should urgently relook the challenges posed by copyright to the realisation of open access with a view of finding strategies to cope effectively with the same.
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Background Information

The evolution of digital libraries has been very dramatic starting with the conceptualisation of Memex machine in 1945 to help the world deal with the exponential growth of information – the information explosion. Memex provided a microform-based means of storing and retrieving information (IFLA, 1998). The eventual discovery of computers around the same time led to the application of microforms in building large bibliographic databases that created new paradigms in information retrieval systems in the library. This may be viewed as the first major step in the evolution of digital libraries. It was immediately followed by the discovery of the Internet in 1990s which proved to be a redefining phenomenon in the development of digital libraries and a landmark development from the memex database technologies. The network technology and its integration with telecommunication technologies allowed organisations to connect a number of computers into local and wide area networks so as to share software applications, information storage spaces and to transport information electronically. Arising from this scenario, the world embraced libraries of digital information which were easily accessible in nature as contrasted to traditional libraries (IRMT, 1999).

The exponential growth in literature in the 20th century, underpinned by the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW) technologies, created enormous challenges to libraries and research institutions. The burden of information explosion became catastrophic with spiralling publishing costs and inefficiencies in the distribution of scholarly materials. In particular, libraries were faced with the burden of increasing prices of journals, limited physical space for storage and extensive budget cuts. This scenario called for new models of scholarly communication which led to open access movement. This was a milestone in the development of digital libraries. Currently, many of these libraries are populated with an increasing collection of open access content as compared to subscribed or licensed materials. As such, open access literature should be seen as a fundamental building block for digital libraries across the world.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Scholarly Communication: A component of a larger research lifecycle that pertains to the process of sharing, disseminating and publishing research findings of academics and researchers so that the generated academic contents are made available to the global academic communities or learned societies through journals, monographs, thesis and dissertations, research reports, conference proceedings and working papers.

Open Access: This is making scholarly works freely available on the public Internet by allowing users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles; crawl them for indexing; pass them as data to software; or use them for any other lawful purpose, without imposing any barriers but giving authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

Creative Commons: Alternative licenses to copyright that provide free, easy-to-use legal tools that give scholars, standardised way to pre-clear usage rights to creative work they own the copyright to by terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved” under open access literature.

Digital Libraries: A collection of digital representations of information content, along with hardware, software, and personnel working under defined organisations to support the functions of a traditional library within a virtual context for a defined user community or communities.

Intellectual Property Rights: The legal rights associated with the creations of human minds like inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images and designs used in commerce. Intellectual property rights protect the interests of creators by giving them property rights over their creations and granting them certain time-limited rights to control the use made of those productions.

Copyright: Intellectual property laws that give the creators of literary and artistic works, such as books, music, paintings and sculptures, films, computer programs and electronic databases rights over their creations.

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