Open Access & increasing the size of your readership

In March 2012 a work colleague and I travelled to Hangzhou, South East China to spend a month at Hangzhou Municipal Library. This was done as part of an exchange with our home library of University College Cork. We learned and experienced much there and when we came home we wrote an article about our time in Hangzhou Library. The article, to quote the abstract, considers an on-going exchange programme between the Boole Library, University College Cork (UCC) and Hangzhou Municipal Library, South East China. The authors describe the exchange and their impressions of working in a different library setting.
The article Cultural Revolution: Reflections on an Exchange was published in An Leabharlann October 2013 https://libraryassociation.ie/publications/leabharlann

An Leabharlann is a subscription magazine and access is included with your membership of the Library Association of Ireland. But the editors kindly allow authors of articles published in it to place a copy of their piece, the actual finished piece from An Leabharlann, into a repository. For us, this meant we could place a copy into CORA [Cork Open Research Archive] http://cora.ucc.ie/ This we did and the article can now be found by those interested at http://cora.ucc.ie/handle/10468/1260

It is the impact of placing the article into CORA that I now wish to talk about for the remainder of this post.
The article was placed on CORA at the beginning of November 2013. Since then it has been viewed over 300 times. This is 300 more views than it would have gotten had it been only visible to those people with a subscription to An Leabharlann or a library that subscribes to it. And there are some interesting – to me at least – other facts to look at. As well as being viewed in Ireland and China – which you would expect due to the content of the paper – it has been viewed 114 times in the USA, 6 times in the Netherlands, 4 times in France and 3 times in Austria. This makes me think: I wonder who those 114 people in the USA are. And what they think when they read it? What would they think of this exchange? Would they have heard of Hanghzhou before reading this paper? Would they have heard of University College Cork or Cork before reading this paper? Why is somebody from the US reading an article on an exchange between an Irish and a Chinese library? But isn’t it great that somebody at the other side of the world can actually do this – without having to pay for the privilege of doing so. And all thanks to the beauty of Open Access.

Further it made me think will this paper have any impact those reading it? Probably not, it is after all a specific piece describing a specific experience. But it does make me wonder why more people don’t see the true value of placing their research output in repositories or other OA areas? Why do so many persist in publishing in journals with paywalls and publishers who place restrictions on, what is after all, their work – the work that they will have spent hard months toiling over. Do they not want their work to be seen as many people as possible. I know I do and I’m not a serious researcher. I want anything I write to be read by as many people as possible. And surely an academics raison d’etre is to publish and be read and have their work disseminated. OA is a key way to do this. And it is free. What is not to like?

And if one needs any further convincing of the role and importance that OA can play in dissemination of material heed this: I did a Google search of our paper and the first three results on the results page were all for CORA. An Leabharlann, unfortunately for the great people that edit and compile it is nowhere to be seen in the results. Google sees the value of OA. And I wonder if an algorithm can see the worth of OA why can’t more academics?

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