Mixing open and restricted access materials

Lorcan 2 min read

Over the Christmas break I read the interesting Global Ireland: same difference. And, in my convalescence, I have been looking at other materials on this topic. I had a look at OAIster. A search on Ireland and globablization returned quite a few results. I was interested in browsing through the results on the first page: six of the items were immediately available to me; four were not: I was directed to a publisher’s splash page.
Now, I had, mistakenly, thought that OAIster focused on open access material so was surprised to see this. Looking at historic snapshots of the site on the Wayback Machine, I found the following on the 16th July 2006. There had been a stated focus on ‘freely-accessible’ material, but this changed.

OAIster is a project of the University of Michigan Digital Library Production Service. Our goal is to create a collection of previously difficult-to-access, academically-oriented digital resources (what are digital resources? why is the “freely-available” designation gone?) that are easily searchable by anyone. [OAIster Home]

Following the link [not working in the extract above] about the ‘”freely-available” designation’ brings you to the OAIster Collection Development Policy, which is admirably clear, and reasonable for a service provider in their situation. Basically, as sites mix freely-accessible material and restricted-access-material in their harvestable sets, there is a heavy processing burden on an aggregator who wants to reliably separate these out. And OAIster has decided it is not going to do this work.

Often, data contributor repositories that we harvest contain records that point to both freely-available and restricted-access digital resources. Sometimes repositories partition these records into OAI sets (e.g., “freely accessible texts”) that can be easily harvested, and sometimes they do not. When they do not, additional effort on our part is required to selectively filter only the freely-accessible digital resource records. This is entirely dependent on the records themselves– the metadata itself must contain some indication of restriction policy (e.g., “This material is accessible to the public, freely and without charge.”) in order for us to perform filtering. Records frequently do not contain this information and only by following the link to the digital resource does availability become clear. Consequently, the decision to keep or not keep an entire repository’s records based on the discovery of some restricted records has been challenging. [OAIster | Collection Development Policy]

This is a reminder of the variety of collection development practice over institutional repositories which I have spoken about before (in relation to Minnesota and the Open University). I notice that the Open University self-describes its repository as Open Access, yet it contains a large amount of restricted access materials.
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