Archives for posts with tag: open access

I am a firm believer in the notion of public knowledge, which is fundamental to just and democratic societies. This is why I am such a staunch open access and free software advocate. In order for societies to thrive, it is imperative to facilitate a commons, a shared resource of knowledge from which many can equitably benefit.

I am wary, however, of the modernist perspective (which is articulated frequently today through futurist and objectivist rhetoric) that ideas, especially those technological, are centrally useful for improving, progressing, or pursuing some other form of linear (often material) growth. I think there are clear logical and measurable limits to that ideology and so I seek to up-end its grip at every possible turn.

I am concerned, rather, with the notion that ideas (scientific and otherwise) should be shared and developed with the interest of people and environment in mind—justice and sustainability.

Knowledge is locked in the ivory tower. Access to knowledge is restricted and the lines feel more and more arbitrary.

Today I tried to borrow a book from the UC Berkeley Library. I was sent to the “privileges” desk upstairs, where one man, sitting in front of a computer, helps patrons manage their privilege.

The long and short of our conversation is if I want to borrow a book, I need to pay a $100 membership fee. Otherwise, I could join the Cal Alumni Association for which the cost is $500 total, or $30 for the year with steps toward the full cost. The $30 plan isn’t bad, but it’s a lot of work and fact-checking just to get through it (am I going to have to pay the rest? will I get a bunch of spam asking for money?), which is at the very least another barrier.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, I cannot get privileges to access electronic resources. At all. Ever. (Unless I pay tuition again.) This means no ability to read research or articles from any academic journals that are licensed by the University (they pay fees to middle-persons who turn a profit on keeping knowledge scarce). I hit my head against the research pay-wall this spring trying to write a paper for the International Journal of Communication’s open call on Piracy Cultures. Luckily my co-author had access and we went through him for important papers, though my ability to research in great depth was severely restricted.

On the other hand, say I’m just an average person, not a former or current UCB Student. The cost for me to check out UCB library books is a flat $100 a year. That’s a pretty penny for access to a few books–many of which will sit on the shelves for months and years at a time. Plus, there’s no way in hell I’m going to get access to scholarly research at any reasonable scale.

Complaining about this today, a friend pointed out a little hack I’d like to share. It’s not complete, but it’s a back door to sneak into the Ivory Basement for now. (Note: I just wrote “ivory basement” off-the-cuff, but now I’ve added it to the title because I liked the ring of it so much!)

The Berkeley Public Library runs two awesome services for getting books from other libraries: Link+ and Interlibrary Loan. The latter has a base fee of $2 per book and additional fees depending on the institution lending the book. Link+ is a special service that allows you to access books (at a pretty reasonable waiting interval of 2-4 days) from various academic institutions and libraries in California and Nevada… you guessed it, for free!

But, not UC Berkeley’s books. Those are still locked up, though theirs is the absolute closest research library to Berkeley Public.

Also, don’t expect access to electronic resources, especially if you’re a regular, everyday person.

FYI, this is the book I want, including a list of the Link+ libraries that have it… all 15.