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Georgia State University

International Open Access Week at Georgia State University Library

Contributing authors: Josh Hogan, Charlene Martoni, Jason Puckett, and Ashley Rockwell

Open Access Week

“Open Access” refers to information that is available online for free, and which can be used and reused by anyone with an internet connection. This means that Open Access publications directly impact the quantity of information available to the academic community, as well as to the general public. Open Access has greatly enhanced the way libraries operate and engage with the public. Adopting open approaches to knowledge sharing increases inclusivity, broadens educational opportunities, and promotes the preservation of cultural heritage. Since 2008, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the Open Access Week Advisory Committee have organized International Open Access Week. This annual event encourages the open sharing of knowledge, policy development, and a focus on global social issues. This year’s theme for International Open Access Week, “Community Over Commercialization,” motivates participants to think critically about approaches to open scholarship, and to identify approaches that benefit the public and the academic community.

Open Access and Library Archives

In recent years, Open Access has significantly impacted the way libraries operate their archives, which play a critical role in preserving the collective history, culture, and knowledge of our communities. Archives house a wealth of documents, photographs, artifacts, and digital assets. Most archival institutions aspire to make their collections as widely available and easily accessible as possible. The many tasks that archivists undertake, from appraising and adding collections to processing and preserving them, make our collection materials accessible for faculty, students, visiting scholars, and the general public – for the long haul.

Disseminating archival materials online has become increasingly common, making it possible for both the local community and a global audience to access and use these records. Special Collections & Archives at GSU is no exception; our online digital collections offer documents, photographs, maps, audio/video files, and other material from dozens of collections across our curatorial areas.

Open Access is crucial to archives and their digital collections in a few major ways:

  • Open Access in archives ensures that historical documents are freely available to everyone with an internet connection, regardless of their location or financial means.
  • The digital collections of archives are invaluable tools for educators and their students. Teachers can incorporate primary sources into their syllabi, while students can access these materials for their class projects. Digital archives can also foster deeper understanding of the history and culture of the communities served by the archives.
  • By making their collections available online, archives can raise awareness of the importance of safeguarding historical documents and artifacts. Additionally, easier access can potentially aid in garnering community and institutional support for archival collections.

Complexities of Open Licensing for Archives

Open Access in archival collection is a complex matter, however. When collecting material, it is imperative that archives negotiate for transfer of rights from the donor/copyright holder to the archives. This transfer is often done in a document, called “the deed of gift,” delineating the agreement between the donor and the repository. Ideally, the deed of gift will specifically transfer any rights, including copyright, from the donor to the repository.

In some cases, however, it makes sense for the donor to retain some or all of their rights. In these cases, the archives must negotiate for an explicit license, spelling out what the archives can do with the archival material. For example, the archives may be granted a license to make materials available in the reading room and online for academic or non-commercial purposes.

This is where open licensing, such as Creative Commons (CC), comes in handy.

CC licensing has emerged as a powerful tool for promoting Open Access in libraries, archives, and other cultural heritage institutions. CC licenses provide a standardized framework for creators, including archives, to specify the terms under which their works can be used, shared, and repurposed. There are several different options with CC licenses, each with varying levels of permissions, ranging from full entry of the materials into the public domain (CC0) to the most restrictive variation (CC BY-NC-ND), which does not allow for commercial use nor derivations of the work.

Whether a repository uses bespoke language for licensing agreements or adopts CC licensing, there will always be a limitation to this approach. Archival collections are very often put together from “mixed materials,” which include everything from letters and diaries to publications and audio-visual material. The donor of the material often will not own the copyright to every single item available in a collection. An example of this would be when a donor collects publications, such as the newsletter of a national organization. The donor has no right to transfer rights or grant a license, so archives must take care to limit access to the archives building for those items.

Open Access and Scholarship Repositories

Through ScholarWorks, Georgia State University Library administers an openly accessible archive of digital scholarship and research produced by GSU faculty, students, and staff. Faculty can submit publications to ScholarWorks, and graduate students can submit theses and dissertations.

Open Educational Resources at Georgia State University

Open Educational Resources (OER) expand upon Open Access by further allowing others to either retain copies, revise their contents, remix contents with other content, reuse them publicly, or redistribute copies to others. To facilitate the use and development of OER at Georgia State University, Georgia State University Library is participating in a second-year Institutional Partnership with OpenStax, the leading publisher of peer-reviewed, open textbooks. OpenStax is a part of Rice University, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Open Data Resources at Georgia State University

Open Knowledge defines open data as data that “anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness).” While sharing data can be a crucial part of the scientific process, it is also complicated by data privacy and data storage issues. However, the movement for more open data continues to grow and has been bolstered by many national research grants requiring researchers to make their datasets readily available to both other researchers and the public.

As the increasing need to publish datasets have grown, so have the pool of resources for researchers to publish and share their data. For example, check out as DRYAD, DataOne, and OSF.

Looking for more open data?

  • United States Governmental Data
    • Over the years, the United Census Bureau has been working on making access to their publicly available data more user friendly with new data dashboards and tools that allow you to explore the data without having to download the large data files. They have also created How-To Video Tutorials on how to access their data and use their tools.
    • is a great resource for locating open data collected by the U.S. federal government. It functions as a search engine for publicly available data and data tools from all of the various federal government agencies and some state and city governments.
  • International Data
    • Similarly, the United Nations also has a webtool called UNdata, which consist of international datasets and statistics compiled by the UN and other international organizations.
    • The Global Health Observatory is an international health data repository and tool created by the World Health Organization.
  • Machine Learning Data
    • Machine learning often requires large training datasets to build the machine learning model and then separate testing data to evaluate the accuracy of model. UC Irvine created a Machine Learning Repository for folks to find or share datasets.
    • OpenML is another great open data resource with a machine learning focus. OpenML has open datasets, APIs, and existing models.
    • The open datasets available through these resources can also be helpful for non-machine learning related research and projects.
  • Looking for other types of data?
  • · Interested in learning more about open data?

Want to build your data skills?

If you are interested in learning how to use an open-source data analysis tool, you can watch our online workshops for both Python and R. We also offer workshops for other data software tools that are not open-source tools but are free to GSU students, staff, and faculty.

Celebrate Open Access Week

Now that you have a general understanding of Open Access and how it your library, check out the listing of international events that are available to you: