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‘Cat in the Stacks: Open Access, a Student’s View


I’m Michelle Callaghan, a second-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is our column, “‘Cat in the Stacks.” I’m the ‘cat. Falvey Memorial Library is the stacks. I’ll be posting about living that scholarly life, from research to study habits to embracing your inner-geek, and how the library community might aid you in all of it.

It’s Open Access Week!

It’s open what now?

Open Access!

Uh… what?


It’s Open Access Week, which you should know all about if you read librarian Linda Hauck’s post yesterday. Library staff member Raamaan McBride had a great post a few years back you could check out, too. If you don’t know all about open access, I’m here to level with you.

What is open access and why does it matter to you as a student?According to, open access is “the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need.” It’s easy to see how such access to academic material can benefit you as a student at Villanova, but there are massive international implications for open access as well, which you can read about here.

I’m not an expert in open access. Frankly, I’m not an expert in library services, although as a candidate for a master’s degree in English I do use the library and its plentiful services quite often (just about daily!). That said, while I’m not representative of any sort of open access movement or discussion, I have interacted with open access journals enough to know that I love them. I love them so much and they’re probably solely responsible for the growth and increasing legitimacy of my research passion. That’s not an overstatement. I’ll tell you why.

I’m into video game studies. More specifically, I’m into getting literary studies and game scholarship to play nice together. They almost always do, so I want to do more with them. But I have a hard time finding enough scholarship behind subscription walls, and that’s not a fault of what our library has to offer–these subscription journals just aren’t where game scholars are publishing, for a multitude of reasons. The most interesting reason is, to me, that excellent video game studies content is often published to the web in non-scholarly outlets like blogs, and the traditional journal does not promote the publishing of such, uh, internetz content. The content on game studies blogs, however, is often very high quality and very important toward games scholarship. One open access journal, the Journal of Games Criticism, attempts to save this content from the black hole of the internet. JGC is “a non-profit, peer-reviewed, open-access journal which aims to respond to these cultural artifacts by extending the range of authors to include both traditional academics and popular bloggers.” Bam! Rather than let good content go to waste because it is scholarly but not “$cholarly,” this open access journal provides the world at large with that juicy knowledge – with no ulterior motive beyond sharing scholarship.

Just my two pennies, but the idea that there are centers of knowledge and study rebelling against the sometimes stifling status quo of the academic publishing tradition is so inspiring to me. It feels like an underdog story. And as mentioned earlier, the global implications of knowledge-for-all is so important. I may not know the ins and outs of the academic publishing world, but I do know this: as a student, open access is driving my personal research projects, and it has a place in my scholarly heart.

Article by Michelle Callaghan, graduate assistant on the Communication and Service Promotion team. She is currently pursuing her MA in English at Villanova University.



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Last Modified: October 22, 2015

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