Free and Open Resources for Academic Research!
By Susan Turkel
Villanova University spends a large part of its library budget on online journals, electronic books, and specialized scholarly search engines. These resources, such as Oxford Bibliographies Online, PsycINFO, the ATLA Religion Database, Compendex, and Advertising Age Datacenter, are invaluable resources for students in relevant fields.
The problem, however, is that the Library is essentially renting these resources from vendors, and we are therefore limited in how much we can share and with whom. For example, we would love to make these resources available to Villanova alumni and guests, but the Library is required to sign license agreements with resource vendors that restrict access to current students, staff, and faculty (plus walk-in users, when the building is open to guests). This means that as a student, after you graduate, your remote access to these resources disappears within several weeks.
We have good news! Some publishers and authors choose to make their work available to all, regardless of university affiliation (“open access” resources), and we’ve created a guide listing free and openly available academic search engines, e-book collections, and e-journal collections, along with links to more extensive listings from other libraries.
View the new research guide here: Open Access and Freely Available Resources.
As the guide suggests, a great place to start your research is Google Scholar. This powerful database indexes the full text of online journals in all fields, as well as electronic books and materials in academic repositories. It provides links to full text when possible; if a free version of the item is not available, you can use the author/title/publication information in Google Scholar to request the full article or book via Interlibrary Loan from your public library.
You can also download browser extensions, such as Unpaywall, CORE Discovery, or the Open Access Button, to help you find or request free versions of a resource.
Many of the resources on the new guide are available to all, rather than hidden behind a paywall or licensing restrictions, because they are published as Open Access (OA) projects. Guided by the principle that it is beneficial for society when scholarly research is available without barriers, OA materials are online research outputs that are made available without cost to the reader. Instead, the expenses associated with OA publications are covered by the authors, their institutions, and/or grant funding. There are a variety of OA publications, repositories, software, and projects out there; read more about OA in Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview.
Falvey Memorial Library places a high value on openness. As stated in the Values statement on the Library website,
We believe that the broad sharing of information, ideas, knowledge, skills, and tools benefits society by enabling information equality, facilitating life-long learning, and driving innovation. We support and encourage open access publishing, open content, and open source software. We strive to make our resources accessible to all. We promote the open exchange of ideas and transparency in communication and decision-making.
Many Falvey initiatives demonstrate our commitment to openness. Here are some examples.
Falvey Open Access Collections
- Falvey publishes several Open Access journals, including American Catholic Studies and the Journal of Big History on our Journals at Villanova University web platform.
- Our Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement department oversees Villanova University’s Digital Library, which provides access to thousands of digitized books, manuscripts, newspapers, objects, ephemera, theses, broadsides, and other works. It also includes Villanova-authored content including faculty publications sponsored by the SOAR fund and Falvey Scholars award-winning papers. The DL “assembles, presents, and preserves digital collections that support the teaching and research of the campus and the global community of scholars.”
Falvey Open Access Support for Faculty, Staff, and Students
- Falvey provides financial support to qualifying VU researchers who need help paying processing fees in order to publish open access via the Scholarship Open Access Reserve (SOAR) Fund program.
- Sarah Wipperman joined Falvey in early 2020 as our first Scholarly Communications Librarian. Sarah is our expert on helping Villanova researchers navigate copyright, author rights, and making their work more visible and openly accessible.
- Villanova University’s Affordable Materials Project is a campus-wide collaboration that intended to help faculty select high-quality, affordable course materials. The library’s participation includes helping instructors find and adopt open educational resources (OER), which are online, open access course materials.
Falvey Open Software
- Falvey supports open source software: our Technology Team developed and maintains VuFind, a widely used open source library resource portal. When you search our library catalog or look for articles via the library’s search box, you’re using VuFind!
For more information about Open Access, please explore the websites linked above, and/or contact Sarah Wipperman.
Susan Turkel is a Social Sciences Librarian at Falvey Memorial Library. Thanks go to Michael Foight, Rebecca Oviedo, Jutta Seibert, Marianne Watson, and Sarah Wipperman for their input on this article.