American Libraries Available Online to All

October 13, 2008

Finally! I’m happy to say that we’ve removed the login requirement to view the online archive of American Libraries, which includes all issues, including the current one, dating back to January 2003. The issues are available through ebrary, and you will need to download the ebrary reader if it’s your first visit. We got support to open access from the American Libraries Advisory, Membership, and Publishing committees at Annual in Anaheim this year, and we’re doing it now to correspond with the first Open Access Day, to be observed tomorrow, October 14. We’re also opening access to AL’s weekly newsletter, American Libraries Direct, which previously was limited to members as well. Nonmembers can now subscribe at Why the membership requirement in the first place? I wasn’t here for the original conversations regarding the magazine, but as I understand it, it goes back to a perceived need to provide member-only benefits. More directly: those who made the decision were concerned members thought American Libraries was the only benefit they received for their membership, so if it becomes available for free, they have no need to remain members. I can see a certain logic to that, even though I see a significant flaw in it: Even if it were true that AL is the only thing that members get for their membership, or if that were the widespread perception, locking down access doesn’t actually address either of those problems. It does, however (as many have commented) keep AL out of online conversations on blogs and other sites that can't link to something if it's locked behind password protection. This still isn’t a perfect solution; as I mentioned, you do need to download the ebrary reader in order to view the archives. (And there's a small incompatibility with Firefox 3, so if you use that browser, there's an extra workaround you'll have to do.) So I’m also pleased to be able to say that HTML is coming. January is our target date to start posting new issues in an HTML format.