How do the principles of intellectual freedom and open access intersect? That was the topic of the “Intellectual Freedom and Open Access: Working Toward a Common Goal?” panel discussion, sponsored by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table, which addressed the relationship from several different perspectives.
Marguerite Avery, senior acquisitions editor at Trinity University Press in San Antonio, Texas, spoke from a publisher’s point of view. Avery eagerly joined this conversation because, “framing intellectual freedom and open access is seldom discussed over intellectual property and open access,” she explains. Avery defines intellectual freedom as “being able to seek and receive all points of view without restriction.” Historically, this discussion refers to published sources, but now user-generated content is an area that needs to be addressed.
April Hathcock, scholarly communications librarian at NYU and a former lawyer, approaches open access as a way to bridge intellectual freedom, stating, “[Open Access] allows users to gain access to the materials that they need to engage in true intellectual freedom.” However, not everyone has intellectual freedom, Hathcock argues. “We must look at the systemic reasons for why people don’t have access to information and why people aren’t enjoying intellectual freedom,” she says. In doing so, those who are underrepresented are then invited to this conversation and a better bridge can be built between OA and IF.
Jamie LaRue, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the Freedom to Read Foundation, spoke from his experience as former director of Colorado’s Douglas County Libraries in battling costly library materials. LaRue offered a set of steps to take towards developing librarian-managed platforms for content as a counter. He says, “first, have a vision by stating the problem and developing an alternative.” Then, identify resources that can help with investing in the development of new platforms. Instead of asking what it will cost, LaRue argues, “The right question is what does it cost if we don’t do anything.” Lastly, disseminate knowledge and contribute to the conversation.
Throughout the session, the three panelists answered a variety of questions on the topics of the socioeconomic dimensions and diversifying the homogeneous world of scholarly publishing, as well as making authoritative research publicly accessible to all. This conversation works in both directions, they summarize. It’s important to make research available to the public, but equally essential to learn from what the public has to teach us as well.