Democratizing Research Access: Overcoming Exclusion from Well-Resourced University Research Libraries

AHA Session 158
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Washington Room 1 (Marriott Wardman Park, Exhibition Level)
Becky Nicolaides, University of California, Los Angeles and Huntington-USC Institute on California & the West
Tula Connell, Solidarity Center and National Coalition of Independent Scholars
Margaret E. DeLacy, H-Scholar
Kevin Norris, ProQuest
Bernard F. Reilly, Center for Research Libraries
Virginia Steel, University of California, Los Angeles

Session Abstract

For a growing number of historians, gaining access to adequate library resources - both books and digital - has become increasingly challenging. The best resources tend to concentrate within large or well-resourced university libraries, which can afford the steep costs of commercial databases such as ProQuest and EBSCO. At the same time full access has become clustered at large universities, these universities have narrowed their entryways to this access. As a result, more and more historians are shut off from sources they have grown accustomed to utilizing on a regular basis. The problem of unequal research access is exacerbating larger problems of inequity across the historical profession, by creating barriers and challenges for those working outside of large universities. Those affected include independent scholars, adjunct faculty, two-year college faculty, faculty in small under-resourced colleges, emeritus faculty, public historians (e.g., museums, preservation, historical societies), scholars working in non-profits, K-12 teachers, and members of the general public. These groups include a growing cohort of historians occupying positions of “career diversity,” a contingent likely to expand in the coming years.

This panel will consider the questions: how can we open pathways for research access to a range of historians working outside of large, well-resourced universities? What are the challenges faced by these scholars? What are the constraints faced by university libraries in granting access to non-affiliated scholars? How might commercial database companies – such as ProQuest and EBSCO – play a role in promoting policies that give access to all scholars, regardless of university affiliation? What role can History Departments play in promoting inclusive policies of research access, for unaffiliated scholars within their geographic orbit? What role can the AHA and other scholarly institutions play in this process? What might be the best, most feasible pathways for opening up access to research resources?

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