Library access for all

September 9, 2005

Hugh McCredie (Letters, September 2) is not alone in regretting the restrictions in making electronic journals available. University librarians have been grappling with this problem, which is in essence a legal/business one, for ten years. Unfortunately, e-journals are not ours to make available as we choose: we lease their content from their publishers under carefully defined conditions, which generally restrict it to members of our institutions.

When "open-access" policies (Letters, August 26) become more widespread, McCredie, as well as academic librarians, will find life much easier. As for entry to university libraries, policies vary, and generosity of the Canadian kind exists here, too. More fundamentally, university librarians are working with public libraries, the British Library and many other partners on the Inspire project, which aims to provide access for learners of all descriptions to the most useful library for their needs.

Whether this will eventually provide routine gratis access to university libraries for independent researchers is open to question, if only in the interests of equity vis-a-vis our fee-paying students.

Toby Bainton
Society of College, National and University Libraries, London

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