Knowledge for All emerges at a unique moment when opportunities for better access to scholarly journal literature are at once, incredibly limited and incredibly abundant. Limited because under the strain of a weakening economic climate and shrinking library budgets, commercial providers of access to scholarly journal literature continue to increase subscription fees, placing greater and greater strain on the ability of libraries and other institutions to facilitate access to academic works. Abundant because at the same time, the shift toward more open, innovative models of access continues to accelerate along with developments in the open source, open data and open access movements. Knowledge for All hones in on the abundances in the present landscape. It leverages the momentum building in these open movements to seize the opportunity for better access to scholarly journal literature.
Within this landscape, the impact of Knowledge for All is far reaching. The project’s benefits extend to a wide range of stakeholders which, broadly speaking, can be broken down into three distinct groups: (1) creators, (2) managers, (3) seekers of scholarly journal literature.
Creators include all institutions and individuals involved in the production of research, analysis and content that make up an item of scholarly journal literature. They are researchers, authors, writers, commentators, editors and others contributing original works to the realm of scholarly publication. Their aims in doing so might be to verify existing literature, discover new insights, or solve problems. To achieve these aims they may require access to existing data, findings or expertise or be in need of funds, resources, acknowledgement or other support. Some challenges they face in achieving these aims include:(1) isolation and lack of connection to other related institutions, individuals or published works in their field (2) absence of an effective platform to promote and share their work, (3) limited acknowledgement for their work, (4) high costs and limited funding or other resources needed to complete their work.
Managers include all institutions or individuals involved in the distribution or maintenance of scholarly journal literature. They are librarians, knowledge managers, educators, archivists, curators, advocacy and service groups and others facilitating the discovery and use of published academic works. Their aims in doing so are to preserve the products of scholarly work and to act as connectors between scholarly journal literature and the institutions and individuals who seek or stand to benefit from it. To achieve these aims they require accurate records of available literature and proper tools for collecting, managing and delivering it to others. Some challenges they face in achieving these aims include:(1) absence of adequate tools to meet diverse needs, (2) lack of representation and input in tool development (3) high costs and limited funding or others resources to acquire available tools, (4) difficulty in coordinating widespread distribution and maintenance of large collections.
Seekers include all institutions or individuals involved in the direct consumption and use of scholarly journal literature. They are researchers, students, professionals, policy and decision makers and others in search of relevant analysis, data or findings to support their own pursuits. Their aims in doing so are to deepen their understanding of an area of inquiry, inform and strengthen decision making and improve their ability to solve problems or fulfill their roles and obligations. To achieve these aims they require adequate means of discovering available literature, identifying what items are relevant and reviewing content that might satisfy their search. Some challenges they face in achieving these aims include:(1) absence of adequate tools to discover relevant literature (2) high costs and limited funding for reviewing and accessing content, (3) no guarantee of relevance or usability of purchased content.
- Absence of stakeholder input and participation in tool development
- Absence of high quality, comprehensive tools that meet diverse stakeholder needs
- High cost of available tools and content and lack of adequate funds to acquire them
- Lack of connection to fellow stakeholders and limited ability to self-organize and coordinate problem solving
- A dynamic platform for connecting institutions, individuals and scholarly journal literature
- A cost-effective means of sharing, discovering and accessing relevant content
- A means of effectively incorporating stakeholder needs and input into tool development
Knowledge for All seeks to address these common challenges and needs by inviting institutions and individuals from all stakeholder groups to become active participants in the development of a free, open, dynamic tool that will meet their diverse needs. The tool’s strengths and weaknesses, along with the opportunities and threats it will meet in the current landscape, are outlined below.
- Open approach to tool development builds accountability and empowers stakeholders to meet their own needs.
- Collaborative skill-sourcing model reduces development and operational costs, eliminates cost to stakeholders and ensures sustainability.
- Interdisciplinary nature of content unites all scholarly journal literature in one place and connects stakeholders across all disciplines.
- High quality metadata, along with sophisticated and customizable search, browse and share features allow users to discover, share and access relevant content.
- Availability of tool for full download and adaptation furthers customizability.
- Customization support may serve as a sustainable revenue source.
- Initial development will require staff and funding.
- Project relies on voluntary participation of stakeholders.
- Interdisciplinary nature of tool may deter those accustomed to subject-specific or specialized tools.
- Coordination of large numbers of project contributors may be complex.
- High cost of available products lends urgency to the need for an alternative and raises demand for tool.
- Stakeholder groups are able to reduce reliance on costly products and shift their spending to other priority areas.
- The tool’s open software and data adds value to public interface and is a free resource for stakeholders.
- Project builds sense of community and encourages collective action in face of growing challenges.
- Success of project will demonstrate merits of open movements and further the case for open source, open data and open content in the international library and academic community.
- Open nature of project may deter stakeholders who perceive it as an unstable alternative.
- Software and data may be used for proprietary purposes that run contrary to its values.
- Legal and licensing considerations with respect to content may slow project development.