The Value of Open Access…in the Words of Readers

CUNY Academic Works logoWe at the Mina Rees Library often talk about how open access scholarly literature can benefit everyone: students and teachers of all levels, researchers inside and outside academia, policy makers (and those their policies affect), medical and mental health practitioners (and their patients), and potentially anyone with an information need and access to the internet.

You might wonder if our claims about the benefits of open access are overblown. You might doubt that scholarly literature—so dense, so abstruse—really has an audience outside academia. Of course, there can be no audience where there’s no access. But where there’s access, an audience often arrives. And sometimes, that audience takes a moment to express their appreciation.

CUNY helps ensure broad access to CUNY-authored works by offering CUNY Academic Works, a public access repository for scholarly, creative, and pedagogical works created by the CUNY community. (As you’re probably aware, it’s the destination for GC dissertations, theses, and capstone projects, but it also contains much more.) On every work is a cover page that includes a link asking, “How does access to this work benefit you? Let us know!” 

Portion of cover page that says "How does this work benefit you? Let us know!"

Every work in CUNY Academic Works has a cover page inviting readers to share how access to the work benefits them.

Most readers don’t pause to click that link, but some do. And many lovely notes have come in. Here is a sampling of comments that have come in about works posted to the GC Publications and Research section of Academic Works [all comments shared with the commenters’ permission]:

From a PhD student in the UK, about From Porto Alegre to New York City: Participatory Budgeting and Democracy by Professor Celina Su:

“Access to this work gives context to my PhD work. It adds value in providing the conditions which enable [Participatory Budgeting] to increase the participation of underrepresented groups. It supports the preliminary finding of my PhD.”

From a PhD student in Spain, about Monoglossic policies for a heteroglossic culture: misinterpreted multilingualism in Modern Galicia by Professor José del Valle:

“I would be completely unable to read this Del Valle article, and use it as a source for my dissertation, if not available through the CUNY link.”

From a researcher in Iran, about Participation by Professor Claire Bishop:

“Since I can barely access the required resources from where I live, i.e, Iran, being able to access this work here is of great help for me.”

From a self-described “citizen mother” in the US, about The Trouble with White Feminism: Whiteness, Digital Feminism and the Intersectional Internet by Professor Jessie Daniels:

“Access to this work benefits me as a part of an entire written breadth of work on racism, feminism and anti-racism contributing to my understanding and responsibility to enact positive change for Black women.”

A student in the US also wrote in about The Trouble with White Feminism:

I’m writing a paper on how white feminism perpetuates the oppression of women of color. It’s difficult to find sources on the subject, but the few that I’ve found—including this one—have been very helpful. I’m grateful to have access to it.”

We’ve also received feedback in languages other than English. Here, for example, is a note in Portuguese from a professor in Brazil, about When We Say ‘Physician Burnout,’ We Really Mean Depression by Professor Irvin Sam Schonfeld:

é muito importante para meu conhecimento científico! Obrigada.” [Translation, according to Google Translate: “Is very important to my scientific knowledge! Thanks.”]

These comments happen to all pertain to works by GC faculty, but many, many comments have come in about student works, especially dissertations, theses, and capstone projects. Comments about culminating student works is a blog post for a different day!

Curious about adding your scholarly, creative, or pedagogical works to CUNY Academic Works? Here are a few ways to learn more:

And next time you find yourself reading something you found in CUNY Academic Works, click that link to let us know how access to it benefits you!

About the Author

Jill Cirasella is the Scholarly Communication Librarian and University Liaison at the CUNY Graduate Center.