The Library Faculty Association of Virginia Tech’s University Libraries passed a new policy on Aug. 1, 2013, that will ensure all scholarly articles authored by University Libraries faculty will be publicly available at no charge.

Electronic copies of these articles will be openly available through VTechWorks, the university’s institutional repository for research and scholarship.

“The vote followed lengthy discussion among members about the changing landscape of scholarly communication, the rights of scholarly authors, and the University Libraries’ responsibility to provide open access to scholarship as widely as possible,” said Patrick Tomlin, president of the Library Faculty Association.

According to Tomlin, the vote passed by a narrow margin, serving as proof of the complexity of the issues surrounding open access.

The access limitations and costly licensing fees associated with traditional publishing are some of the main reasons for the shift towards policies that support wider access.

“A big part of Virginia Tech’s mission is to discover new knowledge and disseminate it, but the reality is that most of the time faculty are publishing behind a paywall where taxpayers, people in developing countries, and even other scholars whose libraries do not subscribe to those journals can’t read our research,” said Philip Young, metadata librarian and member of the Library Faculty Association.

This initiative is not only in line with policies at other research institutions, but also is in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy directive calling for public access to federally funded research.

“What we’re seeing is a global phenomenon. Faculty at top universities like Harvard, MIT, Georgia Tech, and the University of California have all recently passed similar mandates increasing access and discovery of scholarly output,” said Dean of University Libraries Tyler Walters. More than "100 universities around the world have some form of an open access mandate in place.”

While some of the mandates, like Virginia Tech’s University Libraries’ policy, apply to certain libraries, departments, or campuses, others, such as University of California’s, are university-wide and affect a larger percentage of research.

“This step by the librarians invites further conversation for all faculty at Virginia Tech,” said Walters.

Currently, the mandate applies to all peer-reviewed journal articles authored or co-authored by the 46 faculty members at University Libraries. The policy also encourages faculty to provide electronic copies of presentations, posters, conference proceedings, and book chapters for dissemination and preservation, to publish in open access journals whenever possible, and to provide public access to peer-reviewed journal articles completed before the implementation of the open access policy.

“Librarians know the importance of access to information, and this policy takes advantage of the archiving permissions that journals often include in publishing contracts,” added Young. “The policy allows an opt-out if needed, but the important thing is that public access to our work is now something that library faculty must consider every time we publish.”

The policy is available on the University Libraries website and in VTechWorks.