Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ajit Pyati, open source and open access in libraries

We librarians are a collaborative lot - and OA Librarians are no exception. Ajit Pyati is a PhD student who would love to see open access become a reality because to him, it means a more equitable world, one more in line with the values of our profession. Ajit, an editor of the pioneering InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies in its formative years, emphasizes that he is just a part of the team. InterActions, an open access journal, was one of the first e-journals produced by the California Digital Library. Ajit is, in a way, a second-generation OA advocate, one who became involved with OA when he joined the local journal team.

Currently, Ajit is working on a PhD, studying technology development in libraries, specifically open source, and to some extent open access. The direction of Ajit's studies was influenced by a visit to Vancouver last summer, where he met John Willinsky and learned about the Public Knowledge Project, which, among other things, developed the Open Journal Systems software, a free open source publishing software in use by open access publishers around the world. Simon Fraser University Library [where I work] is a partner in OJS, and provides support and some development for the OJS software, as well as a suite of open source products called reSearcher [GODOT link resolver, CUFTS knowledgebase, CUFTS journal database (A to Z list), dbwiz (federated search tool), and more. [Disclosure: I work with the reSearcher team].

This brief introduction to Ajit's work already illustrates two key areas of support that libraries are providing for open access. The California Digital Library provides free access to and support for the bepress publishing software for California faculty, faciliating the development of open access journals by California faculty (and graduate students, in the case of InterActions). UCLA has supported the development of InterActions by providing funding for the graduate students who work on the journal. Perhaps this is a model with broader application? Funding is so important for graduate students - and isn't participating in publishing a great learning experience? Simon Fraser University Library actively contributes to the development and support of OJS, and provides hosting and support services on a cost-recovery basis.

It was my pleasure recently to meet Ajit when he came to Vancouver to interview people for his research. Ajit sees open source as an option that gives libraries more control over what we do; with open source, we do not follow developments, we lead them.

Library schools take note: this passioniate, very intelligent PhD candidate, with a temperament that strikes me as ideal for teaching, is anticipating graduation in June 2007. One example of Ajit's work, an article called WSIS: Whose Vision of an Information Society? can be found in First Monday.
Best of luck with that PhD, Ajit - I can't wait to see the results of your thesis!
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