Open Environment


Open sesame

Open up

Open sandwich

Open source

Open government

Open access

Open content

Open license

Open education

Open data

There are a lot of different ‘opens’ out there. I’ve touched on a few of the opens in previous posts but in this post I want to provide a bit of an overview of who’s who in the open zoo and some of the great programs, tools and initiatives out there.

I’ll start with the one you’ve all heard about…

Open access
You can have open access to many different things but in the context of information, open access means access to scholarly and academic materials.

Peter Suber in his book Open Access defines open access as follows:

“Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions”
His whole book is available on the Internet Archive at

The concept of OA is fairly simple but the mindset it seeks to shift is a significant one not only to the research and academic community. Put very simply the ‘traditional’ publishing model is that an academic, researcher or scientist is paid by an institution or company to commit their time to a particular endeavor. This time and work generally results in a finding, which is then published in a journal. This journal charges a lot of money for access despite the fact that 99% of the time the author hasn’t been paid nor have the reviewers. A cost is imposed which prevents access to research to those without the office budget or personal means to pay for the material. OA is about the cost but when it comes to academic content this cost has significant implications, as Suber notes:
“A price tag is a significant access barrier. Most works with price tags are individually affordable. But when a scholar needs to read or consult hundreds of works for one research project, or when a library must provide access for thousands of faculty and students working on tens of thousands of topics, and when the volume of new work grows explosively every year, price barriers become insurmountable. The resulting access gaps harm authors by limiting their audience and impact, harm readers by limiting what they can retrieve and read, and thereby harm research from both directions. OA removes price barriers.“

The impact of this barrier has been recognized by a number of institutions and individuals internationally. The result? A number of fantastic open access journals and repositories, obviously. I’ve listed a few open access repositories here but this list is by no means complete:

Open data
I briefly touched upon open data sets in a previous article on big data < > and since their awesomeness hasn’t changed here they are again.
Google has a range of data sets available via a public directory <>. Big data is big picture – you can look at the each countries technological readiness and use of ICTs with the Global Competitiveness Report or compare countries forecast population growth with the International Monetary Fund data set.
Hadoop Illuminated includes a list of public Big Data sets to give you an idea of the type of information available and what working with big data looks like. These are available here:


Open source
Whether you buy a software program on the internet or in a store when you get around to installing that program you will be required to agree to a number of terms and conditions. One of these terms is generally along the lines of don’t mess with the source code.
You are limited in the way you use the program. Even if you have the skill and inclination to develop the program or fix a bug you cannot. With open source the restriction isn’t there. The source is open to users and developers alike to fix bugs as well as enhance the program.

There are a number of great open source programs out there. Ones I want to draw particular attention to are the open source online training programs available. There are a range of open source learning management systems out there including:

Open license
There’s a common misconception that ‘open’ means that you lose all rights as an author or creator. This isn’t the case. Open licenses provide the creator/owner the opportunity to set how their works can be used. These rights and permissions dramatically expand upon the rights and permissions of information consumers.Creative Commons provides a range of open licenses for different creations. Generally the licenses can be split into different combinations of the following elements:
  • Use – Can the material be used for non-commercial or commercial purposes?
  • Attribution – Does the author/creator need to attributed to the author?
  • Derivative works – Can works be made which are derived from the creative work?
  • Sharing the love – Share alike requires that any derivative work must be produced under the same creative commons license
The above is a bit of an overview and the licenses are a bit more complex than this. If you’d like more information on the licenses check out <>A Public Service Announcement
All these open tools are fantastic resources that you can use to create better services for your users or just make your library life better. Making and keeping these tools and resources free requires support from the public so please consider supporting (monetarily or otherwise) those tools that ask for it.



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