How to allow non-students access to online resources and research within university settings has been a sticky issue for some years. Most universities allow members of the public walk-in access to consult books, and sometimes allow paid-for annual membership for limited borrowing rights, and in Wales regional partnership schemes are improving this reciprocal access between members of the public and academic libraries (e.g. the SWAMP passport scheme).
However, allowing access to electronic databases and journals is often restricted because of license conditions controlled by the publishers. As more libraries cancel their print subscriptions to journals and with government recognition that the public should be able to access the results of publicly funded research, addressing this problem is becoming more important.
In Wales, CyMAL is grant-funding a pilot project managed by WHELF and the University of Wales Trinity St David to develop walk-in access to a range of online resources within a sample of university libraries in Wales.
You can read about the project on their blog. The key deliverables will be walk-in access provided at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and two other partner university libraries, and a toolkit to assist implementation in other Welsh university libraries, which will be available in both Welsh and English.
Wales is not the only place to be working on this: projects are taking place (or have taken place) in Scotland led by SCURL, the South West of England, the Publishers Association discussed the issue at their AGM in May 2012, SCONUL’s Task & Finish Group on Access Issues has been considering how walk in access to e-resources in member libraries could be extended, and the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research (the Finch Working Group) have published their report which covers this topic within the wider context of open access to research. One of the Finch report’s recommendations is:
“the current discussions on how to implement the proposal for walk-in access to the majority of journals to be provided in public libraries across the UK should be pursued with vigour, along with an effective publicity and marketing campaign.” (3v in Executive Summary).
As a result of this I understand there is now a joint pilot project between public libraries and publishers in England currently taking place. An article summarising the general situation and how the University of Bath have overcome it is available in the July issue of Ariadne.
You can also follow some of these projects which are mentioned in the Inspire newsletter.