Harvard Law School Faculty Approves Open Access Policy for Scholarly Publications

The May 13, 2008 issue of the Library Journal Academic Newswire reports that Harvard University Law School (HLS) has adopted an open access policy for making its scholarly publications available online. Quoting from the Academic Newswire report:

“The Harvard University Law School (HLS) faculty last week followed the lead of their colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences by voting unanimously to make their scholarly articles available online for free, making HLS the first law school to commit to a “mandatory open access policy” via an institutional repository. ”

“Under the new policy, HLS will require that articles authored by its faculty members be placed in an online open access repository. The measure comes just months after the Harvard FAS approved its landmark mandate, after which, university librarian Robert Darnton, an architect of the policy, said he would be talking to Harvard’s professional schools immediately about adopting similar measure. HLS is the first professional school at Harvard to approve the measure. “That such a renowned law school should support Open Access so resoundingly is a victory for the democratization of knowledge,” Darnton said.”

What does this mean for us?

According to a posting on Et Seq. The Harvard Law School Library Blog:

“What does it mean for you? Well, in essence, Harvard law faculty members’ new publications will be available for non-profit, research use to anyone who can access the internet. (Unless the faculty member chooses to opt out of the system, which the policy gives the faculty member the right to do.) ”

For a law librarian such as myself who devotes a considerable amount of his time searching for scholarly papers needed to help support the work of judges and others, this is indeed wonderful news. I only hope that in actual fact the access is truly open to all researchers, both educators and others who seek to use this material for non-profit research. At any rate Harvard Law School is to be commended for taking the lead among law schools in this initiative. Let’s hope other law schools will follow.

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