Access to full-text journals online?
March 21, 2011 8:19 PM   Subscribe

In a few days my uni library is going to cut off my sweet, sweet access to its electronic resources, including full text e-journals and online references like OED. I can get an alumni account for $50 a year, but that only gives me physical borrowing rights, not e-resources. Does anybody offer comprehensive access to full-text online journals to non-students for a fee? I don't have a particular field in mind - I want it all. I'm an Australian in Australia, if it matters.
posted by obiwanwasabi to Education (20 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Have you checked to see what's available from your local library? Here in the US, local public libraries carry many electronic resources, and I suspect it's the same in Australia. I don't know if they'll have the OED, but you can check. The great thing is that this comes free with your borrower's card.

Have you started looking into open access journals? There are many that are not hidden behind pay walls.

And to answer your question: there probably isn't any way to access all online journals for one fee, because those journals are published by a huge range of publishers who make deals with various database vendors for their content.

Also, the reason as an alum you only get physical borrowing and not e-resources is because of licensing agreements enforced by publishers.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:32 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your best bet is going to be asking a current student if you can use their school log-in to access the gated library databases & resources. I did that for years after leaving the university.
posted by willie11 at 8:36 PM on March 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Many times databases will be accessible, but articles in the databases won't be. This is my search order:

1) Try the author's page
2) Try the arXiv
3) Random google searches
4) Is a friend at school online? If yes, give them a direct link, ask them to email me the pdf.
5) Add it to a list of articles I want, and then try to find other articles to read instead (I usually look at other recently published papers they cite & try to find one that looks promising).

Every month or so I drop by the local public university and use the library workstations there to get the articles on the list & put them on a USB key. Or if I'm lazy, I bribe a friend to get everything on my list when I get a chance.

It's a rough world out there. Bummer.
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:42 PM on March 21, 2011

Should mention, I follow mostly math/bioe/cs, which works out very well for me because the arXiv is a pretty standard place for preprints for all of those fields. I usually only have to resort to the other methods if its a big-deal paper in a big-name journal (and thus usually not on the arXiv) or too old to be online. It would be much rougher if I depended on work that typically wasn't published online as well.
posted by devilsbrigade at 8:46 PM on March 21, 2011

Many times, you can use the public terminals at the university library to use the electronic resources without needing a password. I know this is the case for public universities in the United States. You should check to see if you need to log in to use the computers in the library on campus.
posted by k8lin at 8:46 PM on March 21, 2011

If you have the alumni account, can you use the library computers? If so, you could access the e-resources (you shouldn't have to log in separately) from there. Of course, this is not the ideal solution and would not work if you don't live near campus.
posted by prenominal at 8:49 PM on March 21, 2011

Browse Google Scholar, it will at the very least give you abstracts, and if you ask nicely some renegade academic librarian might send you an occasional article.

Your public library should be able to get you stuff through inter-library loan. As for the OED I assume you could purchase an individual account.
posted by mareli at 8:56 PM on March 21, 2011

Many authors are happy to email their articles or sometimes to answer the occasional question (that isn't too hard to answer).

I would recommend finding a student friend for more immediate access, though.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 8:59 PM on March 21, 2011

Were you a grad student/postdoc/research assistant at this institution? If so, then do something like this:

At all of the schools I've attended (US), faculty can grant library and email privileges to a non-university collaborator by simply filling out an affiliate form. That simple. So if you're on good terms with a faculty member, ask if they will sign off on one (assuming such a thing exists where you are).

This means that you will continue to enjoy the same privileges as you do now.
posted by special-k at 9:19 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know that Monash Uni lets alumni use some electronic resources upon paying a fee. You don't get most of the scientific journals, or any law journals.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:31 PM on March 21, 2011

If you come across something like this, I'd love to know, but I suspect it doesn't exist. My ex-academic better half occasionally has a need for papers that are only in subscription-only journals for work. For a while she got herself classed as a visiting fellow, but I think that's expired now (and you really need a pretty good reason to be so classed).

I used to work in a small organisation with a small library that had an electronic subscription to a few journals. It was horrendously expensive for them. I suspect organisations that do have these sorts of subscriptions have pretty tight controls on who they can give access to.

As mentioned above, Google Scholar and other sources occasionally will link to full text, but it's a bit hit and miss (there is a paper of mine that is in a subscription-only journal that someone somewhere has put on a public web server and Google Scholar links to it). Relying on this for something like a comprehensive literature review is going to be an exercise in frustration, however.

If all else fails, however, do your search based on freely available abstracts and do what we did in the olden days – go to a university library, hunt out the hardcopy volume of the relevant journal, and photocopy it. I've never been in a university library that restricted entry or photocopying to only current students and staff.
posted by damonism at 9:33 PM on March 21, 2011

Does anybody offer comprehensive access to full-text online journals to non-students for a fee?

bluedaisy has the answer to your question.

There are in the range of several dozen people at your university who negotiate with dozens if not hundreds of vendors of electronic resources to make it possible for you to access all that awesome stuff. You can't do it on your own for any reasonable amount of money.

Learn about open-access publishing and support it! Pubmed central will give you lots of good stuff in the biomedical sciences. Check out PLOS.

@special-k I don't think that the affiliate form is as easy to come by as you think. At the (very large and well known) academic science library I work at, I am pretty much certain that there are not "affiliate forms" that allow faculty to grant free university resources to anyone they wish. There may be something that one can fund with grant money, for a specific project, for a limited term- that wouldn't surprise me at all- but not for free.
posted by rockindata at 9:34 PM on March 21, 2011

Do you live in Queanbeyan or in Canberra proper? The State Library of NSW offers fair (though not comprehensive) database access from home to borrowers who are residents of NSW.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:50 PM on March 21, 2011

@special-k I don't think that the affiliate form is as easy to come by as you think. At the (very large and well known) academic science library I work at, I am pretty much certain that there are not "affiliate forms" that allow faculty to grant free university resources to anyone they wish.

I have done this at 3 different University of California campuses. But it's important to add that faculty aren't just going to hand these out on the street corner. They will only do this for actual collaborators and former students who they maintain an amicable relationship with.
posted by special-k at 9:54 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I suppose I should add that these privileges are not permanent and need to be renewed. So it's meant more as a way to maintain access if you are between institutions/programs.
posted by special-k at 10:00 PM on March 21, 2011

Definitely check public and state libraries that you may have access to. The ones in my area (Qld) have many online resources, but keep in mind there will probably be fewer than your uni has and they will likely be less academic in focus.

Most uni libraries in Australia will provide on-campus access to SOME e-resources as well, so if you live near any university (doesn't have to be one you attended) this could work out for you, just check their policies first. As bluedaisy mentions, the contracts with vendors are the reason why you probably won't be able to get access from home from most places.
posted by eclecticlibrary at 11:21 PM on March 21, 2011

do your search based on freely available abstracts and do what we did in the olden days – go to a university library, hunt out the hardcopy volume of the relevant journal, and photocopy it.

Take that info to your library or its interlibrary loan/article request website and the very nice librarians can even do the locating and photocopying for you! Up to the legal copying limit, of course.
posted by nicebookrack at 12:40 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at what the NLA offers? I know from working at the State Library of Victoria that a sub-set of the electronic resources can be accessed by registered members from their homes. They just need to enter their surname and barcode before accessing the database. NLA may have a similar program.

In fact check out this page. They certainly have the OED available. Register for an NLA card here. It's free!
posted by elephantday at 12:51 AM on March 22, 2011

I work for a UK university and my day job is providing the infrastructure that allows students to access online resources (Shibboleth, proxies, that sort of thing. I'm not a librarian). My evening job is a related startup.

I have been wondering if there was demand for doing exactly what you ask about - providing access to online journals, databases, etc for people outside university life.

There are some big barriers to this, and the biggest is cost. Universities can spend *millions* on getting access to resources, and a company providing access would probably need a critical mass of resources before it was viable. It's a big investment. The second problem I see is that I get the impression many of the big resource providers are comfortable with the income and easy licensing models they get from universities, and dealing with individuals or companies as middlemen would make things more complicated and, to them, not worth the trouble. I know from conversations with some resource providers that a few are are interested but it would take more than a few.

On a more positive note: if you live near a university library you may be able to get "walk in access" to eresources. In the UK many university libraries will allow on-site access to eresources - there's even an official Shibboleth affiliation type for this sort of user. You can only use PCs within the library but get access to most resources. I don't know if this is normally done in Australia, though.

Many journals will sell individual articles or yearly subscriptions to individuals but the costs add up. The bulk licensing of a university is a huge benefit.

Bluedaisy's suggestion is good - some local/regional public libraries have surprisingly good access to resources.

Wearing my professional hat and Bad Cop badge I have to say that willie11's suggestion may well get the helpful student disciplined or kicked off his course. We have ways to spot this sort of thing now. I have been involved in doing this. It was easier to get away with it a few years ago. (Sorry)

How much would people be willing to pay for this? I wish there was a way to convert 14+ Metafilter favourites into a useful measure of demand...
posted by BinaryApe at 3:20 AM on March 22, 2011 [5 favorites]

2nd bluedaisy's suggestion of looking into open access journals. Here are some sites to look at:

Directory of Open Access Journals
HighWire Press
Bentham Open
Public Library of Science (PLOS)
Free Medical Journals
posted by LaurenIpsum at 5:36 AM on March 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

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