academic library access for the independent academic?
June 27, 2014 7:52 PM   Subscribe

I live in the West Midlands, home to a few good university libraries. Unfortunately, none of these libraries offer memberships to community members. My own alma mater, Birmingham City University, does not have an alumni library membership. It's very annoying. I would really like access to SagePub and T&F for journal articles. Can you recommend a university or college in the UK, Europe, or anywhere that offers remote access to their library's databases and where I could buy an annual membership?
posted by parmanparman to Education (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's generally not that libraries don't want to provide access to alumni, it's that the publishers won't let them. The universities close to you likely offer walk-in access, but I doubt you'll find anywhere that allows you remote access.
posted by kbuxton at 8:30 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

find a friend who still goes to or works at the university; ask to borrow their proxy login and password.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 8:45 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

This probably has to do with licensing restrictions rather than what the libraries would want to do. Also, some of those alumni memberships face similar restrictions.

If you are interested in articles on a particular topic, you might look into academic societies. For example, the American Psychological Association (APA) membership offers online access to a range of journals relevant to the field.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:28 PM on June 27, 2014

There are Independent Scholars Associations for the US, Canada and Australia.

The Canadian one includes access to the Simon Fraser University library system:

Doesn't look like there's one for the UK -- but it might be time to start building one.
posted by wenat at 9:38 PM on June 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

You could sign up for an Open University course - that will get you access to their library system which I think includes full access to all that stuff.
posted by altolinguistic at 1:58 AM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Was going to suggest the same thing as altolinguistic, but any online course at a university should come with library privileges. Trick will be to find a course that's relatively inexpensive.
posted by woodman at 3:19 AM on June 28, 2014

Have you asked at your local public library? Many public libraries don't have the budget for a lot of scholarly journal databases but librarians tend to be a savvy lot and may have some suggestions for you. I was trying to suss it out a bit but the UK looks a bit, um, limited in terms of what it offers. The British Library subscribes to heaps but you can only access them onsite, for the most part. Crazy. The vendors are obviously much more sensitive about licensing than they are down here.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:40 AM on June 28, 2014

You do have the UK's best public library, and I'm sure the people there will be very happy to help out, both with finding access to articles, and suggesting how to get hold of articles. The old (and to me, lamented) building was brilliant for study, and I have no doubt the new one is as good. The University of Birmingham library permitted members of the public for 3 days a year when I lived too.

And of course, the best way to get hold of journal articles is to send a polite request to the first author with a couple of sentences saying why you want read their paper.
posted by ambrosen at 3:58 AM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Academic librarian here. Yeah, it's the greedy publishers. One thing to try is contacting the researchers directly. If you find something on google scholar that you want to read figure out where the researcher works, find her or his email, and ask for a copy.

There are also some academic librarians who will bend the rules and send copies if you don't ask for too much stuff.
posted by mareli at 5:39 AM on June 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Further to woodman's comment - the OU is more expensive than it used to be, so if the fee for even a small course is beyond you it might be worth looking at online courses from other countries. As far as I know the OU is the main provider of online courses here in the UK.

I don't know how or whether levels of library resource access differ between countries, though.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:52 AM on June 28, 2014

I'm not familiar with the UK, but I found that my local medical school library (University of Rochester, in Upstate New York, USA) will allow anyone to come in and research medical topics (or, really, any topics, I suppose). I've taken advantage of this access a number of times. The reference librarians are very helpful, as well -- they don't seem to care that I'm not affiliated with the university at all. The medical school library has access to all the databases for the whole university library system -- so once you're in the med school library, you're golden.
posted by alex1965 at 7:05 AM on June 28, 2014

Seconding ambrosen: academic authors LOVE it when people are actually reading their papers: if there are just a few you need, very high chance you can just get it from them with an e-mail.

Also, I don't know about the British Library, but I'd guess they subscribe to essentially every journal. Might be worth the occasional trip into London. (That worked for me in the U.S. with the Library of Congress the one time I tried to write an academic article w/o a university affiliation.)
posted by paultopia at 7:25 AM on June 28, 2014

If there's a particular article, it is worth having a look at whether the author's institution has an repository - these are generally open access and you can often find the pre-print of an article there, depending on the publisher's policy etc.

But generally, we can't provide external (or alumni) access to e-resources because of the licensing agreements we have with the publishers and also the access methods, which tend to require an active LDAP etc. account, which you don't have if you're not an enrolled student or a payrolled member of staff. Our walk in access is pretty much print-only.
posted by halcyonday at 3:17 AM on June 30, 2014

The academic library at which I work offers a (decent) selection of online library resources to certain levels of annual membership in the Friends of the Library organization. That would be another place to check.
posted by telophase at 9:19 AM on June 30, 2014

Best answer: Having read what telophase wrote, I see that the University of Birmingham library does offer public membership for £50 a year (reference) or £75 a year (borrowing), but it is at their discretion.
posted by ambrosen at 2:23 PM on June 30, 2014

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