I’m writing this mostly for the students in our own Distance Education program at Athabasca University, but it may be of interest to others holding access to a well connected research library.

By way of disclosure, let me state that I love and use Google Scholar on a daily basis. The only thing I don’t like is when I use regular Google searches or Google Scholar on another machine (like at a cafe). When I do, I continuously run into publishers wanting my credit card for a $30.00 hit for the article I’m searching for. I mean, the authors were paid nothing for the article and it may be well out of print, yet I should pay $30.00 – not likely!!!

I’m a faculty member at a Canadian University and like all faculty, students and staff here I get ‘FREE’ access to a variety of proprietary journals that are aggregated to make paying their fees easier for me and for the library administration. At Athabasca, I’m told we pay $350,000 (Canadian) per year for this service. This gives us most (in my case maybe 95%) of the journal articles I am interested in retrieving.  Thus, lots of incentive to use the service. The problem, is how do I know what articles my Athabasca library card provides for free! The gurus at Google figured this out, by scanning all the Athabasca collections and then they match any of my Google Scholar search results with a flag to “get this through Athabasca Library”. Or as Google itself describes it “Google works with libraries to determine which journals and papers they’ve subscribed to electronically, and then links to articles from those sources when they’re available. Once you tell us what library you’re a member of, we’ll keep an eye out for that library’s subscription materials and provide special links to them in your search results”. It then automates the search process by creating a direct link (no cut and paste, or retyping) to that article – after a quick and once a day trip to the library login window. Thus, I am saved the trouble of searching directly in the library database and I get free access. All Good!

Here is an example:

Critical Inquiry in a Text-Based Environment: Computer Conferencing in Higher Educationcommunitiesofinquiry.com [PDF] Athabasca Univ. Library
DR Garrison, T Anderson, W Archer – The Internet and Higher Education, 1999 – Elsevier
The purpose of this study is to provide conceptual order and a tool for the use
of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and computer conferencing in supporting
an educational experience. Central to the study introduced here is a model
Cited by 492Related articlesWeb SearchBL DirectAll 8 versions

You can see that the first link to this article is to Science Direct “Copyright © 2000 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved” be prepared to get out the wallet, though I see this particular article is available for free right now (must be a sale on). The second link is to the communities of inquiry site that Randy Garrison supports at the University of Calgary (self archiving) and the third link goes through Athabasca library as described above. More often, search results return only the commercial site ($$$) and the Athabasca library link.

So a great system, except of course if you are not priviledged to have access to a library. here we reach a branch in the path. Nearing Rabbie Burns Day, I am thinking about the high road and the low road.

The Low Road: (applies only to those privileged to have access to a research library) Make sure you know how to set Google Scholar’s Preferences, so that it knows that you hold the key to some networked library. To do this go to Googlescholar.com and click on “Scholar Preferences”. Then  type in the name in the “library Links” window, have Google search for that library (Athabasca in my case) and hope that it finds your library!!! Click on that library and then MOST IMPORTANTLY – go to the Save Changes (way on the bottom right). If it doesn’t find your library, bug the librarian to get in touch with Google.

After this configuration your next search should now display a hot link to “your library” beside those Goggle Scholar hits that you can get for free from that library.

The High Road: Never, ever sign your copyright away to anyone. This includes publishers. License them to distribute your work in paper, print or video, but also put them on the web yourself or upload them to Creative Commons publisher or an other open access repository so that regular Google and GoogleScholar will index the work, making it available to everyone.