Browser Extensions for Point-of-Need Open Access

How often have you run across a paywalled journal article and then either taken a detour to Google Scholar to see if there’s a freely available version or just shrugged and decided not to pursue that article?

No matter your role at CUNY (or elsewhere), I’m guessing pretty often.

Did you know there are two browser extensions that make it easier to find legally available open access (OA) versions of articles…and harder to shrug and give up? Unpaywall and Open Access Button: learn a bit about them below and then add them to your browser!


Unpaywall detects when you’re looking at a paywalled journal article and adds a small color-coded tab to the right side of the page.

Green Unpaywall tabA green tab with an image of an unlocked lock means that Unpaywall can connect you to an OA version of the article. Want the article? Just click the green tab, and it’ll lead you to the OA version. A simple, single click, and you’re there.

(Do you consider yourself an OA nerd? If so, you can select “OA Nerd Mode” in the extension settings to have the unlocked tab display in different colors: green if the article is “green OA” (i.e., posted in an open access repository), gold if the article is “gold OA” (i.e., openly licensed on the publisher’s site), and bronze if the article is “bronze OA” (i.e., free to read on the publisher’s site but not openly licensed). Interestingly, bronze OA seems to be the most common “flavor” of OA.)

Grey Unpaywall tabA grey tab with an image of a locked lock means that Unpaywall can’t connect you to an OA copy. Either there is no legal OA version, or, if there is, Unpaywall isn’t aware of it (i.e., if none of its data sources include it).

Once Unpaywall is installed, the tab automatically appears when you’re on a publisher’s site — no need to do anything to check the status of a given article. It’s there when you need it and easy to ignore when you don’t.

Open Access Button

Open Access Button iconThe Open Access Button is a very similar extension, with three key differences from the user’s perspective:

  1. The extension adds a button to your browser’s toolbar, and you need to click it when you want to check for an OA version of an article. In this way, the Open Access Button is slightly less convenient than Unpaywall — you have to make the (extremely small!) effort to click the button.
  2. The Open Access Button’s data sources include the Unpaywall database but also numerous others (e.g., SHARE and CORE). This means that the Open Access Button is more likely to be able to connect you to an OA version of the article you seek.
  3. If the Open Access Button can’t find a legal OA version of an article you want, it can send a request to the article’s author. It makes sending an email to the author quicker and easier than it would otherwise be, and gives the author easy-to-follow instructions for how to proceed in making the article OA. In other words, it lowers the barrier to act for both the researcher and the author!
Screen when Open Access Button determines that there is no accessible version of an article
When the Open Access Button cannot locate an OA version of an article, it presents the researcher with the option to initiate a request.

Reflection: Enhancing the Institutional Repository – Learning from the OER Experience

Why is so hard to get faculty to self-submit their papers in our institutional repository? Our recruitment is moderately successful for short periods of time after we make presentations on the value of open access to faculty and the university. I began to think that we might need to strike a chord with more essential values in order to motivate faculty. Student success is both an essential and urgent value. In fact, student success is featured in a Chronicle of Higher Education report as a movement that “has made greater completion rates, equity, and social mobility institutional responsibilities at two- and four-year colleges.” [ ] Will faculty be motivated to deposit academic articles in an open-access institutional repository to support student success?

While working with faculty on using Open Educational Resources (OER) in their classes for almost two years, I observed a connection between OER development and academic institutional repositories. For me, the most striking observation was to see faculty eager to submit their OER to our institutional repository –the same repository where  our open access articles reside!– to enhance discovery in the university community and on the web. This caused me to think about harnessing some of the factors that propel faculty to submit their OER to the repository to motivate them to self-submit their scholarly publications as well—submissions which at our college have been slow to accumulate in a widespread, sustained pattern. I think the big factor to harness is making a connection between our repository of open access materials and  student success.

Student Success

Faculty developing OER are deeply committed to student success. The investment of time and energy in creating or adapting an e-textbook, or curating open-access materials on an OER website, is substantial. It is a natural extension of the desire to support the students in their classes for faculty to want their OER to be available to a wide population of students worldwide. Enter the institutional repository. Faculty grasp easily the value of the repository in providing free access to learning materials to students beyond their classes. Moreover, many OER are designed for self-paced online learning and appeal to an audience of learners in the general population. Equally as important to faculty, is making their OER available under Creative Commons licenses to educators who can employ the Five R’s (Remix, Revise…) to spawn a variety of new OER from the original work. The institutional repository disseminates work beyond the university to plant seeds for future development and collaboration.

Why is it that when encouraging faculty to deposit their scholarly articles to the repository we have not received the same response? We might get agreement in principle, but sporadic follow-up actions. Perhaps we are not placing student success front and center in the many benefits of posting to the repository.  In pitching open-access to faculty, we often stress metrics, boosting one’s academic profile, links to a community of scholars, and we might fail to highlight the significant benefits to students.  We could emphasize the benefit of open-access to the wide community of students worldwide who are studying for degrees and entering the workforce post-graduation.  These students will benefit from free access to scholarly articles in repositories– articles that will be available in full text through Google or Google Scholar. These students might be studying in online degree programs or in schools without libraries, or without extensive access to databases. As librarians, we need to connect the dots for faculty between the institutional repository and student success. We need to unpack and discuss this repeatedly with faculty, in formal and informal venues, so that it becomes self-evident.

Student Work

On my campus, Lehman College of CUNY, there is interest in Open Pedagogy among faculty who are developing OER. Open Pedagogy emphasizes renewable materials, which are assignments and activities where students create materials that are shared with their fellow students or anywhere in the world through web portals and repositories. This learner-generated content can enhance student engagement and learning outcomes. As students become more involved in OER, librarians could mentor the process and close the circle of open-access publishing by posting both student and faculty authored materials in the institutional repository.

Could we seize this opportunity to encourage faculty to deposit their own publications (beyond OER) in the repository as well? The cohort of OER faculty, dedicated to student success, will be receptive to hearing about how the repository helps students with all types of open-access publications. Often we have found that faculty first become aware of the repository when it comes time to post their OER. It is the perfect moment to entice them to deposit their scholarly articles.

Moving Forward

My work on OER and the institutional repository have taught me that placing a high value on student success is crucial to both projects.  OER and scholarly publishing are integral parts of at least two frames of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Information Creation as a Process and Scholarship as Conversation. [ ] I think librarians could consider emphasizing the connection between student success and widening access to faculty publications in the repository, in much the same way we link student success to OER. Raising the awareness among faculty to this core value will be a slow, ongoing process that will benefit faculty themselves, their institutions, and their students.

Author: Madeline Cohen is Associate Professor and Head of Reference, Lehman College, CUNY. She is co-coordinator of CUNY Academic Works at Lehman College, and the OER initiative at Lehman.


For Your Consideration: JLSC Editor-in-Chief Call for Applications

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Call for Applications: JLSC Editor-in-Chief

The Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication ( invites individuals or multi-member teams to apply for the position of JLSC Editor-in-Chief.

The Editor-in-Chief is responsible for a wide array of editorial matters, including submission assessment, reviewer management, article solicitation, and journal promotion. The Editor-in-Chief also provides leadership to the full editorial team, which currently includes an Assistant Editor and two Reviews Editors. In conjunction with the Board Chair, the Editor-in-Chief works with the Editorial Board to determine policy, direction, and oversight for the journal.


The Editor-in-Chief (EIC) manages the overall functioning of the journal, including the development and enforcement of policies. The EIC also oversees the editorial process, including assessment of the relevance of submissions (approximately 60 per year) to the journal’s scope, assignment of peer reviewers, review of revisions, and guidance of accepted submissions through the final editing (copyediting and proofreading) and publication stages. (The EIC is not responsible for copyediting or any production tasks.)

The EIC works closely with the Editorial Board to shape journal policy and practices. Editorial Board members assist the EIC in identifying and recruiting peer reviewers, performing peer review of submissions, soliciting manuscripts, and increasing general awareness and reach of the journal.

The initial term for Editor-in-Chief is four years, with possible annual reappointment thereafter, to a maximum service of seven years. This is a volunteer position.

Preferred start date is June, 2019; the current two-person EIC team will assist the new EIC for a one-month transition period (and be available for consultation after the transition period).

How to Apply

The Editor-in-Chief position is open to individuals or multi-member teams. To apply, please provide (a) applicant contact information, (b) a current CV, and (c) a statement addressing the criteria for selection listed below to Jill Cirasella at by March 18, 2019. Finalists for the position will be asked to provide contact information for at least two references.

A successful applicant must demonstrate:

  • Commitment to advancing scholarly communication practices and librarianship: This includes demonstrated leadership in — and/or advocacy for — the intersections of scholarly communication and librarianship, as well as knowledge in any of the specific areas related to JLSC topics of interest (publishing, data services, digital repositories, open access, impact metrics, etc.).
  • Scholarly experience: This includes an active record of professional growth and scholarly achievement. For example, the candidate is engaged in research, has authored works in areas related to JLSC topics of interest, is active in relevant professional organizations, or is involved in advocacy or instruction related to topics of interest. Preference will be given to individuals with prior experience as an editor or editorial board member for a journal.
  • Institutional support or individual dedication: The candidate must be able to dedicate the time necessary to provide ongoing timely support for authors and the journal as a whole. Examples of evidence of this could include: the candidate being provided release time for JLSC duties, the activities falling within the scope of the candidate’s professional responsibilities (e.g., employer expectations to be engaged in scholarship), or recent adjustments to responsibilities (e.g., cycled off committees or other obligations that have created time for new opportunities).  

Beyond the above primary requirements, additional consideration will be given to the following criteria when reviewing applicants:

  • Academic discipline or area of study, professional work, performance, etc., with a preference for individuals familiar with academic librarianship;
  • Location of current employment (nation, region, hemisphere), with a preference for individuals who will commit to making space for under- or un-represented perspectives;
  • Academic or professional position, with a preference for individuals who demonstrate evidence of expertise and substantial professional contributions to librarianship or a related academic discipline.

About JLSC

The Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication is a peer-reviewed open-access publication for original articles, reviews, and case studies that analyze or describe the strategies, partnerships, and impact of library-led digital projects, online publishing, and scholarly communication initiatives. JLSC is published on a rolling basis, with a general issue for each year and occasional special issues.

JLSC is a shared intellectual space for scholarly communication librarians, institutional repository managers, digital archivists, digital data managers, and related professionals. The journal provides a focused forum for library practitioners to share ideas, strategies, research, and pragmatic explorations of library-led initiatives related to such areas as institutional repository and digital collection management, library publishing/hosting services, and authors’ rights advocacy efforts. As technology, scholarly communication, the economics of publishing, and the roles of libraries all continue to evolve, the work shared in JLSC informs practices that strengthen librarianship.

The journal welcomes original research and practitioner experience papers, as well as submissions in alternative formats (e.g., video).

In order to lower barriers to publication for authors, JLSC does not charge submission or any other form of author fees. JLSC is published on Ubiquity Press’s customized Open Journal Systems platform.


JLSC is published by Pacific University Libraries. Pacific University (Oregon) is a private undergraduate liberal arts institution with graduate and professional programs in education, optometry and the health professions.


JLSC is indexed in Library & Information Science Source and Academic Search Premier (EBSCO) and is included in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

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