I just took a quick look at The Learner’s Library As far as I can tell, the service breaks down as follows:
- LL contains a collection of academic journal articles that have been pre-cleared for copyright.
- There’s a search interface to that collection that includes what appears at first glance to be pretty decent natural language search.
- Searches return results including an appropriate excerpt, a full, formatted citation, and a link to the full text of the article.
- Professors can assemble “course packs” of articles, essentially Furling the collection for one-click access by students.
I bet we could assemble equivalent service for open access journals using free, loosely-coupled pieces.To begin with, we’d need a search engine that targets the OA journals in question. I bet the folks at Google could be convinced to whip up a specialized search; they already have the ability to, for example, search within a particular university. If not, a third party could cobble together the appropriate search using Google’s API.
Once you return the search results, you’d need a way to store the content. As I mentioned in a previous post, Furl is looking into whether they could use Creative Commons metadata to enable legal sharing of cached documents. (I’m not sure what the status of this is now that Furl has been purchased by LookSmart.) At any rate, if we could see this through to fruition with Furl and work with CC and the various OA journals to make sure an appropriate badge is applied to the content (one that gives permission for Furl caching), then presto, we’d have everything except for the automatic citation generation. Plus, using the more open structure of something like Furl and maybe a distributed categorization system like de.licio.us, instructors could create shareable, re-usable resource packs for particular course titles (e.g., Calculus 101).
I’m interested in pursuing this. I need help on two things, though. First, check me on thought process. Am I missing anything? Are there implementation challenges that I’m overlooking? Would this actually be useful? Second, I need a list of open access journals. (I’ve been meaning to do this but haven’t gotten around to it yet.) If you have any contributions to make on either of these two fronts, please send them as comments or trackbacks on this post.