Yesterday was Natasha’s birthday. One of the gifts I wanted to give her was a subscription to the University of Pennsylvania library (we live right next to UPenn), so that she would have remote access to all the academic databases (the free library of Philadelphia provides remote access to some, but not all, of those databases). Natasha has long lamented her lack of access to scientific journals now that she is no longer in school. Such journals are key to both her work as a sustainable food writer. Also, it is relevant to her personal enrichment, due to her interests, and background, in biological science. Further, as a long-time graduate student myself, I remember just how useful it was to have remote access to such a treasure trove of academic work. Even now, there have been numerous times during my writing where I run up against firewalls on JSTOR. So, I figured it was time to get us access to all of this great information.
The problem is, as a I discovered, even if you are willing to spend $400 a year for access to the library as an individual, or $800 as part of a corporate account, access to many of the academic databases is still restricted. Unless you have a job with the university, or are enrolled as a student, many of the databases with the best available research are nearly impossible to access. Right now, the only way it seems that we can ever have access to many academic journals is for someone with access to illegally let us borrow their username and password. Nice.