To show the centrality of knowledge in his plan for the University of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson placed the Library at its heart, a provocative choice at a time when other institutions were built around houses of worship. Since that time, the Library has been committed to Jefferson’s vision of the free spread of ideas. Today our commitment to access is stronger than ever, further emboldened by the advent of new technologies that make possible unprecedented distribution of knowledge.
In 1813, Jefferson wrote, “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself, without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature.” Nearly 200 years later, scholars at the Budapest Open Access Initiative explained why Jefferson’s vision of unfettered global spread of knowledge is more feasible now than ever before: “An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds.” Open access—free online access to the products of research—promises the fullest realization of Jefferson’s vision, a candle to illuminate the world.
To spread freely may be the natural inclination of all ideas, but realizing that vision requires investment and support. The Library is proudly committed to that support not only because of our founder’s vision, but also because we know that openness ensures greater dissemination, inclusiveness, and integrity for research. By supporting openness, we support the advancement of knowledge and the education of the next generation.
This booklet is a product of the Scholarly Communications Team of the University of Virginia Library. This work is licensed Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0).
We gratefully acknowledge the content and layout are based on original work by the Open Knowledge Committee in the University Libraries at Virginia Tech (hdl.handle.net/10919/87052.3)