It has become a depressingly common question this semester at the reference desk. I am asked why a permanent link to an article is coming up with an error message, or a user sees this message on an article she wants for a class.
I look at the citation and sure enough the answer is staring at me right in the face. The Harvard Business Review is a long standing, respected publication, that covers a wide range of business topics and articles are assigned readings in many undergraduate and graduate classes. Business Source Premier is the only database at UST that provides the electronic access to the Harvard Business Review starting from 1922 up until the present issue. I remember very clearly in the early 2000’s when the UST libraries decided to to make the switch from our then full text business article database, ABI INFORM to Business Source Premier from the vendor Ebsco. The librarians debated the merits of both products, we conducted surveys, and finally one of the main reasons we switched was because of the full text access to HBR that we knew our users wanted.
Fast forward to August 1st 2013 when the publishers of HBR started to block full access to their most popular articles like the one you see above. Professors can no longer link to these articles from their Blackboard page, and while users can view the articles when they find them in Business Source Premier, they can no longer print or save the articles in front of them. There is no established list of these 500 articles, users will have to just cross their fingers when they click on an article from HBR that the article they want is not on that mysterious list.
This issue with Harvard goes beyond UST, and it is not going unnoticed. The Chronicle of Education published a very comprehensive article describing the circumstances and potential impact of this situation, while business and reference library associations issued their own response to Harvard’s policy. Recently I shared an article with an OCB faculty member who was not able to link to an HBR article and she replied ‘I would not want to be on the wrong side of librarians.’ I was very flattered by her response and gratified that she perceived librarians as facilitating access to information. So when this access is denied for whatever reason, then yes, you do not want to be on that wrong side.