About Open Access
In its broadest terms, the "open access" movement is an effort to more widely disseminate scholarly material to a wider audience, beyond the expensive and restricted journals in which much of the highest-quality material is found. Like many universities, Washington University has an institutional repository called Open Scholarship designed for this purpose. It was created in response to the Open Access Resolution passed by the Faculty Senate, which directed the University Libraries to create a platform to assist faculty members in making their material available this way.
How It's Done
When an author publishes material in an academic journal, the author grants various rights to the publisher as a condition of publication through a contract. Typically that contract also allows the author to retain some rights. Many publishers will allow re-publication of an article in an institutional repository, under certain restrictions (usually after an embargo period, and sometimes restricted to a given version of the work, i.e., a version that does not reflect editorial changes requested by the publisher as part of the peer-review and editorial processes).
A librarian will check on what the different publishers of your articles allow in terms of re-publication. Where an appropriate copy can be immediately obtained, that copy will be placed directly in Open Scholarship. If the publisher requires a different version, library staff will attempt to locate the required version, and if necessary, contact the faculty member to try to obtain the version.
While faculty members need to make decisions on whether or not or to what extent to make their material open access based on their career aims and commitments, we do encourage all members of the university community to be proactive with their intellectual property, and have resources to help people do so. The Scholarly Communications page has tools for amending publisher contracts to retain more rights for greater flexibility after initial publication, including making materials available open access.