I've been thinking again about the question asked me at UCLA: why should academic libraries divert staff and budgetary resources to open access (green or gold, gratis or libre) if our mandate is to serve our local patrons? I gave an answer that I wasn't particularly happy with. I have a bit of an esprit d'escalier answer now, the borrowed words of Benjamin Franklin:
We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.
A lot of us academic librarians know that our faculty basically see us as wallets. We pay for the stuff they use. That's pretty much all they know about us, all they think we do (aside from checking books out at the desk, don't you know—and I am being sarcastic because this function is rarely performed by actual librarians). If we just hang back contentedly being wallets, what will happen to us when the wallet-function breaks, as we all know it's breaking? Particularly, what will happen if we have nothing to fall back on—no rhetoric, no advocacy, no best practice, nothing—from the profession, the collective? A library under siege from its institution with no support external to that institution isn't playing a strong hand.
We also know that toll-access publishers and aggregators have been playing divide-and-conquer for a long time. What are all these NDAs about, if not to divide libraries one from another and prevent us from gathering the collective intelligence that would let us all negotiate fair prices? At this late date, we seem unlikely to reverse this behavior as individual libraries and consortia. It's going to take a full-court press, from as many of us as possible.
Just as open access will. It's perhaps a measure of my own demoralization that I was quite chuffed by this preprint finding that 49% of current academic-librarian–authored materials can be found open-access. Forty-nine percent is dismal, but it's also extraordinary, and rather better than I would have expected. The lesson is clear, though: individual efforts on individual campuses and in individual libraries don't get us very far.
At the risk of sounding all commie and stuff: we work toward a collective openness, or we die off one by one as the business model sustaining us as well as publishers crumbles to bits.