Experts in scholarly communication librarianship have come together to create an openly-licensed book and online network to connect those interested in the emerging field to be most effective in advocating for change.
With support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), Josh Bolick, Maria Bonn, and Will Cross began to build OER + ScholComm in 2017. The strong response from others to join the collaborative project reinforced the need for a bridge between the experiences of practitioners and students.
More than 70 authors have contributed to an open textbook for teaching scholarly communication, Scholarly Communication Librarianship and Open Culture, now scheduled for publication by ACRL in 2023. The team is also developing an online community/repository —(Scholarly Communication Notebook) — designed as a hub to exchange information and empower others interested in the growing profession. Through a competitive awards process, over 30 individuals were selected to develop resources for the notebook.
“So many library people are being tasked with issues related to scholarly communication – copyright, fair use, open licensing, connecting researchers with resources and supporting publishing,” said Bolick, head of the University of Kansas Libraries’ Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright. Yet, these topics are not always covered in-depth in library school, leaving professionals to learn on the job, as was the case for Bolick himself.
Cross, a copyright expert and director of the Open Knowledge Center in the North Carolina State University Libraries, said the initiative is a way to help those working in the scholcomm space from all different kinds of institutions understand and add their voice to the latest resources. “We want to build a community across all sorts of learners and doers—to cross-pollinate perspectives,” he said. “We need to be inclusive to make space for more and different voices.”
OER + Scholcomm gives a forum for faculty members developing OER to get feedback from students using open textbooks. It also provides the latest research for training new library professionals.
At the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, Bonn developed a course on scholcomm for students in the School of Information Science where she is the MS/LIS program director and associate professor. She said resources created through OER + Scholcomm will help others find the latest readings and learn about the latest developments in the field without having to scramble. “The work changes so rapidly that it’s important to have connections and create dialogue with those in practice,” Bonn said.
The forthcoming book is intended to be used as an open textbook of scholarly communication librarianship and a resource for continuing education. The first section provides an introduction to the social, economic, technological, and legal issues related to scholarly communication work in libraries. The second part covers open access, open data, open education, open science and infrastructure. In the final section, professionals were selected to share their experiences in 24 short pieces about translating theory to practice.
Recognizing the ever-changing nature of the discipline, the team crafted the SCN to complement the textbook, and to be a dynamic space for an active, inclusive, empowered community of practice for teaching scholarly communications. It is modeled on Robin DeRosa and Rajiv Jhangiani’s Open Pedagogy Notebook and will include viewpoints of librarians, LIS faculty and students in the space.
To reflect the diversity of perspectives, the OER + ScholComm team invited other professionals to help curate the collection. As with the book, Cross said the SCN had more applications than the team could accept, indicating a deep interest in the issue.
A.J. Boston, scholarly communication librarian at Murray State University in Kentucky, was among the contributors to the open textbook, penning a chapter on “Other Duties as Assigned.” He describes the potential disconnect that can open up with administrators as the job of a scholcomm librarian continues to evolve, and how unexpected tasks (such as getting assigned to a committee outside the library) can be leveraged to build cross-campus connections.
Also, as an invited curator for the SCN hub, Boston is gathering material on scholarly sharing, which has been useful as he prepares to teach a virtual class on scholarly communication in the fall for the first time. “What started as a theoretical kind of exercise about OER and scholarly communication has become a really practical concern,” he said. “I would love to discover more scholcomm OER to use in my upcoming course.”
Another curator, Sara Benson, copyright librarian and associate professor of scholarly communication and publishing at the University Library at University of Illinois, located and synthesized materials on OER for information sciences. Her expertise is in copyright and she produces podcasts (Copyright Chat) for the library. Rather than theoretical copyright resources for law students, Benson is focused on finding practical information for library students.
“There’s just not enough discourse in the information science programs around scholarly communication,” Benson said. “It’s a relatively new field. Not everyone is comfortable teaching it…copyright interacts with every aspect of librarianship and it’s something I think all information science professionals need to know. Having an OER about these topics is so crucial, because it makes it accessible to all the students.”
The OER + Scholcomm project is in the final year of funding, with some new ideas on the horizon.. Next spring, the book is anticipated to be released – both online and in print.
“The goal is to increase the knowledge, skills, and experience relating to scholarly communication, realizing that it’s broadly applicable in academic libraries and beyond,” Bolick said. “We want our new library colleagues to have an awareness of these topics, and as a field be better able to meet the changing needs of researchers, authors, and students.”