Open Access Tenure: Lead By Example-My SPARC ACRL Presentation

I don’t believe the SPARC/ACRL Forum at ALA Annual was recorded this year, but I had several people ask about my presentation so here are my remarks. The slides are available, though they are mostly just images.

Slide Deck


(Slide 1 Intro)

Thank you to Nick for the introduction and it’s exciting to get to wrap up the panel today. I’ve been so inspired by what the other panelists have already described, *of course* we should be talking to students and I can’t wait to get home and see how we can implement this at my institution. I hope you’re excited as well.

As Nick said, I’m a health sciences librarian at the University of Illinois at Chicago and if you’d like to see more about me, my blog is Hedgehog Librarian and you can find me on twitter @hedgielib.

(Slide 2 I’d Like to Change Directions)

I’d like to change directions from what the other panelists have been discussing so far. Up until now we’ve been talking about the library as collaborator or service provider and that’s something that we do a lot. We talk about students or researchers as this “other”, something we hold at arms length or a kind of shiny unicorn. I’d like to look internally at librarains. Many of us here do research and a number of us are early career researchers, whether we’re tenure track or not.

(Slide 3 Me!: An Example)

So, what do I mean when I say I want to talk about librarians as researchers? I’ll give you myself as an example. I’m a tenure-track research librarian at a large public university.  Prior to that I was a children’s librarian. My research umbrella is the impact of early 21st century technology on scholarly communication among librarians. What does that mean? It means I do research about open access, data, and a variety of other things that are impacting us presently. My current work is focused on institutional policies surrounding research data management and research data management self-education for librarians.  I am going into my 5th year of the tenure process, I have two still go, and I am absolutely in a publish-or-perish situation.

(Slide 4 A Personal Open Access Plan)

And then there was a decision I made on February 22, 2012. This was not that long after the NSF had started requiring data management plans and it was in the midst of the Research Works Act and I decided that I would attempt to get tenure publishing my library research only in open access journals.  This is the blog post from that day. I had to do research and publish to keep my job, but I also knew–as a former children’s librarian–exactly what it was like not to have access to the library literature and I decided that wasn’t going to work for me.

(Slide 5 It Helps to Have Support)

Deciding to do this wasn’t something that I really could do without some support and that came from a number of places. Immediately, it came from the library community. After I published my blog post, there were comments on the post and a lot of emails and tweets of support. It was absolutely wonderful to know that my peers throughout the profession were behind me.

I also had support from my institution. My college–the University Library–has an Open Access policy for faculty, as created by and voted in by the faculty. This isn’t university wide, but it does give me something to fall back on internally. And a number of my coworkers are very supportive of what I’m doing. That’s not something that everyone will have in all fields, either support from their profession or their immediate peers.  I am fortunate in that.

Finally, I got support from research colleagues and coauthors. They know about this and they believe in this for the projects that we collaborate on and that’s been a wonderful support as I am working on this over the years.

(Slide 6 We’ve Got Excellent Options)

It also helps that we have a number of excellent journals to publish in.  This is a short list and by no means is comprehensive–it’s what I jotted down when I said “Okay, if I had a new piece that I was thinking about publishing, where would I send it.” These are all well-reputed, peer-reviewed, gold open access journals.

[Journal List: College and Research Libraries; Practical Academic Librarianship; Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication; Journal of the Medical Library Association; Journal of eScience Librarianship; Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults; Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship; Information Technology and Libraries–and, I forgot to include Evidence Based Librarian and Information Practice]

That’s nine places (eight if you take out the YA journal, my research doesn’t fit there) that I’d be perfectly happy to see my work published and these are all good journals. Many of these are sponsored by ALA Divisions and Sections, and I think that’s important as well.  I’ve also included a link to work that Walt Crawford is doing on the open access landscape, that’ll take you to his summary of what library science presently looks like.

(Slide 7 Pros)

Alright, so you know about me and some places to publish, what are the benefits of publishing open access? For starters, it means your work can be found and read by everyone. Almost every researcher I know wants their work to be found, they want to be the one known to be doing research on X and by doing so openly, more people can read and cite their work.

I mentioned my research colleagues before and I can’t stress that enough. My researchers partners are amazing women and I count myself very lucky to have the opportunity to work with them.

And, while this may seem somewhat arbitrary, it can help you pick what opportunities you want to pursue. To be clear, I don’t recommend this as the only mechanism by which you determine what you’re doing, but we all are over-committed and yet constantly want to say yes to three new things. When I’m looking at 2-3 new calls for papers, presentations, etc, one of the ways that I weed out what I’m willing to give my time to is whether or not the work will be openly available. For  me, it’s an important filter and can help me keep a little bit more of my sanity.

(Slide 8 Cons)

I had to think for a while about finding Cons to what I’ve done. Thus far, I haven’t really run into any. One point that was raised was that I don’t get any extra credit either from my library or the University for publishing my work openly. There is a library in Virginia who is doing that, mine isn’t–at least not yet. But that’s not a major concern, they want to see good research published in well-reputed places and I just showed you a list of highly regarded journals. So that’s pretty well taken care of.

The other concern that I hear raised is that of potential librarian research colleagues who don’t want to only publish in an open access venue.  Honestly it hasn’t really been a problem. This is something I’m very open about, obviously, and it’s something that I discuss with people far before we get seriously into a research project. I’m not going to wait until 14 pages into a manuscript to spring this one someone. Also, I’m not requiring it of my co-authors on all of their projects, just on this one that they do with me.

(Slide 9 Promoting as Peers)

So, what can librarians do at their home institutions? We can lead by example. We can publish our work openly and archive that work in our repositories. When we talk to students and researchers who are asking us about this, this gives us the opportunity to discuss it as someone who has gone through it. Everyone is looking for an example and we can be that to them–use me as an example of someone who is on the tenure track if that would be useful to you.  Much of our work is about relationships and when a subject faculty talks to the subject librarian who says “Oh, yes, I’ve already done this” –this idea of it is suddenly less daunting. We can forge the way.

We can also, by dint of experience, advocate for policy on campuses. Whether that be for the students or faculty, we know what needs to be considered and we should be requiring that we have seats at the table where these things are discussed.  And finally, remind them that it will get them more citations/reputation. That’s academic currency and it never hurts.

(Slide 10 Thank You)

Thank you to SPARC and ACRL for inviting me today and again, that’s where you can reach me. I’m happy to answer any questions.