On Monday, April 1st, Chris and I went to Chapel Hill for the 27th Annual North Carolina Serials Conference. I missed last year’s conference so it was good to make it to this one and catch up with friends and colleagues from the North Carolina serials community. A number of the sessions were interesting, but I’m only going to write about two of them (I have to leave something for Chris to write about, after all).
First, I’ll tell a bit about a presentation called “Convergent Evolution of Innovative Teams in Technical Services” by Kristina Spurgin of UNC-Chapel Hill, Jacquie Samples of Duke, and Sonoe Nakasone of NC State. The three speakers each work in units or teams within Technical Services that combine metadata/cataloging functions and systems/IT functions. Each of the units does automated and batch-level data transformations, saving on manual labor, as well as analytical work with metadata. The type of work they are doing might not have been possible before, because they don’t have to make so many big “asks” of their Systems Departments, which already have full plates. Each library followed a different path to develop this kind of unit (one involved just gradually taking on more responsibilities, one was a freshly created unit, and the other came about as part of a re-organization of Technical Services). I’ll be perfectly blunt and say I’d love to see something like that here at ZSR.
The second session I want to tell you about was the wonderful closing keynote address by our own Molly Keener, called “The Conversation of Scholarship.” Molly emphasized the idea that conversation is fundamental to sharing information and that, when viewed through this lens, scholarship is shared through conversation in a variety of settings. Publication and textual scholarship are conversations, as are citations, which refer to past conversations and side conversations. Because of this, to change scholarship, we must engage in conversation. So, where do librarians fit into this conversation? In a variety of ways. We are scholars in our own field, and engaged in our own scholarly conversations. We are also the stewards of scholarship for others and help provide access to the scholarly conversation. As such, we need to have conversations with faculty about balancing storage space, shelving, storage space, etc. Libraries also provide metadata to help scholars find their way into the conversation, but we need to be aware that our subject headings can be inadequate or discriminatory and can prevent people from feeling comfortable joining the scholarly conversation. Libraries can also be difficult to navigate and it can be hard to find things. As librarians we need to give users a way into the conversation, and aware of these problems. Molly then turned to talk about the University of California systems decision to break their big deal agreement with Elsevier over their failure to meet UC’s open access requirements. She pointed out that, despite some claims from Elsevier, this decision did not come out of the blue, and was based on at least 15 years of conversations with the UC system and conversations within the UC system. Most UC faculty are pleased with the decision and feel like they were included in the decision-making process because of the extensive conversations between the UC libraries and the UC faculty. Molly pointed out that changing scholarship takes conversation. She also stated that publishers aren’t just talking to libraries, they are having conversations with authors, including through contracts. Librarians aren’t privy to these conversations, but we should have our own conversations with faculty to encourage them to publish in OA resources. Similarly, librarian conversations with graduate students are conversations with future faculty, and we should inform them about the publication system and OA. Molly closed by arguing that scholarly communication is the responsibility of everyone in the library and that we should all be part of the conversation.
P.S. I hope I did your presentation justice, Molly. It was pretty great.