ACRL Scholarly Communication Committee Annual Report to the ACRL Board

May 25, 2007

The ACRL Scholarly Communications Committee sponsors and pursues a wide range of activities. The committee has spent considerable time on educating and informing our profession by providing training opportunities and tools to create and conduct effective local programs. It partners with other organizations charged to address pressing issues of scholarly communications and to advocate for actions that can produce enduring change. Our ambitious agenda, maintained as a separate document and annually reviewed, continues to expand as we seek new leadership opportunities of potentially high impact, such as leading a group to develop a research agenda for scholarly communication.

Education and information sharing

The ACRL-ARL Scholarly Communication Institute. Held bi-annually (in December ’06 at Duke and July ’07 at Washington, DC during the reporting period), each Institute immerses approximately 70 college and university librarians and 20 faculty and administrators in scholarly communication issues and program planning. Evaluations are consistently high and there are signs – an active discussion group and an alumni symposium held in conjunction with ALA midwinter in Seattle – that the Institute is creating a valuable community that remains engaged with the issues and each other. The Institute is particularly notable for making this strategic objective and programmatic action relevant to non-ARL institutions (which are well-represented) and to disciplinary faculty, who are encouraged to be included in participating institutional teams. Goals and impacts of the Institute are communicated with the profession through presentations (e.g. at the ACRL conference panel session), and through the sharing of materials on the new Freely Accessible Institute Resources website (FAIR - The Institute and the profession have also been enhanced by scholarship for attendance funded by the Friends of ACRL and awarded to team members from diverse backgrounds and employed at smaller institutions or serving professionally under-represented minorities.

Joint Webcast on Author’s Rights. Arising from the Scholarly Communication Institute, and also co-sponsored by ARL and SPARC, the webcast provides pragmatic information to assist libraries in providing support for authors’ copyright management, a pre-condition for many of the author or institutionally-based innovations in maximizing access to research and scholarship.

The Scholarly Communication Toolkit. The web-based toolkit has three faces, with well-organized issue and resource summaries written for faculty, administrators, and librarians. The committee is adding a new section for graduate students and graduate student administrators and a glossary during the summer of 2007.

College & Research Libraries News column. Published every other issue, the six columns from the reporting period provided in-depth information and insights on public access to publicly funded research results, the business model of the open access Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, program planning for scholarly communication, and the alignment of scholarly communication issues with the roles and responsibilities of new librarians.

Listserv. The Scholarly Communications Listserv continues to b used as a mechanism for sharing developments and new items.

Communication plan. The committee is considering developing a comprehensive communication plan that will serve as a guiding framework for surfacing, prioritizing, and implementing education and information sharing activities.

Exploring the issues

The SPARC-ACRL Scholarly Communication Forum and Discussion Group. Held bi-annually at the ALA meetings, the Forum and Discussion Group sessions have been extremely well-attended events, regularly drawing two to three hundred attendees. The January ’06 Forum focused on the potential impact of legislation and policy mandates for open access to research results for libraries and their home institutions. It featured non-librarian insights provided by a provost and a science faculty member. The June ’07 forum progress report on open access publishing business models, delivered by the publishers themselves, provides key analysis and conversation about the sustainability of new scholarly communication models. Each forum is accompanied by a a meeting of a Discussion Group on the following day. The DG offers the chance for more in--depth exploration of the program and more intimate interaction with the speakers.

ACRL National Conference. A successful program, Working from the Grass Roots: Best Practices in Campus Scholarly Communication Programs, was held at the national conference that assembled a panel of participants of the Institutes who spoke about how they implemented the plan they developed at the Institute. The speakers presented three very different plans and tips for implementation that worked at their institutions.

Scholarly Communication Research Agenda. During the summer 2007, the Scholarly Communication committee is convening and hosting an invitational meeting among the library and higher education communities to identify the commonly perceived gaps in research and evidence needed to advocate for or act to influence scholarly communication. Discussing the need for research on such things as metrics to assess the value of scholarly publications, and the effectiveness of new publishing business models, the meeting will catalyze the refreshment of ACRL’s own scholarly communication agenda and take a significant step toward identifying common needs and the potential for collective responses that will increase the evidence available to inform action from the academic library perspective.

Partnerships and sponsorships

Partnerships with SPARC and ARL. The committee maintains an extremely strong relationship with SPARC. Both co-chairs are members of the SPARC Steering Committee. As mentioned, the committee and SPARC hold a joint forum at ALA meetings. ARL has been a valuable partner on the development and delivery of the Institutes.

Participation and co-sponsorship of the Open Access Working Group and the Information Access Alliance. Guided by timely input from the Scholarly Communication committee, the committee participates in strategic planning and advocacy actions of the OAWG and the IAA. During the reporting period the OAWG continued legislative and policy pressure for open access to the results of publicly funded research and the IAA served as watchdog for unhealthy practices in and concentration of the market for scholarly publications, for example by requesting the Department of Justice to investigate the merger between Blackwell and Wiley.

Sponsorship of the Public Knowledge Project’s first conference. Sponsorship assists this breakthrough organization in its efforts to better understand the potential of open source publishing technologies, including its own Open Journal Systems. Because the Public Knowledge Project is based in Canada, sponsorship also strengthens ourties to existing and potential Canadian members.

New opportunities. The committee is identifying organizations for developing mutually beneficial relationships. The committee endorsed pursuing membership in the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations. Other organizations are being explored.


Public Access. (see also "Partnership and Sponsorships" above), the committee has been heavily involved on multiple fronts in the efforts to advocate for new legislation and appropriations that can transform access to publicly funded research. The two major fronts are appropriations for NIH, which addresses the policy for deposit of the results of funded research in Pubmed Central. The goal is to mandate the deposit within 12 months of publication. The Federally Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) is 2006 legislation, more broad-based than the NIH policy, that is expected to be reintroduced during the 110th congress and that would require agencies that grant $100,000,000 or more in research funds to mandate the deposit of research results in a trusted repository within 6 months of publication. In addition to these two broad fronts, the committee

  1. supported ACRL and SPARC jointly providision of a no cost invitational webcast for committed grassroots advocates in late May. The intent was to prepare participants to communicate effectively with their members of congress and begin to obtain institutional support for the NIH policy.
  2. recommends that legislation mandating public access to federally funded research retain prominence as a priority item on the ACRL Legislative Agenda. We look forward to working with the Board to ensure that it rises in visibility at ALA and offer to assist in any way in working with the ALA Washington Office, ALA Committee on Legislation, it subcommittees, or other relevant groups within ALA.
  3. anticipates DAY ON THE HILL: Tuesday, June 22, 2007, is designated as "Day on the Hill." Hundreds of librarians will be showing the value of libraries to the Members of Congress. The day includes displays, a hearing, visits to Senators and Representatives, and a reception. We have publicized this to academic librarians and hope that many will use the opportunity to speak with their members of Congress about public access legislation.

Other items of interest

Other organizations. The committee learned of ACRL’s membership in Free Exchange on Campus, a coalition "to protect the free exchange of speech and ideas on campus." We also learned that SPARC is supporting – a student-centered organization whose mission includes support of innovative and more open dissemination of scholarship and cultural materials.

Access to disserations. The committee has discussed open access to dissertations and theses and the role the ProQuest/UMI plays. Concern was expressed about the level of student understanding of their rights and options, and the means through which to assess and/or contribute to the awareness of scholarly communication issues among graduate deans and divisions. The question arose whether graduate schools realize they are outsourcing student records.

Joint NISO/ARL initiative. The committee heard of and endorsed developments in content licensing including a) the new NISO work on a "Simplified E-Resource Understanding" to ease the burden of licensing and contracts for both libraries and content vendors; b) the importance of tracking journal open access article (aka "hybrid") models and looking for subscription fee reductions; and c) value-based pricing models and discussions such as the January 2007 Univ. of California report.


John Ober, co-chair
Joyce Ogburn, co-chair
Kara Malenfant, ACRL