ACRL Scholarly Communications Initiative ACRL Board Update

June 27, 2004

This report summarizes the progress of the ACRL Scholarly Communications Initiative since the last update provided to the Board in January 2004 at the San Diego midwinter conference. It highlights the work of the Scholarly Communications Committee and is organized according to the four broad areas of activity (education, advocacy, coalition building, and research) that were recommended in the Scholarly Communications Task Force report that was endorsed by the Board to establish the initiative.

The Scholarly Communications Committee has met by conference call and also held its regular meeting in Orlando, in addition to conducting various business by email. Subcommittees of the committee also conducted business by conference call. In addition, the chair of the committee represented ACRL in advocacy work through the Information Access Alliance and the Open Access Working Group.

The chair of the committee worked with the Executive Director on initial efforts to fill the part-time, temporary position of Visiting Program Officer. With the announcement in April of Shannon Cary’s intended resignation, the Executive Director proposed a reallocation of ACRL staff responsibilities that would allow her to create a new, continuing staff position that will be primarily responsible for ACRL scholarly communications activities and also for legislative advocacy. This direction was favorably received by the ACRL Scholarly Communications Committee and, as a result, the search for the Visiting Program Officer position was abandoned. The Executive Director has invited the Scholarly Communications Committee to participate in the search for the continuing position and the committee welcomes that opportunity.


The committee has continued to carry out a variety of activities designed to educate librarians, faculty, and administrators about the need for change in the system of scholarly communication. These include the following:

A. The committee has planned and carried out a successful pre-conference in Orlando entitled "Scholarly Communications 101." Over 50 people attended the pre-conference, which was designed to broaden the base of academic librarians who are familiar with scholarly communications issues. Evaluations of the preconference – as well as feedback received from participants – was uniformly excellent.

B. The SPARC/ACRL Forum at Orlando was entitled "Scholarly Communication in the Humanities: Does Open Access Apply?" The program, which built on the very successful open access program at the midwinter meeting in San Diego, attracted an attendance of approximately 200 and was very well received.

C. The committee’s annual conference program "Trust and Anti-Trust: Responding to Consolidation of the Journal Publishing Industry" drew a very large audience, reflecting growing interest in this topic, and was also very well received.

D. C&RL News Column. The committee has continued to coordinate an ongoing bimonthly column on scholarly communication for C&RL News. Columns published since the last board update include a piece on the Public Library of Science by Helen Doyle, PLOS Director of Development and Strategic Alliances; an article on the economic and legal realities of open access by Rick Anderson; a summary of European scholarly communications developments by David Prosser, Director of SPARC Europe; and an account by Mary Case, former scholarly communications officer at ARL, of the Information Access Alliance’s work to challenge anticompetitive behavior in academic publishing.

E. Scholarly Communications Tool Kit. ACRL is very fortunate that Karen Williams of the University of Arizona volunteered to take on the task of creating the ACRL Scholarly Communications Tool Kit during her sabbatical leave. Karen, working with a staff member at Arizona who has web design expertise, has substantially completed the tool kit in web format. It has a very attractive web design and the content conveys very effectively the goals that the Scholarly Communications Committee had in mind when the tool kit was envisioned. We anticipate that it will be possible for the tool kit to be loaded on the ACRL web site and then broadly publicized by this fall.

F. Create Change Brochure. The revised version of the Create Change brochure, which was printed in an initial run of 15,000 copies has been completely distributed. The brochure has been reprinted and demand for it continues to be strong.

G. Open Access Brochure. The committee has collaborated with SPARC and ARL in the development of a new open access brochure, which is very attractively designed and should be quite effective in helping to champion the broader cause of open access. Copies of the brochure are being distributed to the board separately.

H. ACRL Discussion Group. The ACRL Scholarly Communications Discussion Group decided not to hold a session in Orlando in view of the fact that there was an important scholarly communications program sponsored by ALCTS (and cosponsored by the Scholarly Communications Committee) being held at the usual time for the discussion group. The group will again take up its activities at the midwinter meeting in Boston.

Advocacy and Coalition Building

A. Information Access Alliance. The work of the Information Access Alliance has been set back to some extent due to the resignation of Mary Case as Director of the ARL Scholarly Communications Office. Mary has played a lead role in bringing together the organizations involved in the IAA (AALL, ACRL, ALA, ARL, MLA, and SPARC) and in coordinating its work. The IAA’s recent work has focused primarily on ways of increasing awareness of anti-trust issues in the publishing industry among federal policy makers. The group had planned a small invitational conference to be held in Washington DC to further this agenda. The conference will now be coordinated by Bob Oakley of the American Association of Law Libraries and is tentatively scheduled for the fall.

B. Open Access Working Group. The Open Access Working Group (with membership including AALL, ALA, AAHSL, ACRL, ARL, Creative Commons, MLA, Open Society Institute, Public Knowledge, the Public Library of Science, SPARC, and SLA) has become increasingly active in promoting the cause of open access. The group has formulated a plan for 2004 that is designed primarily to promote the cause of open access at the federal level, including both Congress and federal agencies that fund research. The group also hopes to promote open access at the institutional level. The group has hired Debra Lappin, formerly a staff member at PLOS, as a consultant to be involved in advocacy work, including liaison to various patient advocacy organizations.

C. Legislative Advocacy. The ACRL Task Force on National Advocacy, which includes representatives from the Government Relations, Copyright, and Scholarly Communications Committees, is continuing to work on proposals for increasing ACRL’s effectiveness in national legislative advocacy. A preliminary report of the task force will be submitted to the board separately.

D. United Kingdom Inquiry. ACRL joined with AALL, ALA, AAHS, Public Knowledge, ARL, MLA, and SPARC to submit evidence to the United Kingdom Parliament, Science and Technology Committee inquiry into scientific publications. The submission recommended that UK grant making bodies require authors to deposit copies of their final, peer-reviewed papers in open access repositories; that those same bodies earmark a portion of their grant funds to be used to support open access publication; and that the UK government endorse a new standard of anti-trust review for merger transactions in the journal publishing industry.


The committee has developed an "ACRL Scholarly Communications Research Agenda" that is being presented to the board separately for action. The agenda recommends a number of research topics that would, if completed, document how scholarly communications issues have affected various types of academic libraries.