David W. Lewis Acceptance Speech

2018 Recipient of ACRL's Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award

I would like to thank everyone at ACRL involved in this award and GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO for their financial support.

I am honored and humbled by this recognition. Though, my mother, who was an academic librarian before me, and is of course entirely objective and is the reason I got into this profession in the first place, told me the other day that I had earned.

As I think about this recognition, I believe what I have been able to do is to see, a little before most others, where academic libraries need to go and how they might get there. I am not sure why I have been able to do this. It may be because I read a lot of science fiction when I was younger and a lot of the business literature later in life, or that I paid attention to the research in our field. I know that it has been important that I have known and worked with many exceptional librarians over the years. I am especially thankful for my colleagues at IUPUI and for my wife Ann, who has been a collaborator and partner in my work and life.

As I look now at academic libraries, what I see is a very large and difficult task. Quite simply, we need to remake scholarly communication. It needs to take advantage of the fundamental nature of digital content on the network, which should be fast, perfect, and free. Right now, it is none of these things. The rules and practices carried over from the paper world still apply. They are based on scarcity and ownership, and too often monopoly control and monopoly rent taking.

What we need to create is an open scholarly commons where all the knowledge that is produced on our campuses is freely and openly available to the world. Where the tools for discovery, access, and preservation serve the interests of the public at large. There are technical and financial hurdles, but they can be overcome. There are vested interests that will fight to preserve their profits. This should not surprise us, but knowledge needs to be a public good, not a means of private gain.

The challenge is to organize ourselves and commit significant resources, both human and financial, to this cause. We have many of these resources at our disposal now and we have the capacity today to make a good start. Saying we don’t have the money is no excuse.

My ask of all of you is to go home and find the necessary partners, make the necessary investments, and to do the necessary work. We will need help, but if we librarians don’t lead, it will not happen. This is on us. It is up to you and me, all of us, to create the open scholarly commons.

Let’s all do this.

Thank you again.