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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Open Access: Researchers, Librarians, and Library Research

Amy Croft

Image from the iCommons website:
This week is the 6th international Open Access Week, an annual event to promote the benefits of open access to the academic and research community. So what better time to discuss its impact on researchers and librarians?

What exactly is Open Access?

Open Access (OA) was defined in the Budapest Open Access Initiative Declaration of 2002 as “free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.”

A fantastic starting point for those new to OA is Peter Suber's overview. The two main options are known as gold OA (publishing in OA journals, sometimes for a fee, which provide free access to the article) and green OA (providing a version of the article to be stored and made available in an OA repository).


Impact on researchers

Having publications freely available online rather than behind a paywall increases the potential for discovery, and thus citations and impact for researchers. Open access allows authors to promote, and directly link to, their research on social media platforms. Sten Christensen of the University of Sydney Library’s Sydney eScholarship Repository has blogged that the most viewed items in the repository were those that the authors promoted using social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Brian Kelly has observed the same results with his own publications, and recently shared his Top 12 Tips for researchers to maximise the visibility of their work.


Impact on librarians and libraries

Harvard University Library famously advised all faculty members in a memo this year that the increasing costs of subscribing to major periodicals cannot be sustained, and urged them to consider open access options. In an article in the Guardian, Robert Darnton (Director of Harvard Library) said he hoped other universities would follow suit, saying “We all face the same paradox. We faculty do the research, write the papers, referee papers by other researchers, serve on editorial boards, all of it for free … and then we buy back the results of our labour at outrageous prices.”

OA provides a chance to solve the ‘serials crisis’ and make scholarly information available in a more cost-effective way.


Demonstrating our value

A survey conducted by InTech showed that librarians believe that OA is changing the role of the librarian in the following ways:
o Librarians need to be better integrated with their research
community as a research partner and innovator (96% agree)
o Librarians need to be developing value‐added discovery and
delivery tools (92% agree)
o Librarians should focus on workflow within their institution to
improve efficiencies and enhance collaboration (87% agree)
o Librarians need to find ways to create trusted information
environments (86% agree)
o Librarians need to develop enhanced search and discovery skills
(83% agree)
o Librarians should support authors in relation to rights with
advice on publishing options and agreements (83% agree)
o Librarians should focus on metadata creation and management
(83% agree)
o Librarians need to focus less on being gatekeepers and have
more active involvement in the creation and dissemination of
content (80% agree)
o The role of the librarian should now be focused outward,
promoting the output of their institution worldwide (77% agree)

In other words, this is a wonderful opportunity for libraries to stop being mere warehouses of information, and for librarians to step up and take an active role in the creation, discovery, and use of scholarly information.


Impact on library research

There are still many questions about the costs and benefits of OA, and how it will develop in the future. This provides opportunities for library researchers to play their part in finding some answers.
Check out the research in progress and especially some “research questions in need of researchers” on the Open Access Directory wiki.

Which direction is your institution taking with OA? How do you see it affecting you as a librarian and/or researcher?

Amy is the Library Manager at CQUniversity Sydney, where she is also involved in the International Education Research Centre. She is interested in the use of technology to improve library services.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

LARK Diigo group

I am starting to see a value of hanging in one place long enough. The LARK Diigo group started in 2010 when a few librarians from UTS prepared a presentation for a workshop at Information Online 2011. The presentation was called Two birds with one evaluation and it was part of a research workshop presented by the ALIA Research Committee. The rest is a (personal) history.

Diigo bookmarks were shared with 2011 workshop participants; then the UTS group and I went in different directions (while remaining in touch); I kept adding bits and pieces; another workshop by the ALIA Research Committee was organised in 2012 and Diigo bookmarks were on offer once again... And here we are with the LARKs to share what was gathered in the last two years.

Is there a message in this accidental, let's-see-what-happens-history? Maybe that if we keep putting twigs on that fire, it will survive rainy and forgetful days. Maybe it will give some warmth to a soul in need of a research flame. Who knows...Let's offer that Diigo group here and see what happens.

Suzana Sukovic

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Why library research?

Suzana Sukovic

The most of this blog first appeared on ALIA Sydney blog, 30 June 2012

For the first LARK post, here is my plain and bold statement: librarians need to do research. It is necessary for us and good for the rest of the world. And here are six reasons why.


3 reasons why practice-based research is good for librarians

1. To save our skin. At a recent teacher-librarians’ conference, Di Laycock argued for the importance of research in school libraries and showed us a picture of a frog. If you throw a frog in hot water, she said, it will jump out immediately. However, if you gradually increase temperature while the frog is in water, the adaptable animal will stay in the water until it boils alive. In a demanding information world, librarians are a bit like frogs. In order to save our skins, we need to monitor our environment regularly and systematically to be able to act accordingly.

2.To evolve through evidence based practice. In the complicated and sometimes dangerously hot information environment, we can’t afford to rely only on our experience and impressions. We need rigorously gathered evidence to inform our constantly changing practice. Gathering reliable evidence takes time but it is still faster than guess work. It is a bit like asking locals for directions – you stop the car, but get to your destination faster or make an informed decision about how to continue your trip. (I acknowledge that asking for directions is an impossibly difficult thought for some people.)

3. To broaden our career options and strengthen reputation. We already apply research skills in a number of careers outside our main domains. An ability to do primary research may open some new options such as participation as equal partners on research teams, particularly cross-disciplinary ones. Numerous possibilities will open as the demand for innovation and evidence-based practice in many professions increases. At the same time, benefits for our individual and collective professional reputation will be substantial.

3 reasons why librarians’ research is good for the world

4. To keep saving the free thinking world. In our information world domineered by a few big players and swamped by many smaller ones who are trying to get their piece of profitable pie, who is going to defend the right to free information? Librarians and Friends, of course. Knowing about information trends first hand and using that knowledge to be the best we can is something we owe to nothing less than Democracy and Free Thought. Librarians existed well before googles of the modern world, kept the record of civilisations dead and alive, and survived as one of the last civic places. At the time of tremendous changes, we are not going to trust you-know-who to tell us about information trends, are we?

5. To contribute insights from a unique perspective. By serving everyone every day, we have unique insights into the information world. We have been great curators of knowledge records, but now we have a special position to become great ethnographers of the fast-changing world of information and knowledge. We have unparalleled access to potential data about information needs and behaviours on a daily basis - and we have a reputation and tradition to be trusted curators and interpreters of that information. Our perspective is valuable.

6. To enhance our academic field. Academia traditionally saw itself as self-sufficient and all-knowing, but it increasingly recognises the value of connection with practice. This connection is particularly important in the library and information studies which, like it or not, is predominantly an applied discipline. Some important lessons can be learnt from other applied fields. For example, there are good reasons why most academics in faculties of medicine are practicing clinicians and why they have a well-developed system of university hospitals. The sooner our field recognises advantages of different types of research and practice, the sooner it will benefit from a stronger reputation, better career paths, an improved position in negotiating research grants, and increased enrolments in postgraduate courses.

Da Vinci Institute has predicted what the future holds for libraries and made some recommendations. The first is to evaluate the library experience - to ask for opinions, to survey - in other words, to do research. There is no doubt in my mind that practice-based research will be critical for thriving libraries. When it comes to research, the question is not whether or why, but how and where to start.

Suzana is the Head of Learning Resource Centre, St.Vincent's College, Potts Point and Research Associate at the University of Sydney. She has a long history of boundary-crossing. A drive on a simulator train and a doctoral degree in information studies are some of her proud professional achievements