Raising Critical Issues in a Technology Space: 2017 E-Content Columns

I chose as my guiding mantra “to engage deep questions about what our content and technologies are for and not just that we have them” and I articulated three specific goals:

  1. to bring a critical lens to the discussions of how technology is shaping libraries, content, and users;
  2. to amplify the work of practitioners and researchers who were engaging with these questions theoretically and pragmatically; and,
  3. to contribute to improving the diversity of the authorship profile of our field.

As I reflect upon the six columns that I edited, I feel confident that I met these goals. I am proud of the topics that authors engaged, their thoughtful reflections, and the conversations that their work created. And, for many reasons but especially because I know how vulnerable it can feel to submit a draft and await feedback, I want to thank them for trusting me to edit their work. It was truly an delight to work with each person over the past year.

I also want to acknowledge Teddy Diggs, Publisher/Editor of EDUCAUSE Review, for her support and assistance. Most editorial work is unseen but it should never be underappreciated. Her guidance was invaluable.

Here are the six columns:

  • Participatory and Post-Custodial Archives as Community Practice by Sofía Becerra-Licha – Various types of digital archiving initiatives are harnessing the power of technology to expand the reach of participatory archiving, develop increasingly sophisticated and sensitive post-custodial approaches, broaden the cultural record to represent more diverse voices, and respond to current events.
  • Bridging Contemporary and Social Issues for Information Literacy through Instructional Platforms by Jennifer Ferretti – In studio-based fine arts and design classes, creating works of art and engaging in rigorous peer-to-peer critique are the primary modes of learning, rather than writing lengthy research papers. This column presents critical perspectives on what constitutes an instructional platform for bridging contemporary and social issues as a mechanism for information literacy in the studio environment.
  • Globalization, Open Access, and the Democratization of Knowledge by Harrison W. Inefuku – Efforts to fully globalize and democratize information demand intentional efforts to involve and center perspectives that traditional forms of communication have marginalized. Information professionals and the systems they create must proactively attend to developing equitable and inclusive information systems.
  • Data Information Literacy and Application by Yasmeen Shorish – While data management educational efforts from libraries gain traction, an often overlooked area of support is the ethical considerations of student awareness of and engagement with the personal data generated from online interactions.
  • Out of the Black Box by Safiya U. Noble and Sarah T. Roberts – Working together strategically, academics and IT professionals need to step out of the black box and consider the many dimensions of IT platforms and our digital environment.
  • Academic Libraries and the EDUCAUSE 2017 Top 10 IT Issues by Bohyun Kim – To successfully tackle two of the major challenges of today’s higher education—student success and higher education affordability— academic libraries and higher education IT groups need to reflect on their different approaches and work together.

 

I Have a Lot of Questions: RG, ELS, SN, STM, and CRS

The last few weeks have brought a series of opportunities to think “well now that’s interesting – what’s going on?” about the relationships between ResearchGate and scholarly publishers and today was no exception. I’m going to use this blog post to chronicle the events for my own clarity of thought and then share some observations/ask some questions. Let me say at the outset that I have no insider knowledge – everything I know about these relationships is based on public documents and articles.

STM Letter to ResearchGate and the Principles

On September 15, the International Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) sent ResearchGate a letter stating that “STM’s members now have devised a solution for you that would enable ResearchGate to operate in a way that would be consistent with these principles” (the principles being those articulated in the STM Voluntary Principles on Article Sharing [PDF]). After more detail, the letter concludes “If you fail to accede to this proposal by 22 September 2017, then STM will be leaving the path open for its individual members to follow up with you separately, whether individually or in groups sharing a similar interest and approach, as they may see fit.”

As I read the letter, I couldn’t help but ask why ResearchGate would want to comply with the principles. As far as I can tell, ResearchGate did not participate in the consultation that led up to the development of the principles (disclosure – I did submit comments to the process) and has not made any moves towards signing on to them. This could be taken as evidence that ResearchGate is taking the “voluntary” name seriously and declining to volunteer to be regulated by the principles?

Is there an assumption that these principles have gained some sort of universal acceptance or is this an attempt to assert that the principles have a kind of objective status? Publishers have indeed endorsed the principles but I doubt that most scholars or even journal editors are aware of them at all. I’ve written about some of the issues I see with the principles from a library perspective (Substantial and Enduring Roles for Libraries in Article SharingPart 1 and Part 2) and have been asking about whether there will be any auditing of publishers who have made endorsements to see if their policies comply (current answer is that STM will review a publisher upon request, which to me isn’t an audit, but I digress). I see that there are scholarly collaboration networks that have endorsed the principles; however, as SSRN and Mendeley are both owned by Elsevier, the level of acceptable among scholarly collaboration networks generally seems less than universal.

I also noted that the STM letter itself was not hosted on the STM website but instead on Elsevier’s and on ACS’s (American Chemical Society). Also, I noticed the law firm that sent the letter on behalf of STM is associated with STM’s Copyright and Legal Affairs Committee. Does this mean that STM no longer has a working group on scholarly sharing and the principles? I was unable to locate one by browsing or searching just now. I notice that STM does have an Enforcement Task Force that is the “enforcement arm” of the Copyright and Legal Affairs Committee. Are the principles now being treated as an enforcement mechanism?

ResearchGate Response

I’m not sure it is accurate to use the word “response” in that mostly it appears that, at least publicly, ResearchGate did not respond to the letter. None of the articles that I saw reporting on the letter included any comment from ResearchGate. The Times Higher Education reported that ResearchGate declined to comment and resorted to quoting from a previous statement of ResearchGate’s founder and chief executive, Ijad Madisch:  “has previously said that he “wouldn’t mind” if copyrighted material was removed from the site, as researchers could continue to share papers privately.”

An undated STM webpage states that “The International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers (STM) has written to ResearchGate, the scholarly collaboration network (SCN), to make an offer to work with the platform collaboratively to bring the site into compliance with copyright. It is with regret that the core proposal suggested in this letter has been rejected by ResearchGate.” I’m unclear from the phrasing whether ResearchGate stated its regrets or that STM regrets to report the rejection this to its membership?

Enter the Coalition

The STM webpage also states that “The Association supports all of its members as they take forward their own discussions and actions directly with ResearchGate.” Granted, the original letter from STM to ResearchGate stated that “If you fail to accede to this proposal by 22 September 2017, STM will be leaving the path open for its individual members to follow up with you separately, whether individually or in groups sharing a similar interest and approach, as they may see fit.” Yet, this still seemed a rather quick retreat by STM. Did STM expect its proposal to be rejected? Was the letter only intended to lay groundwork or to try and get ResearchGate to tip its hand?

Regardless of the letter’s purpose, as a next act in the process, a group of STM members did indeed follow up and establish the Coalition for Responsible Sharing. According to the Coalition Statement, “The coalition members include the American Chemical Society, Brill, Elsevier, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer. These organizations will begin to issue takedown notices to ResearchGate requesting that infringing content be removed from the site.” Interestingly, the Coalition Statement also says that “Concurrently, The American Chemical Society and Elsevier are asking the courts to clarify ResearchGate’s copyright responsibility.” I think that means that ACS and Elsevier are pursuing this separately from the Coalition’s collaborative project of sending takedown notices? I’ll note here that Robert Harington wrote a useful piece on Scholarly Kitchen about the Coalition as well based on an interview with James Milne, Senior Vice President of ACS and chair of the Coalition.

Was I the only person who wondered why the Coalition was made up of so few STM members and so few endorsers of the principles? I think of STM as the organization through which publishers choose to collaborate because of aligned interests even though they are in heavy competition with one another. Does this signal a change in status of STM as having a leadership role in the industry?

With respect to the takedown notices, is the underlying claim that there is so much infringement on the ResearchGate platform it is an undue burden on the publishers to have to issue takedown notices? Is this an attempt to begin to overturn the established (through multiple court cases and laws) and also generally process for addressing copyright infringing content – i.e., that a platform is not required to pre-screen but instead the requirement is to respond to notices of infringement?

Given that the original STM letter posited a system for monitoring copyright compliance “could be implemented within 30-60 days,” how defensible is the claim that sending takedown notices is not a viable solution? I wonder if takedown notices would be “highly disruptive to the research community” as the Coalition Statement says? Given how often scholars already cope with intermittent access to publications, I can imagine it might drive more scholars to SciHub; however, I wonder if it would be any more disruptive than when libraries are forced to drop subscriptions because of rising journal prices?

I also think Harington is correct that “the popularity of ResearchGate with users is a potential public relations problem” for the publishers issuing takedown notices.  Is it likely that scholars would put the blame on ResearchGate or on the publishers? Thinking back to Elsevier sending takedown notices to Academia.edu, it seems scholars put the blame on Elsevier, no doubt encouraged in that view by the messaging from Academia.edu? One could imagine ResearchGate might have its own messaging as takedown notices are received?

Copyright, Document Integrity, and Analytics

I don’t think it takes much time browsing on ResearchGate to conclude that there are many PDFs posted on the site that likely infringe copyright ownership of publishers. To upload a file to ResearchGate and make it public, a scholar must click agreement that they have the rights to do so, a process similar to uploading to library institutional repositories as well. One suspects that scholars are not reading, not understanding, or not caring as they click to agree. I have no doubt that the takedown notices, once sent, will result in content being removed from public view.

I have found the additional charge against ResearchGate more puzzling. Harington’s Scholarly Kitchen piece states that “there are reports that ResearchGate has stripped out metadata from papers, rebranded them, and altered links in papers to point to their own hosted versions of papers, rather than the original journal” and the Coalition Statement says “ResearchGate often also substantively alters articles for the same purpose [to generate traffic to its site], and where corrections or retractions are issued, it fails to update articles accordingly on its site, undermining research integrity.”

Interestingly, bepress (recently acquired by Elsevier) also rebrands PDFs with a cover page upon download (side note – this can be toggled on/off by a scholar preference setting on ResearchGate but, in my experience, is not a scholar controlled option in bepress). It will be interesting to see if bepress practice is changed now that it is Elsevier owned and Elsevier is involved in issuing this complaint against ResearchGate.

I’m not sure what to make of the claim that ResearchGate alters links in papers. I have not encountered this myself and no examples have been provided in any of the write-ups. It is the case that ResearchGate, like other platforms (e.g. Microsoft Academic), does list the references from a publication and links to records on the platform for them; however, unless I am missing something that does not alter links in the PDF. Has anyone encountered altered links in a PDF? I would be very interested in an example so I can understand this charge. The claim about not tracking and uploading corrections/retractions seems a bit strange given the overarching charge is that ResearchGate hosts copyrighted content without rights and this then charges that ResearchGate fails to do so (i.e., find and upload copyrighted content) when it should?

I wonder if another issue driving concern from the STM/Coalition members is that the publishers are not able to access and monetize the analytics that ResearchGate use generates?  The principles state that “Publishers and libraries should be able to measure the amount and type of sharing, using standards such as COUNTER, to better understand the habits of their readers and quantify the value of the services they provide.” One can imagine that ResearchGate also sees the value in these data given its calculation of an RG Score for each scholar, a score that reflects not only citations to the work but also a scholar’s activity on the ResearchGate platform. Positing a future in which copyright material is only shared privately on ResearchGate, which is in keeping with the principles, would publishers be interested in purchasing this analytics data from ResearchGate? Is this an eventual source of revenue for ResearchGate if it can ride out the copyright takedown and lawsuit actions?

Enter the Springer Nature/ResearchGate Press Release

So, we finally make it to today’s revelation. In a joint press release, ResearchGate and Springer Nature issued this statement: “ResearchGate and Springer Nature have been in serious discussions for some time about finding solutions to sharing scientific journal articles online, while at the same time protecting intellectual property rights. The companies are cautiously optimistic that a solution can be found, and we invite other publishers and societies to join the talks.”

Given that is the entirety of the joint statement, it is not surprising that questions start forming immediately. What does “for some time” indicate? As a reminder, the letter from STM to ResearchGate was dated September 15, which was only 24 days ago. Do these discussions pre-date the letter? What to make of the claim of “serious discussions” rather than only “discussions”? Mild speculations of implications for strategic acquisition and mergers also arose.

I couldn’t help but recall Harington’s question and Milne’s response in the Scholarly Kitchen essay: “I asked Milne if there were any similarities to the early days of YouTube, and whether the ultimate solution would be a revenue-sharing arrangement along the lines of that site. Milne said that none of the publishers involved have explored revenue generating arrangements under agreements to license content to ResearchGate.” Could it be the case that the Coalition members are not exploring revenue sharing but that Springer Nature is?

Perhaps the most humorous response I saw on Twitter today: “What will Elsevier think?” I was also wondering “so just how tense is the next meeting of the STM Copyright and Legal Affairs Committee going to be given Elsevier, ACS, and Springer Nature as members?”

Not an Apologist

Lest I leave an inaccurate impression, I want to also add here that I’m not an apologist for ResearchGate.

I have had a ResearchGate account since April 28, 2014. I’ve saved almost every email I’ve received from ResearchGate since that time. I have similar archives related to my profiles across the major scholarly collaboration networks because I teach Manage Your Online Scholarly Identity to Maximize the Reach and Impact of Your Work as an open workshop in the University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and also provide customized versions for departments, research groups, etc. The only effective way that I have found to be able to teach faculty, postdocs, graduate students, etc. about these systems is to use them.

I have questions about the development trajectories of all of the platforms, questions about how they communicate with users and potential users, questions about how they position themselves, questions about how they compete with library/institutional repositories, etc. I definitely have these questions about ResearchGate. I also wonder if publishers might turn their attention to library/institutional repositories, sending letters offering collaboration before strategic takedown notices and lawsuits.

Ultimately, I also recognize that ResearchGate, more than any other scholarly collaboration platform at the moment, is seen by the scholars with whom I interact as providing great value. Even when they are annoyed by ResearchGate, they value it and tell me the annoyance is worth it for what they get out of it. If that value is disrupted, I do not assume that they will turn to librarians for guidance but rather that librarians will need to be poised with outreach and strategies to meet faculty needs. As such, I’m not a ResearchGate apologist but I do find it critical to track on these developments.

What will tomorrow bring?

Addendum: 

Not “tomorrow” but a few days later (October 16) my email brought me this response from Jim Milne, Chair of the Coalition for Responsible Sharing. I publish it here as an addendum to this blog post with his permission. As context, the “separate note” that Jim mentions was a posting I made to the LibLicense-L discussion forum.

As Chair of the Coalition, I also have questions—mostly around what ResearchGate is doing and thinking with respect to journal articles, given recent events—but perhaps we will all learn their thinking soon. There are a lot of things that I can’t comment on because of the legal process, but there are a few things I think I can say.

On the STM association Voluntary Principles—we don’t see these as an onerous demand on Internet sites that want to host or post non-OA articles published in scholarly journals. In return for being able to post the articles, such sites would provide the journals with usage data to enable this data to be included in Counter reports. I do agree that more sites should genuinely consider modeling their business processes on the offer outlined in the Principles.

However, I’d like to also point out that the STM offer, which was outlined in the 16 September letter sent by STM’s outside adviser, went far beyond asking ResearchGate to adopt the voluntary principles—it also provided a compromise allowing some existing material to stay available while proposing an automated checking system for newly uploaded content.

Regarding modification—I believe you’ve seen the comments on Scholarly Kitchen and an example of how they change article content. ResearchGate’s activities continue to change over time, and at the moment, a lot of the modification pertains to the cover pages ResearchGate attaches to each article.

I have also asked about your point regarding bepress; it has a standard feature that enables institutions, if they wish, to add a cover page on preprints and manuscripts posted on their repositories. The cover page is created by the institution/author; on the contrary, ResearchGate adds cover pages itself that include prominently the ResearchGate brand, detracting from the publisher and journal representation.

I also saw your separate note questioning how Coalition members “noticed” copyright infringing articles that have recently been taken down by ResearchGate; you also asked about what constitutes a “significant” amount of articles that have been removed. To answer the first question: we regularly check which articles are available on ResearchGate, and in doing so, we noticed the change. We believe ResearchGate has recently taken down thousands of copyright infringing articles. Exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, as they vary greatly from publisher to publisher. They also keep changing on an ongoing basis, and ResearchGate has given neither authors nor the Coalition any information about what content or how much it has taken down.

Finally, a quick note to reiterate that as a group of societies and publishers, the Coalition believes that we all want the same thing—for scholarly collaboration networks to understand and respect the important value publishers bring to the record of science.

Hope this response has been helpful.

Best, Jim

 

 

 

 

Digital and Information Aliteracy

Masked Man using a Lantern to Collect Discarded Pamphlets by a Tombstone, published in Le Charivari
Masked Man Using a Lantern to Collect Discarded Pamphlets by a Tombstone, published in Le Charivari
Masked Man Using a Lantern to Collect Discarded Pamphlets by a Tombstone

The role of cognitive bias and social effects in information seeking and knowledge construction is not a new topic in educational psychology. Charles West, my adviser for my master’s degree in educational psychology, published The Social and Psychological Distortion of Information in 1981. His co-authored text Instructional Design: Implications from Cognitive Science (1991) has been a touchstone for me since I first encountered it in an instructional design course taught by his co-author James Farmer in 1994.

Careful consideration to constructing the learning environment and not only focusing on teacher performance has been a mantra for my instructional design practice since then. I have found a more contemporary exploration of this theme in Understanding by Design (2005) by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe as well (which is the one book I would choose if I could only suggest one text on instructional design to anyone who is involved with teaching or training design and delivery). The instructional design challenge is one of motivation and engagement rather than solely knowledge transfer and skill development.

I have continued to incorporate these topics in various presentations (e.g., An Information Literate Life: Individual Experience and the Role of Libraries and Librarians, which also explored the concept of information privilege and the “information literate conscientious objector”).

More recently Bryan Alexander invited me to contribute an essay to an upcoming strategic issue brief that will be published by the New Media Consortium as part of the its digital literacy research initiative. My essay is titled “Self-Directed Digital Literacy Learning: Eliciting Learner Commitment” and I’m pleased to be able to provide a sneak peak of the opening paragraphs here:

“So many of the pieces one reads about digital literacy (or any of its companion literacies – information, media, computer, technology, etc.) present the learner as illiterate – in need of developing knowledge, skills, and abilities that the learner does not have and who will not gain unless they receive explicit instruction. In contrast, there is also the literature that puts forth the concept of the “digital native” who is born into intuitive knowing, doing, etc., by virtue of the technological milieu into which they were, quite literally, born and who are thus in need of no instruction.

This later notion is rather thoroughly critiqued by others so I will not make it my focus here. As to the former, of course it is no doubt the case that there are knowledge, skills, and abilities that learners do not have and that they could benefit from instruction (though I would still caution against the sine qua non perspective about formal instruction). But what of another possibility – one that I have observed repeatedly throughout my career – that of the learner who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities but does not use them? What of aliteracy?”

I am convinced that addressing aliteracy is the challenge we face in teaching for the goal of Information Literacy as a Way of Life. Recent months of discussion about “fake news” and the important of critical thinking have only strengthened my belief.

I’ll be discussing these issues, including curiosity as a key digital and information literacy disposition, as a member of the keynote panel for the “Library 2.017: Digital Literacy & Fake News” online conference on June 1, 2017. The online conference is free (register here).

Edited to add this link to the Powerpoint slides for my keynote.

Making a Few Elsevier Predictions

At this point it is no secret that Elsevier intends to be and is becoming (or maybe already has become?) the leading provider of scholarly metrics and analytics.

Mendeley’s Stats is an impressive author service to track the performance of one’s own publications that rivals the tracking in Google Scholar with an attractive and intuitive user interface. The release of CiteScore in December competes directly with Clarivate Analytics’ Journal Impact Factor. Last week’s announcement of the unsurprising acquisition of Plum Analytics from EBSCO evidences the comment at the ALA Midwinter 2017 Hunter Forum by Lisa Colledge, Director of Research Metrics at Elsevier, that Elsevier will continue to invest in securing data sources that will allow Elsevier to develop more metrics.

These metrics activities are no doubt important inherently; however, at the encouragement of some colleagues, I’d like to look out a bit further in time and share a few thoughts about the implications I see. I’m going to do so using the provocative but risky format of making predictions. We can check back in a few years and see how I did!

Flips Journals to Open: The pivot to metrics and analytics underscores that Elsevier is on a trajectory to convert its journal portfolio to being open and no longer behind a paywall. Elsevier is already a leading open access publisher and initiatives to deliver author manuscripts to institutional repositories, among other projects, indicate a shift to making publications more and more discoverable and accessible. Discovery and access generate data that are critical for developing useful metrics and analytics. I go back and forth on how many years before this conversion of everything to open reading (including backfiles) will become reality but I am confident that it will happen, especially after this Twitter exchange with William Gunn, Director of Scholarly Communications at Elsevier – https://twitter.com/lisalibrarian/status/809220294489624576 (it is a long thread of conversation but this link goes to the most relevant point in the exchange). As a side benefit, fighting off piracy becomes far less and maybe even a non-issue. My current thought is the timeline is about six years.

Publication Services: I also predict that coming soon from Elsevier is a suite of new publication services that leverage the metrics and analytics. I expect to see these two services develop in parallel, though with the roll out of the first coming a year or two before the second.

One of these publication services will be author-facing, though probably sold to institutions. (Note – at universities I expect that this will not be a sale to the library but, like PURE, to the campus research office.) Researchers invest tremendous amounts of time and energy in identifying journals to which to submit their manuscripts, formatting the manuscripts, and engaging with reviews, editorial responses, etc. These processes have been somewhat automated over the past years but with relatively few efficiencies gained and no sense that placement of manuscripts has become more effective because of automation. The rise of predatory journals has made this process even more onerous. Every author I know would prefer to spend this time and energy on other tasks related to their scholarship.

Elsevier’s patent for “Online Peer Review System and Method” (http://pdfpiw.uspto.gov/.piw?Docid=09430468) shows clearly that this process is ripe for improvement and the patented process describes the future experience of a scholar submitting a manuscript that will be matched through fingerprinting with its best possible potential publication venue and then cascade (or waterfall) through review and editorial processes and on to publication. This manuscript submission and management product will be sold to institutions as improving productivity of their researchers by decreasing the effort to manage manuscript submission and review and as improving institutional control over institutional quality metrics (which are heavily dependent on publication metrics). It is even possible to imagine that institutions might centralize the management of this process in ways parallel to the central review and management of grants and the centralization of researcher profile management (e.g., with PURE). I expect to see this marketed within two years.

When the “Online Peer Review System and Method” patent was granted, many pointed out that the idea of cascade/waterfall treatment of a manuscript by a publisher’s review and editorial system was not such a unique proposition. However, and with the caveat that I am not a patent expert by any means, I think that response missed a critical component. As Elsevier explains in the section on prior art: “existing systems only offer a shared database among sister journals, whereas a shared database is not available for non-sister journals, for example, journals that are not owned by related entities. Thus, it is impossible for these existing systems to accommodate the user’s request to switch from a sister journal to a non-sister journal.”

This intention to provide for the transfer of a manuscript “from a sister to a non-sister journal” is what will make this online system different it appears – and is also the basis for my belief that Elsevier will offering a parallel service, not to authors or to institutions, but to other publishers offering them access to the best manuscripts as well as a manuscript review and editorial support platform. Attracting quality manuscripts is critical to publishing quality articles and being separate from a large-scale and wide-ranging manuscript submission and review process will increase the challenge for smaller publishers in doing so. By joining into a partnership arrangement with Elsevier, smaller publishers would be able to place their journals into the waterfall process. One can anticipate Elsevier using resultant data from this process to make acquisitions of well-performing titles over time. I think we see this in three to four years, maybe faster.

This leads to my final thought specific to academic libraries. I’m not certain if it is intended to be a complete shift or just a significant one but one can’t help but notice that Elsevier is already increasingly selling services directly to other campus units rather than the library. Many people have asked the question re the role of the library in an open access scholarly communications system. The predictions I’ve made here about Elsevier make that a even more pressing question than it might have seemed.

I’ll leave it at this for now. I may be wrong; I may be right. I’ll probably change my mind on some of the details and possibly the timelines. I’m sure Elsevier has a lot more in the works than what I’ve predicted here. But, I thought I’d put this out there for comment and reaction. I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts.

What We Can Be: An Ethos of Hospitality

2016-11-12 21.35.02.jpgToday I had the honor of being the invited speaker for the Alpha Chapter of Beta Phi Mu Annual Initiation and Luncheon Meeting at the School of Information
Sciences
at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This is the same chapter that I was initiated into when I earned my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science in 1994 and it was a moment of nostalgia to find my signature from that ceremony. It’s been a fulfilling life as a librarian since that time. I certainly never expected so much of what I’ve experienced since I signed my name in this book!

Below is the text of my remarks. I am grateful to all who have joined into the work of pursuing our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in libraries and confident that we can become what we hope to be.

***

“What We Can Be: An Ethos of Hospitality”
Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe

As a community of practice, we have a shared responsibility to work together to improve our practice through learning together. This presentation will reflect on the concept of hospitality as orientating theme for personal and organizational development and what it means to “make space at the table” in pursuit of equity and inclusion in our field.

Thank you to Melody Allison, President of this Alpha Chapter of Beta Phi Mu, for the invitation to speak with you today and thank you to the iSchool for hosting us.

I extend my congratulations to those initiated into Beta Phi Mu here today.

You have much to be proud of in your achievements and we take collective pride in celebrating you.

Talks like this are funny things.

You propose a topic months in advance, in your current circumstances at the time, and then the day draws near and you come to know the specific circumstances.

I hadn’t thought at all about the fact that this would be the Saturday after the national elections when Melody contacted me last February.

At the time, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton were the nominees of their respective parties, in fact we had barely entered the primary season.

My mind was on a different election.

One in which I was a candidate for President-Elect of the American Library Association.

I knew that by the time we gathered here today I would either be the ALA President-Elect, or I wouldn’t be.

But, in either case, I knew that I would speak to the same issues that I was speaking to in my candidacy.

Those issues – diversity, equity, and inclusion – have taken on a heightened status in the intervening months in our nation.

Some of us woke on Wednesday to a world that feels less inclusive and less equitable.

Others woke with a hope that the exclusion they have felt in the past will be addressed.

All of us woke to an America that is having a serious conversation about what it is and what it will be.

What it can be. What we can be.

About 80 years ago, the phrase “all politics is local” was popularized by House Speaker “Tip” O’Neill.

Earlier this week at the Digital Library Federation Conference, Stacie Williams – self-described as “Librarian. Archivist. Editor. Essayist.” on her website – gave a keynote address titled “All Labor is Local.”

In it she eloquently and passionately reminded us of the materiality of our working conditions and the ways in which they foster justice, or injustice.

Equity, or inequality.

Inclusion, or exclusion.

My theme as a candidate for ALA President was “Colleagues Connecting Communities” and that phrases reflects what we do in our libraries and what we are for each other.

I want to be very clear that I am very proud of the work that we do together as colleagues, as a community.

We have a strong Code of Ethics that guides our practice.

We are an influential force in policy-making.

We engage important conversations around privacy and intellectual freedom.

We are leaders in using technology to advance access to information.

We take seriously the information and education needs of communities and create collections and services as creative as those found in any other sector and usually far more financially efficient.

We stretch our resources as far as they will go, and then a little bit further.

And, by joining together as a community of colleagues, within our own institutions and across institutional boundaries, we accomplish more than we can alone.

We raise the visibility of the impact that libraries have in our communities.

We challenge each other to innovate and transform our practices.

We support each other.

We are strong.

But, we can be stronger.

Libraries are one of our most important social institutions.

As former literature director of the National Endowment of the Arts, David Kipen, posited in the L.A. Times this week – the institution that just may save us? – “it’s … the public library.”

As much as I agree with Kipen, and want to agree with him, I also know that our libraries themselves are not always places of respite from exclusion and inequity.

As Safiya Noble, faculty in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California – Los Angeles, who earned her PhD in this very building in which we gather today, has documented … even our information tools themselves are places of misrepresentation, bias, and exclusion.

Now, it is absolutely true that many of us have worked to identify and eliminate practices of exclusion.

However, equity and inclusion requires more.

We must create and support new practices.

It is not enough to remove barriers; we must also build bridges.

We must intentionally create space for diversity to strengthen our libraries as inclusive and collegial communities of practice.

We need an ethos of hospitality.

As Vernã Myers, a nationally recognized expert on diversity and inclusion within law firms and law schools, wrote “Diversity Is Being Invited to the Party; Inclusion Is Being Asked to Dance.”

I want to thank Emily Knox, faculty here at the School of Information Sciences, for introducing to me Myers’ work through her recent interview with WILL/Illinois Public Media about inclusion at Makerspace Urbana.

The issues of inequality and exclusion we face in our libraries are systemic.

As systemic issues, they demand systematic solutions and collective action.

Systematic and collective are exactly the kinds of things that a community of practice can do, together.

We have serious issues in our field.

Data from American Library shows that the number and percent of librarians from traditionally underrepresented groups has been in decline for years.

Chris Bourg, the director of the library at MIT, wrote a very informative blog post, The Unbearable Whiteness of Librarianship, on the lack of diversity in the profession and included thoughtful analysis of the recruitment efforts that we would need for the profession’s racial diversity to match that of the United States.

The data are sobering.

I also believe – based more on personal observation and conversations (since the research base is still developing on these topics) – that the profession also needs to look hard at issues related to retention.

Librarians have skills that they can use in many different settings.

Are we making certain that libraries are workplaces of choice because they are workplaces of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

If people choose libraries as their workplaces of choice, what environment do they find within those libraries?

Do they find an environment that is supportive of their growth and development?

An environment in which diversity and inclusion are central to mission and prioritized by administration?

Or, do they find a hostile and threatening setting that drives them out of the profession?

We also need to acknowledge that, while the ranks of those who have an MLS are not as diverse as we want, many times the staff in our libraries are much more diverse in their composition.

We need to ask ourselves some serious questions about why our diversity is concentrated in lower paid positions.

We need to ask why there are a lack of pathways from staff positions to librarian positions and whether we have structured a system that creates barriers and disincentives for a staff-to-librarian pathway.

And, we must ask ourselves how we can change.

I admit that I do not have easy answers to offer.

I have a lot of questions and I think that we have a lot of work to do.

This work requires inclusive, honest, and sometimes bracing conversations.

April Hathcock, Scholarly Communications Librarian at New York University, is doing great work to amplify conversations about diversity and inclusion through her blog At the Intersection.

As I prepared today’s remarks I thought often about the fact that there are so many ways that I could fail or falter with this speech.

The stakes are high.

I take some solace in April’s observation that “You will learn from your mistakes … if you are serious about this work.”

I am very serious about this work.

If I make mistakes today, and if I’ve already made them, I’m sorry and I’ll keep trying to do better.

If you choose to tell me, I promise I’ll listen.

I’d also like to reflect on a piece by Jennifer Vinopal, recently appointed Associate Director for Information Technology in the Ohio State University Libraries.

In The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action, Jennifer gives us a basis for understanding how privilege, bias, and power affect diversity and inclusion in our field.

It is crucial that we move from conversation to action and Jennifer’s recommended practical steps for library leaders function as a strong call to action and engagement on these issues.

I think we need to particularly take heed to her “Brass Tacks for Library Leaders” and particularly her recommendation that “rather than just paying lip service to the concept of diversity, include diversity initiatives in the library’s strategic plan and then make time and provide support for staff to accomplish them.”

Make time.

Provide support.

Accomplish them.

Admittedly, figuring out the right action to take when so many have tried things in our profession that have not worked will be challenging.

If I might, I’d like to offer three specific changes we can make in our work settings.

First, hire for competency, not years of experience or educational attainment.

There is more than one pathway to developing competence.

Too many job ads reflect only a particular way and taking that path may not have been possible for certain people, or it may have been filled with barriers.

Second, identify performance goals and reward achievement.

This, by the way, means tasking managers/leaders with diversity and inclusion as performance goals.

Not effort – achievement.

Finally, conduct exit interviews for everyone employee who leaves your organization, by a third party, not the employee’s supervisor.

Again, this work will be challenging.

It will not be easy.

We will have to work hard.

We may learn things about our organizations that disappoint, even anger, us.

But, because there is so much energy waiting to be unleashed from people who are passionate about and committed to these issues, I am hopeful.

I believe we are ready for deep engagement with some very large and long-standing structural problems within our society as well as within our profession.

We can engage what Bethany Nowviskie, Director of the Digital Library Federation, has termed an “ethic of care.”

This is our opportunity.

It is our opportunity to create a seat at the table, to ask people to dance.

In doing so, we can be our best in creating the library environment that we promise to our communities.

As Jenica Rogers, Director of Libraries and Applied Learning at the State University of New York at Potsdam, said in a blog post this week titled An Open Letter to My Community, “speaking in my role as librarian, freedom of information is a tenet of my profession that drives my commitment to what we do.”

She continued, “But further, as an educator I have a responsibility to protect the vulnerable in my community, ensuring that they have a safe space to pursue their education. So that means preventing and addressing bias, discrimination, and harassment … we’ll be focusing on ensuring our libraries are safe and welcoming to all members of our community, and educating our students about freedom of speech, freedom of information, the role of the State vs the role of the individual, and the powers and pitfalls of all of the above. That is my job. That is my purview.”

This is our end – freedom of information and access for our communities.

An ethos of hospitality that pursues equity and inclusion is our means.

Unfortunately, I did not get elected to the Presidency to which I aspired.

But the ALA Presidency was not my purpose.

My purpose was the work.

The work of becoming a better library community of practice and the work of creating better libraries for our communities.

During my time as a candidate I had an opportunity to talk with many library workers around the country.

Each person who shared their story gave me an amazing gift – the opportunity to learn from their experiences.

I heard some wonderful stories about how librarianship is a community that nurtures and supports its members.

Unfortunately, I also heard many stories from people who feel alienated from their work and who shared their pain at being disconnected from their community of practice.

I ended my experience as a candidate with the conviction that we have a lot of work to do if we are going to achieve our vision of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

And, candidly, I will admit that I am disappointed that ALA hasn’t issued a statement this week – affirming libraries as spaces of intellectual freedom and free speech as well as welcome and inclusion for all members of our communities.

I think we can do better.

I think our library workers and our user communities deserve better.

As I conclude, I am going to turn to you who were inducted today.

Today we honor you for your distinguished achievement in your library and information studies.

I am proud to have you as colleagues in my community of practice, in librarianship.

But also today – I am going to ask you to choose to join me in building up our community, in furthering our goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In our libraries, with our colleagues, and for our communities.

Whatever your purview in the work that you do, today and throughout your career, challenge yourself to not just do your work but to do it with an ethos of hospitality.

You have the opportunity to intentionally create space at the table and the privilege of being able to invite people in.

Thank you.

Reflections on “Privacy Implications of Research Data: A NISO Symposium”

I had the opportunity to attend “Privacy Implications of Research Data: A NISO Symposium” (Sponsored by the NISO-RDA Joint Interest Group) in Denver this past weekend  as a member of the RDA/NISO Privacy Implications of Research Data Sets Working Group. I’m grateful to Todd Carpenter, NISO Executive Director, for including me in this project, which is a follow-on to the project group that I was a member of that produced the NISO Consensus Principles on Users’ Digital Privacy in Library, Publisher, and Software ­Provider Systems [PDF].

As the Case Statement for the Working Group states, the goal is to “develop a framework for how researchers and repositories should appropriately manage human-subject datasets, to develop a metadata set to describe the privacy-related aspects of research datasets, compile a bibliography of related resources, and to build awareness of the privacy implications of research-data sharing.”

The speakers were all thoughtful and each provided a focused talk on some aspect of this multi-faceted topic that continues to shift while we grapple with it. And, in fact, that was one of the themes that emerged in the talks – the lack of clear definitions of what we mean by the terms privacy, research, and data. Terms we all use regularly but seem to defy easy operational definition in the context of this project.

All of the presentations were recorded as well as the follow-on discussions and are accessible from the symposium website and so I won’t recap them here in summary. Instead, I’d like to offer a few reflections.

  • In the context of the symposium, health/biomedical, social media, and (to a degree) sociology/psychology data were the focus on the discussion with an emphasis on quantitative data. In future conversations, considering qualitative data and privacy will also be important. Interviews, focus groups, oral histories, etc. all produce data that raise privacy questions and concerns.
  • At times the conversation seemed to conflate the question of whether data was “research data” with the question of whether the person who had collected and/or who wanted to access and use the data was a “bona fide researcher.” I think we find more clarity in separating the question of whether data is research data from the question of who is allowed to access and use it. This is particularly useful if we want to affirm the tenant that an individual whose data is in the data set should have a right to access (and possibly review, correct, and/or delete) his or her own data. How to think about citizen science is also an open question here.
  • I also left thinking that, while this topic is vast, one way to develop a focus for the coming year would be to think carefully about capitalizing on NISO’s leadership/participation in this NISO-RDA project. There are many facets to privacy in research data. Is there a way to best use NISO’s areas of expertise, recognizing that the RDA community at large may have additional interests as well?

As a reminder, anyone is welcome to contribute to the group by joining the forum on the RDA/NISO Privacy Implications of Research Data Sets Interest Group website to receive notifications of meetings and other events as well as drafts of the framework as it emerges.

I previously blogged about the meeting for this project held at FORCE11 in April 2016.

The ACRL Information Literacy Constellation

In its first action on the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, the ACRL Board stated that “we have accepted the Framework and it will assume its place among the constellation of documents used by information literacy practitioners” (http://www.acrl.ala.org/acrlinsider/archives/9814).

That metaphorical framing – constellation – stuck with me and over the past year I’ve been using it to explore ways to bring together and work productively with both the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards and the Framework (as well as the many other information literacy policy documents that the ACRL Board has adopted over the years, including the Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices: A Guideline, the Standards for Proficiencies for Instruction Librarians and Coordinators, and the various subject and other specialty information literacy standards).

I have found the constellation metaphor to be very evocative.  What does it mean for stars to be in a constellation?  If we think about the night sky, we never see all of the constellations clearly.  There are stars, and by drawing connections among those stars and imagining what they might be symbolize, we bring different images into focus. As the earth rotates and the seasons change, the constellations that are visible to us change; so, there are aspects of positionality and relativeness when we think about constellations.

I believe the constellation metaphor is helping us see that it’s a matter of bringing a perspective to the information literacy documents and seeing which of them are in brighter relief for us at a given point in time and which are most useful for us to move our programs forward at that point in time.  Doing so will create the shapes or the images that we see and determine which needs to shine brightest in our situation, while at the same time aligning our local circumstances with national “sky” – the systems of articulation, transfer, and accreditation that concern our institutions and thus our libraries.

As the keynote speaker for the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts “Implementing the New Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education at PCLA Libraries” Conference and in a session at the 15th Annual Illinois Information Literacy Summit, I had the opportunity to lead librarians through a process of exploring the constellation metaphor. It is truly amazing how many different constellations are discussed – from Pleiades to the Big Dipper – and each time participants also went a step further, unprompted, to bring in both the North Star and the Milky Way as additional metaphors.

Gemini.png At the most basic application of the metaphor, I personally have come to see the Framework and Standards through the lens of the constellation Gemini. The two documents are not identical, though they share a common touchpoint (the goal of bringing students to a state of information literacy). They each have their own shape, size, and components but we can recognize them as related. The fact that one exists does not diminish the other and the fact that they “hold hands” helps each bring the other into focus.

If I’m sharing this in a conversation, this is the point where someone usually says something like “okay Lisa, that’s great, but what does it mean practically?”  Good question because as librarians we’re practitioners so we need the pragmatic!

So, pragmatically, let me share how I’ve come to understand the Framework and the Standards working together. Since the Framework itself says that the frames present concepts and not learning outcomes, I see that the frames as helping us develop the pathways of student learning, the journey.

But, a journey needs a destination; we still need something else that we’re teaching towards. That is to say, we need the answer to the question “what will an information literate student be able to do?” That is the value of the Standards. The Standards set a destination. We may interpret the language of the Standards into our local dialect (as many libraries have done with the Standards over the past 15 years), but we can always map that local to the national because we have the shared language of the destination in the Standards.

Interestingly, as I have worked with this understanding, I have found it very easy to bring both the Standards and the Framework into my instructional design practice, which is heavily influenced by Understanding by Design (I identified a number of short introductions to this method for the PCLA conference mentioned above and they are linked from the conference materials). As I say often, with the Framework and Standards, it doesn’t have to be either/or, it can be both/and.

I’ll end this blog post with an excerpt of four slides from the PCLA keynote that show what it looks like to design a single class instruction session using the both/and approach to the Framework and the Standards through the Understanding by Design approach to instructional design. (I will admit that I’ve simplified here a bit because an information literacy instructional design should be put in the context of campus general education learning outcomes, major/minor program outcomes, etc. as well. I couldn’t work all that into a keynote though it is included in the one-day workshop that I give on information literacy instructional design.)

P.S. My gratitude to an academic library director whose background is information literacy practice and who holds an important high-level leadership position in ACRL (but who also asked to not be publically identified) for encouraging me to share how I’ve been approaching this. That director has heard from many librarians asking for practical guidance/training on how to use the Framework for instructional practice while still responding to the reality that their institutions require that their information literacy programs to have a set of standard learning outcomes for purposes of assessment, accreditation, and program evaluation. Or, to put it more bluntly, how to be creative practitioners in the classroom while also ensuring that our information literacy programs, and by extension our libraries, can be defended and justified in this “neoliberal” era.

 

 

Closing the Book on the ALA Presidency Campaign

I want to thank everyone who supported me as a candidate for the Presidency of the American Library Association (ALA). During the campaign, I had the opportunity to talk with many people. Some of these people are current members, some once were, and some have never been.

Each person who shared their story gave me an amazing gift – the opportunity to learn from their experiences. I heard some wonderful stories about how ALA is a community that nurtures and supports library workers. Unfortunately, I also heard many stories from people who feel alienated from ALA and who shared their pain at being disconnected from the association and their community of practice.

I end my experience as a candidate with the conviction that we have a lot of work to do if ALA is to achieve its vision of Prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion. It is my hope that my campaign focus on creating An Ethos of Hospitality in ALA has started a conversation that will find its way to action. While I would have been pleased to lead that process, it is more important to me that it happen than that I am leading it.

As I close this short reflection on the chapter of my life that was being a candidate for ALA President, I would like to invite everyone who is making committee appointments in ALA over the coming year to make the pledge that I made during the campaign. For whatever your scope of appointing authority, challenge yourself to appoint at least one person who has not previously served in your section, interest group, round table, division, association, etc. to every committee, task force, working group, etc. You have the ability to intentionally create space at the table and invite people in.

It was a great honor to stand for election to the ALA Presidency and an experience that I won’t ever forget. I wish the best to Jim Neal and ALA during his presidency.