Charleston 2016: You Can’t Preserve What You Don’t Have – Or Can You? Libraries as Infrastructure for Perpetual Access to Intellectual Output

Plenary Sessions of the Charleston Conference at the Gaillard Center (Charleston, South Carolina) - November 3, 2016
Anja Smit at Charleston Conference

Speaker: Anja Smit, Utrecht University

Ancient scholars would not recognize our modern libraries. There are new services (via the internet) that replace some of the services of library, and we need to continual re-evaluate what value we are adding.

For example, we are putting a lot of effort into locally managed discovery services, and yet a majority of sources referring users to content are Google and Google Scholar. For some disciplines, the library plays a very small role in discovery of content, so the Dutch have focused on providing access to content over discovery.

But, what if OA becomes the publication model of the future? What if Google does digitize all the books? What if users organize access themselves?

The Dutch consortia is flipping some pricing models. In two of the licenses they currently hold, they are paying for the cost of publication rather than the rights for access, and they are making the Dutch scholarly work OA globally. However, they have found perpetual access, or preservation, has not been an easy thing to negotiate or prioritize.

Librarians have been trying to find a solution for long-term preservation since the dawn of digital publication. There are some promising initiatives.

France has built a repository that includes access (not just a dark archive). How do we scale this kind of thing globally? Funding is local. We will never have a global system, so we need local systems based on a standard that will connect them.

Libraries do not own the digital content. We can collect it, but we tend to collect what our community needs rather than the output of our researchers.

Libraries can put things on the agenda of other stakeholders. OA and Open Science is on the agenda of politicians and governments because of libraries.


  1. Make perpetual access to knowledge the top priority on our agenda.
  2. Get perpetual access to knowledge on the agenda of relevant stakeholders as quickly as possible. Collectively.
  3. Find partners to develop longer term preservation infrastructure.

We can leave the rest to Google.


Q: Dutch presidency of EU and Dutch proposals for OA – what do you think of the Dutch policies in this area?
A: We are all trying to find solutions to further and advance access to knowledge. That is our common goal. This is such a complicated issue — all the stakeholders have to work together to do this.

Q: Libraries have not done as well a job of preserving media. Not as concerned about the availability of scholarly journals and books in the future — what happens to the emails and other media forms that are getting lost?
A: Documented knowledge is at the core of libraries. The other areas have much bigger problems. That is such a huge area that she would not presume to have ideas or suggestions for solutions.

Q: Libraries are being pressured to collect and manage raw faculty research, without additional support, so it’s taking away from collecting in traditional areas.
A: Some say that this will become the new knowledge — data will trump publication. Libraries are best positioned to help researchers manage their data in a consultancy role, and let IT handle the storage of the data. We could spend a little less on collection development to do this.

Q: What will happen when Google is no longer freely accessible and there’s a cost?
A: It doesn’t help if we keep pointing people to local collections. Our users use Google, so we need to help them find what they are not able to find there themselves.

social justice librarianship

Barbara Fister’s latest Library Babel Fish essay is on point for me in so many ways.

It’s not easy to write this well, to combine edge-of-your-seat narrative momentum with scholarly rigor. Not only is it not easy, but we’re schooled to write in an inaccessible style, as if our ideas are somehow better if written in a hard-to-decipher script that only the elite can decode because if people who haven’t been schooled that way can understand it, it’s somehow base and common, not valuable enough.

Yes. So much this. I think it’s possibly one of the reasons why librar* blogs burned so brightly and fiercely before other social media sites took on that space. It gave us a platform to share our thoughts and work in ways that were not stifling like the journals that normally published librar* scholarship. Bloggers who could write eloquently and pointedly about the issues of the day and what they thought of them gained quite a bit of attention (and still do, for those that have continued to write in this type of forum). I certainly read them more consistently and thoroughly than any professional publication filled with strict form and complex sentence structures.

…it’s immoral to study poor people and publish the results of that study in journal run by a for-profit company that charges more for your article than what the household you studied has to buy food this week. I cannot think of any valid excuse for publishing social research this way.

Many of the economic arguments for open access have grown stale, but this one is fresh and new to me, and it hits hard. Much like when those of us in library acquisitions roles submit articles to closed publications, we are choosing the expectations of our peers for tenure requirements over our professional ethics. If we want the contents of scholarly journals to be accessible to all who need them, then we need to make sure our own house is in order before we go out and ask faculty to do the same.

You can reserve the right to share your work, and we’re finding sustainable ways to fund public knowledge. Will it take a little more of your time? Yeah, it’s a cultural shift, which is obviously complex, and you’re so busy.

But if you actually think your research matters, if you think research could make people’s lives better, if you use the phrase “social justice” when you describe your work, you should take that time. It’s unethical not to.

NASIG 2015 – Somewhere To Run To, Nowhere To Hide

info free fridge
information wants to be free?

Speaker: Stephen Rhind-Tutt, President, Alexander Street Press

His perspective is primary source collections, mostly video and audio, created by a small company of 100 or so people.

There are billions and trillions of photos, videos, and audio files being added to the Internet every year, and it’s growing year over year. We’re going to need a bigger boat.

He reviewed past presentations at NASIG, and there are reoccurring nightmares of OA replacing publishers, Wikipedia replacing reference sources, vendors will bypass libraries and go direct to faculty, online learning will replace universities, etc.

All technologies evolve and die. Many worry about the future, many hold onto the past, and we’re not responding quickly enough to the user. Dispense with the things that are less relevant. Users don’t want to search, they want to find.

You can project the future, and not just by guessing. You don’t have to know how it’s going to happen, but you can look at what people want and project from that.

Even decades after the motor car was developed, we were still framing it within the context and limitations of the horse-drawn carriage. We’re doing that with our ebooks and ejournals today. If we look to the leaders in the consumer space, we can guess where the information industry is heading.

If we understand the medium, we can understand how best to use it. Louis Kahn says, “Honor the material you use.” The medium of electronic publications favors small pieces (articles, clips) and is infinitely pliable, which means it can be layered and made more complex. Everything is interconnected with links, and the links are more important than the destination. We are fighting against the medium when we put DRM on content, limit the simultaneous use, and hide the metadata.

“I don’t know how long it will take, but I truly believe information will become free.”

Video is a terrible medium for information if you want it fast — 30 min of video can be read in 5 minutes. ASP has noticed that the use of the text content is on par with the use of the associated video content.

Mobile is becoming very important.

Linking — needs to work going out and coming in. The metadata for linking must be made free so that it can be used broadly and lead users to the content.

The researcher wants every piece of information created on every topic for free. From where he is as a publisher, he’s seeing better content moving more and more to open access. And, as a result of that, ASP is developing an open music library that will point to both fee and free content, to make it shareable with other researchers.

In the near future, publishers will be able to make far more money developing the research process ecosystem than by selling one journal.

battle decks

my #erl15 Battle Decks topic
my #erl15 Battle Decks topic

I participated in my first Battle Decks competition at ER&L this year. I almost did last year, and a friend encouraged me to put my name in the hat this year, so I did.

I was somewhat surprisingly not nervous as I waited for my name to be chosen to present next (the order was random — names drawn from a bag). Rather, I was anxiously waiting for my turn, because I knew I could pull it off, and well.

This confidence is not some arrogance I carry with me all the time. I’ve got spades of impostor syndrome when it comes to conference presentations and the like. Battle Decks, however, is not a presentation on a topic I’m supposed to know more about but secretly suspect I know less about than the audience. They are more in the dark than I am, and my job isn’t to inform so much as to entertain.

Improv — I can do that. I spent a few seasons with the improv troupe in college, and while I was certainly not remarkable or talented, I did learn a lot about “yes, and”. My “yes, and” with the Battle Decks was the slides — no matter what came up, I took it and connected it back to the topic and vice-versa.

There was one slide that came up that was dense with text or imagery or something that just couldn’t register in the split second I looked at it. I turned back to the audience and found I had nothing to say, so I looked at it again, and then made an apology, stating that my assistant had put together the slide deck and I wasn’t sure what this one was supposed to be about. It brought the laughs and on I went.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jesse Koennecke for organizing the event, as well as Bonnie Tijerina, Elizabeth Winters, and Carmen Mitchell for judging the event. And, of course, thanks also to April Hathcock for sharing the win with me.

#erl15 Battledecks Monday
photo by Sandy Tijerina

ER&L 2014 — Beyond COUNTER: The changing definition of “usage” in an open access economy

Speakers: Kathy Perry (VIVA), Melissa Blaney (American Chemical Society), and Nan Butkovitch (Pennsylvania State University)

In 1998, ICOLC created guidelines for delivering usage information, and they have endorsed COUNTER and SUSHI. COUNTER works because all the players are involved and agree to reasonable timeframes.

COUNTER Code of Practice 4 now recognizes media and tracking of use through mobile devices.

PIRUS (Publisher and Institutional Repository Usage Statistics) is the next step, but they are going to drop the term and incorporate it as an optional report in COUNTER (Article Report 1). There is a code of practice and guidelines on the website.

Usage Factor metric as a tool for assessing journals that aren’t covered by impact factor. It won’t be comparable across subject groups because they are measuring different things.

If your publishers are not COUNTER compliant, ask them to do it.

ACS chose to go to COUNTER 4 in part because it covers all formats. They like being able to highlight usage of gold open access titles and denials due to lack of license. They also appreciated the requirement for the ability to provide JR5, which reports usage by year of publication.

Big increases in search can also mean that people aren’t finding what they want.

ACS notes that users are increasingly coming from Google, Mendeley, and other indexing sources, rather than the publisher’s site itself.

They hear a lot that users want platforms that allow sharing and collaborating across disciplines and institutions. Authors are wanting to measure the impact of their work in traditional and new ways.

Science librarian suggests using citation reports to expand upon the assessment of usage reports. If you have time for that sort of thing and only care about journals that are covered by ISI.

Chemistry authors have been resistant to open access publishing, particularly if they think they can make money off of a patent, etc. She thinks it will be useful to have OA article usage information, but needs to be put in the context of how many OA articles there are available.

What you want to measure in usage can determine your sources. Every measurement method has bias. Multiple usage measurements can have duplication. A new metric is just around the corner.