Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Venting some frustration with the slow pace of change in scholarly communication

I am putting together some thoughts concerning some posts that I read several months back.

A quiet culture war in research libraries – and what it means for librarians, researchers and publishers by Rick Anderson

In this article, Mr. Anderson had stated:

"The culture war that I believe is currently brewing in research libraries is between two general schools of thought: the first sees the research library’s most fundamental and important mission as serving the scholarly needs of its institution’s students, scholars and researchers; the second sees the research library’s most fundamental and important mission as changing the world of scholarly communication for the better." [Note, I bolded this text.]

And later in the article, he notes:

"Again, we do not have to choose entirely between these two orientations; however, we do have to acknowledge that they are in tension with each other..."

Two other blog posts had also talked about certain tensions in library work. 


"Examples of our silences, as read by subject faculty and students:
  • Always saying yes: In my last post [see the link below to part 1] I talked about saying no to requests for database demos–and what a fraught, complex act that is.  When we always say yes to faculty requests, no matter how problematic they are, we are choosing silence.
    • Meaning (from subject faculty perspective): Positive emptiness–librarians are cheerful, obedient helpers. 
  • Skills-based / neutral IL instruction: So, there is the silence of saying yes to the faculty request, and then there is the silence of performing instruction based on that request.  Whether it takes the form of a database demo or something else (CRAPP test, anyone?), skills-based, apolitical IL instruction silences librarians.  We lecture and demonstrate, we present research as sterile and detached from students’ real lives, we cover so much material that students absorb nothing.  We might be talking a lot, but we are silenced because we are not able to truly teach, or to address the complexity of information literacy" 

"Coming out of silence means we will make some people angry. After all, we’ve convinced everyone we’re just obedient, cheerful helpers."

And from:


"Can you just show them the databases?  This is a phrase I’ve heard a lot as an instruction librarian.
I’ve thought about it, and the answer is no.  I cannot just show them the databases.

I cannot “just” show them the databases because there are so many layers of destruction inherent in my process of pointing, clicking, and narrating.  I am not demonstrating how students can find a scholarly article, I am demonstrating how profoundly students are marginalized from academic knowledge production.  I am not identifying aspects of peer review, I am silencing all non-academic voices–including the students’.  I am not modeling good search strategies, I am erasing myself as a teacher."


What does this all have to do with me?

I am getting very frustrated with the slow pace of change in scholarly communication.  Yes, I think librarians should be working to change the world of scholarly communication for the better.

I also think that librarians need to say "no" to their patrons and to publishers more often.  At my place of work (which is reasonably well funded), we try to make our patrons happy as much as possible by buying ALL THE THINGS that they ask for.  The fact that the library is viewed as the wallet is not necessarily a good thing.  Throwing more money at publishers and vendors is not going to solve the problems of scholarly communication.

As in Lauren's case, I had also been frustrated with some of our local gates of academic discourse. In my case, I probably opened up the gate incorrectly.  I did not find the gate to be: very inviting; easy to open; nor easy to navigate once I got inside. Also, I was given a short amount of time to demonstrate the information maze once the gate was opened. Some departments were better than others, but some provided very narrow windows of opportunity for me to talk to their students about information issues.

I guess I am frustrated that I am not given more time to discuss scholarly communications issues and the inherent problems with faculty and students.  The system is screwed up, and I am not sure what more I can do about it. The conversation trail from @daskey's tweet displays some of the same frustration that I have.  Ian had responded with "change is too hard, also the system works fine as it is...' - the average faculty member."  Yup, that just about sums up my frustration.

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