Working at the Intersection of Scholarly Communication and Open Education

NOTE:  The authors are seeking input from schol-comm practitioners about their roles and responsibilities via this online survey, which closes June 15, 2018.

The following is a guest post authored by co-Principal Investigators Maria Bonn, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign School of Information Sciences; Josh Bolick, University of Kansas Libraries; and William Cross, North Carolina State University Libraries.

Sometime in 2016, through a mix of happenstance, initiative, friendly referrals and pure good luck, the three of us began a series of email and telephone conversations in which we puzzled over whether new LIS professionals are being adequately prepared for roles in academic libraries in which they will support scholarly communication in all its permutations.

We are each engaged in such work and bring different perspectives and experience to it, from the trenches of our present and past positions, as instructors, as recent students, as job applicants and hiring committee members. It is increasingly evident that awareness, proficiency, and even fluency in scholarly communication issues is central to the work of academic librarians across institutional type and department. Academic library job postings calling for scholarly communication specialists — or at least for candidates who are well versed in those issues — have been steadily accumulating for some years now. LIS curricular offerings, however, haven’t yet evolved with this shift in the market. Reflecting on this and on conversations with our colleagues, our strong sense is that most new librarians are not well-versed, or even versed at all, in the skills that support scholarly communication: understanding copyright and fair use, open licensing, academic publishing norms, the complexities of peer review, the emergence of open education and data management as focus areas, and so on.

Why the skill and education gap? The lack of scholcomm offerings in LIS programs might be due in part to LIS faculty not being themselves comfortable with the contemporary skills needed to navigate the complexity of scholarly communication. There’s also no core educational resource dedicated to developing such skills, no common text that covers scholarly communication as a wide-ranging and rapidly-developing field. This presents an opportunity, so we began to consider the design and development of an open educational resource about scholarly communication librarianship, through which we hope to make a meaningful intervention in our field.

With the generous support of IMLS, we have undertaken a research project to learn how scholcomm workers understand and articulate the practice of scholarly communication librarianship and how we, the community of practice, might have a larger role in preparing our future colleagues for scholcomm work. This research has been underway since the beginning of 2018 and continues apace. While gathering input and data on stakeholders like LIS faculty and students is extremely important, we always knew that we would be best informed by the perspectives and experiences of our community of practice, by hearing from those who do the everyday work of partnering with and supporting scholars who are the primary agents in scholarly communication.

So, as we library professionals do, in early April we had a meeting (agenda).

whiteboard notes

We brought together almost forty folks with significant experience and investment in scholarly communication, from high-level administrators to new scholarly communication librarians in the first few years of their careers. We gathered in the open, pleasant spaces of the Hunt Library at NCSU and over conference tables and tacos and on whiteboards and sticky notes.  We worked together to define the skills, values, and the stakes of scholarly communication and how to best infuse those through the library profession. We shared experiences, frustrations, ambitions, and ice cream.  These two days of effort scoped the content, audience, and purpose for an OER of scholarly communication librarianship.

There were few quiet moments and no dull ones. Arising from the rich experiential base in the room were stories that provided practical advice, words of warning, and visions for a future in which the academy supports its members in developing and managing scholarship that has broad impact and social benefit. We discussed data management, scholarly identity, metrics of all types, varieties of licensing, mechanisms for open peer review, building prestige for library based publishing, how social justice intersects with these things, and so much more. Invited participants Sarah Hare,  Ali Versluis and Lillian Rigling generously put their experience and intelligence together before the unconference and created a design thinking workshop that inspired and directed us all in building learning objectives for our proposed OER. Amidst this variety, themes emerged and became threads that tied the conversations together.

Kevin Smith, Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas, and Heather Joseph, SPARC Executive Director, opened our conversations by calling for those of us who work in scholarly communication to get better at telling our stories, at sharing in a compelling way, what we do and why it matters. Storytelling was a fulcrum of the two days. Sometimes we need to tell stories to our scholars, sometimes to our university administrators, or to our colleagues in the library, even to our friends and families. Whomever the audience, we need the language and evidence that make a compelling case for our work. We frequently came around to reminding ourselves that are many kinds of stories to tell — as many stories as there are scholars — representing all kinds of personal, institutional, and disciplinary identities.

These stories facilitate connections, creating shared understanding and goals. The importance of these connections, of relationships, was another leitmotif of the meeting. The importance of soft skills which are central to developing rewarding relationships, such as confidence, empathy, and a sense of timing, loomed large. For the library community to maximally support scholarly communication, it must do so in the context of a web of relationships, with scholars seasoned and new, with policy makers and government officials, with university administrators, with colleagues at one’s own institution and within a community of practice, and with a public that increasingly may not understand what we do, what value we add (in libraries and the academy more broadly). Interested readers should also see #LISOER on Twitter and this reflection by Molly Keener, who was in attendance.

As is often the case when a community of practice gets together, the appreciation of and desire for our community of practice was palpable. As this reflection was being drafted, the twitter stream from the Library Publishing Forum 2018 was alive with the mention of “community.”


Clearly the yearning for ongoing community was not idiosyncratic to our meeting. As meeting organizers and participants, we experienced the same appreciation meaningful professional connection. We also observed a community that is clearly and impressively developing, populated by professionals keenly aware of each others’ skills and expertise, and eager to be part of a shared project to maintain and improve the systems through which we share scholarship. If you’re a member of this community, if you work on scholcomm topics in libraries, we’d love your input via this survey, which closes June 15, 2018. If you want to learn more about our project, reach out to any of us directly via email, Twitter, or one of the many conferences we’re presenting on this and related work.


5 Questions With… Dave Hansen

Photo of David Hansen David (Dave) Hansen, Director of Copyright Scholarly Communication, Duke University

This is #4 in our series of get-acquainted posts featuring members of the ASERL Scholarly Communications community.

Q1. Describe your current scholcomm position.

I’m Duke’s Director of Copyright and Scholarly Communication. In that role I spend about half my time focused internally on Duke Libraries, addressing specific copyright issues, helping train librarians and staff about copyright and scholarly communications, and working to improve how we institutionally support, through technology and library services, our faculty and student authors to better communicate their scholarship to the world. The other half of my time I spend working directly with faculty and students to help them understand copyright and the scholarly publishing system, usually with the goal of helping them share their work more broadly. In the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication I work with two great colleagues: Paolo Mangiafico works on scholarly communication technology, mostly consulting with faculty about what technological options they have so they can do what they want with their scholarship. Haley Walton works on outreach, helping make sure we’re talking with Duke faculty and grad students at the right time and place to best help them.

Q2. What attracted you to scholcomm work?

Really it was one person, Kevin Smith, who was Duke’s previous Copyright and Scholarly Communications Officer. He is now Dean of Libraries at the University of Kansas. I had just finished law school and was thinking about working somewhere at the intersection of law and libraries, but I wasn’t completely sure where or how. Kevin had advertised a student scholarly communications intern position. I applied, came to work for him, and I loved it. In working with Kevin and meeting with academic authors, I remember being shocked how even the most basic misconceptions about the law could dramatically and negatively impact access to research. It was fun working with Kevin, watching him gently correct those misconceptions and ultimately help increase access to research.

Q3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Helping people overcome fear, especially when it comes to copyright law. I suppose because it’s a confusing area of the law, I find many authors and librarians are just terrified of doing something wrong or making a mistake. For the most part, thoughtful risk management alleviates many of those fears and helps move projects forward.

Q4. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in the scholcomm ecosystem, what would it be?

I would create a legal framework that actually reflects the needs of academics. Right now we all operate under a copyright system that was designed for economic and commercial interests. It just wasn’t designed for the incentive system most academic authors operate under, which focuses on attribution and credit far more than it does money.

Q5. If you were NOT a scholcomm librarian, what would you be?

Probably in private practice, focusing on intellectual property law. But then I wouldn’t get to work in a library every day, which is one of my favorite things about what I do now.

If you’re interested in sharing your scholcomm story, or wish to know more about a fellow ASERL librarian’s path by suggesting they be featured, contact Molly Keener or Andy Wesolek.


5 Questions With… Laura Burtle

photo of Laura Burtle

Laura Burtle, Associate Dean for Scholarly Communications, Georgia State University Library

This is #3 in our series of get-acquainted posts featuring members of the ASERL Scholarly Communications community.

Q1. Describe your current scholcomm position.

I am the Associate Dean for Scholarly Communications. I am the only Scholarly Communications person in the library, along with a student assistant. I offer consultations and workshops on copyright in instruction, author rights, publishing contracts, and open access, particularly for faculty and graduate students. I also manage our institutional repository, ScholarWorks@Georgia State University. I work with our Digital Projects and Special Collections & Archives departments on copyright and privacy concerns for putting digitized content online. As an Associate Dean, I am also responsible for Digital Library Services and library leadership.

Q2. What attracted you to scholcomm work?

I have worked in most areas of the library over the long time I have been a librarian. New areas are emerging, and that is exciting. A certain lawsuit piqued my interest in copyright in particular, and scholarly communications generally! I wanted to work more closely on helping authors share their work and retain their rights. If all of those works GSU was accused of infringing were open access, the never-ending lawsuit would never have started.

Q3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Copyright is such a mystery to people. Instructors are very uncertain what they can and cannot do, faculty and student authors don’t understand why they can’t share their work, and librarians and instructional designers get questions they can’t answer. It is gratifying to me to be able to teach people about copyright. By focusing on what matters to a particular group, I am good at clarifying a confusing area. People are very grateful, and that is rewarding. I present to library groups regularly, especially in Georgia, and I appreciate the opportunity to help librarians understand copyright and open access, and feel more comfortable supporting their patrons.

Q4. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in the scholcomm ecosystem, what would it be?

Andy already said this, but I have to echo that a thing that I would love to see change is the way the P&T process evaluates scholarship more based on the journals where faculty publish than the content of the work. Beyond that, I wish faculty and administrators were more engaged in trying to change the system from a model still focused on propping up an old business model to one that embraces the open opportunities provided by the digital era.

Q5. If you were NOT a scholcomm librarian, what would you be?

Well, I just got my J.D., so maybe a lawyer? I enjoy teaching, so I could see myself teaching in some capacity. For something completely different, my friends and I think it would be fun to open a brewery!

If you’re interested in sharing your scholcomm story, or wish to know more about a fellow ASERL librarian’s path by suggesting they be featured, contact Molly Keener or Andy Wesolek.


But I thought we were just talking about OA

This post was contributed by Anita Walz, Open Education, Copyright & Scholarly Communication Librarian at Virginia Tech. This blog post is based in part on a presentation given at the Library Publishing Forum 2017, Baltimore, MD, entitled: “Adaptation? Derivatives? I thought we were just talking about Open Access.”

This is an invitation to librarians, particularly those engaged in publishing, to explore current standards and practices, clear communication to non-librarians, and to prompt us to reflect about and discuss our values as libraries supporting access and creation of scholarly and learning resources. I hope that this blog post will:

  1. Better know how to help our clients to think thru licensing options—especially to prompt authors in thinking about the needs of users (and potential users);
  2. Acknowledge a diversity of perspectives regarding what we may mean when we say “open access” and choose our words carefully;
  3. Develop a shared sense of best practices and values as library publishers. Namely, what is our mission and what do we value? Are we fulfilling our mission & values?

Libraries and library publishing initiatives are uniquely situated to both inform authors and to set policies that reflect our values and prioritize the use of limited time and resources to fulfill our respective missions.

Defining open

Within library, scholarly publishing, and open education initiatives the word open can mean many different things1: free online, free to read, or in the case of Public Domain and Creative Commons licenses which allow derivatives—free to adapt and redistribute.

Open access is an area within Scholarly Communication and the publishing industry at large that seems fraught with confusion, even though the prescriptive direction for the landscape was set nearly 15 years ago: The 2003 Berlin Declaration articulates the definition of “Open Access” as is the equivalent of a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) with one important caveat—limits on the number of print copies. “Open Access” in this case is not the same as “free online.” Yet, truth be told, I don’t use the phrase “Open Access” anymore. Many faculty I talk with understand “Open Access” to mean “free online” regardless of the in-copyright and/or open license (or not) status of a work. In my experience, this phrase does not convey to my faculty the full potential of an item with a CC BY license. I talk instead about “free online” and “openly licensed,” and occasionally discuss the difference between gratis (no cost) and libre (free as in freedom).

Are No-Derivative licenses open enough?

A few semesters ago a new faculty member contacted me about fair use. The book she wanted to use for her course was out of print. While the library had multiple copies and there were half a dozen used books for sale, she had nearly 125 students. Could we license a digital version? No. Could she make copies? It depends. Published in 1987, the book was still clearly in copyright. After a semester of displaying one-chapter-at-a-time via library eReserves under a detailed fair use assertion, I worked with the publisher and authors and found that the rights had reverted to the authors. I negotiated with the authors to broaden access to their work by licensing it with a Creative Commons license and allowing worldwide digital access. Anyone is now able to access, read, download and share the digitized text free of charge, and the faculty member’s problem regarding student access to the text was solved.

I should be happy, right? Yes, the students in the VetMed course have access to an excellent text selected by their professor. The authors were happy to broaden the audience for their work and delighted to see new readership for their classic book which was published in 1987. The text is “free online” and can be freely redistributed with attribution.

Still, I was dissatisfied. The license chosen by the authors was the Creative Commons Non-Commercial No-Derivatives license. CC-BY-NC-ND I failed to convince the authors that there may be value in allowing others to modify their text with attribution—and I don’t mean translation or reformatting pages. I wondered: Is it open enough? Couldn’t we do better? My colleague working in an Open Education Initiative at another University cannot offer it to her faculty as something they could customize. Opportunities for development of albeit hypothetical derivatives, such as “Veterinary Epidemiology in Tropical Climates” or “VetEpi in Emergencies and Disasters” or “VetEpi for Small Animals,” cannot exist without an author starting from scratch. We still have the same problem as before where we can stand on the shoulders of giants, but cannot build on their works.

This has resulted in lingering questions: Is there anything I could have said to persuade the authors? We have limited resources: what kinds of projects do we as a department and as a library choose to support?  (The question of how to license our library-created works has for the most part already been settled.)

Ingredients matter

Several years ago I was involved in a grant-funded project to create a reusable digital learning object. The learning object was to be an open source platform which several faculty members would use as an ancillary teaching resource in their course. The code for the platform was also to be widely and publicly shared as open source software. It was an exciting project. It was not as exciting when small snippets of commercial code were licensed and an iStockPhoto appeared as the main part of the interface — both done to expedite completion of the project. Both actions meant we could not openly license the platform or to share the code openly. When we don’t value the reusability potential of resources we create or the components that go into such works, we end up creating resources which have limited potential impact.

Going beyond “free to read”

In my experience as an Open Education Librarian at Virginia Tech, I rely heavily on licenses which go beyond “free to read” or “no cost distribution” to those that allow derivatives. The following Creative Commons licenses (and Public Domain markers) allow remix, customization, and redistribution with attribution, allowing anyone to build on the shoulders of giants — which can save the time and effort of rebuilding on an otherwise solid foundation. In the case of learning resources, this is helpful because Geology, Calculus, French, Physics and the like don’t change very quickly.


You’ll notice that two Creative Commons licenses are missing above, those which prohibit the creation of derivatives.

In November 2016, the Open Textbook Network, on whose Advisory Board I serve, issued a new policy regarding a preference for CC BY licenses. However, what was most striking to me was the decision that books with a “No Derivative” license will no longer be added to the Open Textbook Library. Legacy “No Derivative” titles were not removed, but no additional “ND” titles will be added. I cheered the decision, as this would make it easier for users to know how to find titles that could be remixed or adapted, like the 2015-16 Fundamentals of Business textbook on which I worked that was a deep revision of an openly licensed 2011 Intro to Business title. Yet, I wondered: How do we enable discovery of the entire range of free-online, CC BY-ND or CC BY-NC-ND books? I wondered: Is limiting the Open Textbook Library to only editable books too narrow? How do we help faculty, students, and broader audiences to navigate the increasingly complex maze of CC-but-not-editable and CC-and-editable items? Are we creating another complex wrinkle for readers and would-be users?

Author decisions

Deciding what to do with one’s copyrights as well as whether or not to openly license is the prerogative of the copyright holder. Authors concerned about the integrity of their work may question the use of Creative Commons licenses, all of which allow redistribution, and some of which allow adaptation (derivatives) with attribution.

Allows adaptation Allows redistribution Requires attribution Eliminates fair use
PD (no known copyright) Yes Yes No No
PD0 / CC0 (donated to public domain) Yes Yes No No
CC BY Yes Yes Yes No
CC BY SA Yes-under same license terms Yes Yes No
CC BY NC Yes Yes Yes No
CC BY NC SA Yes-under same license terms Yes Yes No
CC BY ND No Yes Yes No
CC BY NC ND No Yes Yes No
In-Copyright with no additional license or permission No No  — No

Who says whether it is open enough?

Whether something is “open enough” might be determined by what the eye-of-the-beholder sees or values. Something being “open enough” depends on the willingness of the copyright holder to allow and make space for unimagined possibilities. The vision and creativity (or desperation) of a potential adapter can then leverage this to make something new out of an existing openly licensed work.

In my experience, authors tend to take a conservative stance, opting to do what they’ve always done out of habit, or because they’re unaware of the negative consequences or missed opportunities for others, or out of concern for “what might happen.” Clearing these hurdles requires creativity and tact.  It requires an analysis regarding risk and probability around concerns about potential negative effects. It also requires providing authors with a vision for what sharing and cooperation can do for us, the benefits of Ut Prosim (Virginia Tech’s motto: “That I may serve”), and the reality of virtuous circles. A few places to start these discussions include a blog post by Ryan Merkley of Creative Commons, Sharing, the Foreword of the recent book Made with Creative Commons, or the Why Openness in Education, Chapter 6 of Game Changers: Education and Information Technologies (2012).

Library values (and boundaries)

As librarians, we have a responsibility to educate our potential authors regarding options and outcomes. I see each of these decisions as an investment toward the future, as voting for the future we want, or of getting the future we have chosen. I cannot rightly tell a faculty or staff member, student or colleague, “this is the license you should choose.” I am responsible, however, to invest in the types of projects I should be working on, to say “no” to those outside of the priorities and values, and to carefully leverage the grant monies at my disposal. I’m also responsible to be clear regarding rationale to the people with whom I work, including my understanding of long- or short-term opportunities, impacts, or consequences related to potential projects. I enjoy providing opportunities for those yet unmet who will interested in leveraging and adapting openly licensed content for the benefit of readers beyond what I and the authors I work with can presently imagine.


1 For a longer discussion on this topic, see Pomerantz and Peek in First Monday at

© Anita Walz CC BY 4.0 International

5 Questions With… Andy Wesolek

photo of Andy Wesolek

Andy Wesolek, Clemson University

Andy Wesolek, Head of Digital Scholarship at Clemson University, gamely agreed to be our inaugural profile in the new
5 Questions With… series. It helps that he’s also the new ASERL Scholarly Communications Interest Group Co-Chair, so he couldn’t exactly say no!

In this new series, we will be profiling ASERL scholcomm librarians each month so we can learn more about one another. If you’re interested in sharing your scholcomm story, or wish to know more about a fellow ASERL librarian’s path by suggesting they be featured, contact Molly Keener or Andy Wesolek.

Q1. Describe your current scholcomm position.

I currently serve as the head of digital scholarship at Clemson University. In this role, I lead a team of 3.5 FTE committed to advancing our digital scholarship initiatives. Broadly, these encompass scholarly communication and digital imaging. More specifically, we focus on institutional repository management, library-based publishing efforts, copyright education and compliance, and developing an array of educational programming. We also implement OER and OA funding initiatives and work closely with the special collections unit to digitize and make accessible the cultural heritage of the Upstate and archives of Clemson University.

Q2. What attracted you to scholcomm work?

It was actually a very happy accident! I trained as a reference librarian, then after obtaining my MLIS, I began working on a masters in philosophy at the University of Idaho. While there, I worked in university archives and digital initiatives. When I hit the job market, I applied primarily for emerging technologies librarian positions (a title I rarely see these days). I was fortunate to have applied to one such position at Utah State University and while I did not get the job, several future colleagues noted that I had the skill set to serve as a scholarly communication librarian, a position that was also open. I had some reservations, because at the time I knew next to nothing about the scholarly communication environment! But, Utah State is awesome, and they provided me with on-the-job training, at which point I totally fell in love with the work.

Q3. What is the most rewarding part of your job?

I think there are very real and clear ethical dimensions to creating a more open and effective scholarly communication environment, and I find it deeply rewarding to play a role in that, no matter how small. I am particularly passionate about open publishing facilitated by libraries and university presses. Editing the Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship, several monographs, and a special issue of a journal has allowed me to work with some really powerful thinkers and bring their ideas together into holistic works.

Q4. If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in the scholcomm ecosystem, what would it be?

Promotion and tenure decisions would be based in part on a thorough reading of a candidate’s published work and assessment of its quality, rather than reliance on various impact metrics. Institutional reliance on journal impact metrics is one of the biggest barriers to increased innovation in the scholarly communication space. I think the scholarly communication environment is going to get messier before we see the emergence of another dominant (or two or three) revenue model and that we can move more quickly through this messy period by eliminating reliance on journal impact metrics—and even author and article level metrics that are often incomplete and unreliable.

Q5. If you were NOT a scholcomm librarian, what would you be?

Good question! Maybe a furniture builder/cabinet maker? I love woodworking, but I am too slow and meticulous to make it profitable. That or full-time bicycle rider and traveler? Is that a thing?


Summer scholarly communication plans

May means summer for those of us in higher ed, and if your library is like mine, summer means projects (and construction…ALWAYS construction). Here’s what I, and a few of our ASERL colleagues, have planned for our summer of scholcomm!

Robin @ Johns Hopkins: continuing work on the draft OA policy for JHU; overhauling the scholcomm libguide

Melanie @ Emory: redeveloping the ETD repository; finalizing brand new Scholarly Communications Office website

Jeanne @ ECU: hiring a Data Services Librarian; working on the textbook initiative; developing tutorials on scholcomm topics

Molly (me!) @ Wake Forest: planning for integration of the Digital Initiatives & Scholarly Communication team and Teaching & Learning Center in renovated library space mid-fall; developing Digital Humanities/Scholarship faculty workshop series for AY2017-18

What are you working on this summer? Email me, and I’ll add it to our list!

Updated 5-23-17 to add…

Hillary & the ScholComm & Publishing division @ VCU: kicking off our new Affordable Course Content Awards program; hiring a Research Data Librarian, holding scholarly communications workshops for library faculty and staff; refining OA publishing fund guidelines; working toward publication of new OA journals and monographs; review of ETD processes and requirements

Devin @ FSU: working with the inaugural winners of our alternative textbook grants program to adopt, remix, and create open textbooks for their courses; facilitating our first Know Your CopyRights! internal training workshop series; OA policy implementation efforts, including automated metadata harvesting and bulk-soliciting post-prints from authors who published in Yellow SR journals in 2016

Laura @ GSU: develop/redevelop a graduate student workshop series focusing on fair use/permission in dissertations, fair use/permissions in teaching, and author rights in publishing; plan for an ORCiD push in the fall; and take the Georgia Bar Exam in late July [Good luck, Laura!]

Updated 6-27-17 to add…

Brandon, Chip, Dave, Sherry, & Ellen @ UVA: on June 23, hosted the Virginia Scholarly Communication Interest Group forum, with 30 attendees from libraries and organizations around the Commonwealth (this group has been meeting twice a year for four years now); August soft launch of final phase of our scholarly repository replacement project: Libra Open, which will join Libra ETD and Libra Data as modern containers for all kinds of open products of research generated by UVa scholars; actively building an open access journal publishing service, coming months will bring some exciting developments; summer is scholcomm org-building time, including overhauling our web presence for copyright and scholarly communication advocacy

Updated 7-5-17 to add…

Claudia @ MSU: Claudia Holland left George Mason University and is now the first scholarly communication librarian at Mississippi State University Libraries. Three years ago, the library established five committees in the areas of open access, OER, institutional repositories, copyright education, and data management for the purposes of: assessing the University community’s knowledge about these and related issues; offering internal library education, as needed; and planning for services for/outreach to the university community. During that time, MSU’s institutional repository was established, numerous in-house trainings and external workshops on these topics were offered, a website was created, and a summit on data services was held. Claudia will be working with her new colleagues to plan and implement the next steps in the library’s SC journey. Planning priorities include advancing OER/OT adoption, increasing deposits in the IR, and collaborating with MSU’s Office of Research and Economic Development to address grant compliance (e.g., funder required DMPs & access to scholarship produced by grantees).

Conflicting Visions for the Future of the Copyright Office

By many accounts, 2016 has been a tumultuous year, including within the realm of copyright. The latest copyright skirmish comes as we are all preparing for a new year, and a new Presidential administration—and all the attendant questions and uncertainty those bring. It seems that there are those within Congress who are taking this time of transition as an opportunity to put forth suggested changes to the structure of the Copyright Office and its historical relationship with the Library of Congress. While there may well be cause to review the operations of the Copyright Office and the Library of Congress, particularly as our newest Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, settles into her tenure as Librarian and begins to chart her course for fully bringing the LOC into the 21st century, the suggestions that have come forward thus far have been more concerning than intriguing.

For those who are not as knee-deep in copyright nerdiness as I, a quick recap of events:

  • On October 21, 2016, the seemingly abrupt re-assignment of the Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, caught many by surprise; however, given that her previous calls to move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress were at odds with the new Librarian of Congress’s desire to keep the CO within the LOC, it isn’t wholly surprising.
  • On November 28, 2016, two former Registers of Copyrights, Ralph Oman and Marybeth Peters, issued a letter calling for the removal of the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress, citing Ms. Pallante’s dismissal as evidence that all libraries, and especially the Library of Congress, are poor leaders of the U.S. copyright system.
  • On December 8, 2016, the House Judiciary Committee issued a statement (and YouTube video…who knew they did this? I didn’t!) charting proposed revisions to the structure of the Copyright Office and the appointment process for the Register of Copyrights within the Legislative Branch.

Needless to say, many librarians, libraries, and library organizations rightly objected to Mr. Oman’s and Ms. Peters’s denunciation of libraries as effectively being at odds with copyright and their call for an “independent” Copyright Office.

In swift response to the House Judiciary statement last week, the Library Copyright Alliance issued a statement calling for the Copyright Office to remain within the Library of Congress and under the supervision of the Librarian of Congress. This week, two additional letters have been issued: one by ASERL’s own Duke University Libraries, and another by 42 copyright experts working in libraries [full disclosure: I signed], an effort spearheaded by an ASERL colleague from UVA, Brandon Butler. These letters voiced further support for the retention of the Copyright Office within the Library of Congress, and expounded upon how libraries and librarians do, in fact, work to support the role of copyright as enshrined in the Constitution to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.”

Hopefully these are just the first of many voices affirming libraries’ support for copyright, and for keeping the responsibility of oversight of the Copyright Office, and appointment of the Register of Copyrights, under the auspices of the Library of Congress.

UPDATED December 16, 2016 11:54 a.m.

Hot off the presses from the U.S. Copyright Office NewsNet Issue 648, a way to make your voice heard on what you believe we need in our next Register of Copyrights:

The public will have the opportunity to provide input to the Library of Congress on expertise needed by the Register of Copyrights, the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, announced today.

Beginning today, December 16, an online survey is open to the public. The survey will be posted through January 31, 2017. Input will be reviewed and inform development of knowledge, skills, and abilities for fulfilling the Register position.

Information provided through the survey will be posted online and submitters’ names will appear. Note that input will be subject to review, and input may not be posted that is off-topic or contains vulgar, offensive, racist, threatening or harassing content; personal information; or gratuitous links to sites that could be considered spam. The Library’s complete comment policy can be viewed here.

To provide input through the survey, click here.

Conference Report from OpenCon 2016

This report was contributed by Andy Wesolek from Clemson University.

What is OpenCon?

OpenCon is an international conference and community for, and of, early career researchers and students committed to Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data. Nearly 10,000 researchers and students applied for the 200 seats available at the November 2016 live conference. Scholarships covering transportation and attendance were provided by SPARC through member institutions. In addition, member institutions may sponsor up to two scholarships to reserve seats at OpenCon for their own researchers or students. Both I and our amazing Undergraduate Instruction and OER Librarian, Kirsten Dean, were the fortunate recipients of scholarships supported by Clemson University Libraries. As a result, we were able to attend the live OpenCon event, which was held on November 12th and 13th in Washington, DC.

The OpenCon Experience

Only a small majority (~52%) of the attendees at OpenCon called North America home, so it was a wonderful venue to connect with global colleagues, and to better understand the opportunities and challenges of Openness at their institutions and in the countries. Holding the event in Washington the weekend following the Presidential Election also made for interesting conversation with international colleagues, and indeed many of the keynote presenters altered their presentations to focus on the urgent and political dimensions of the Open agenda.

The greatest value in attending the live OpenCon event is not in the formal presentations, though they were excellent, but in the informal networking and discussions with global colleagues. OpenCon is intended to facilitate the growth of an active community in support of Open, and it was structured to reflect this. Many of the formal offerings took place in small group settings with workshop or unconference structures.

Advocacy Work

Following the conference, OpenCon sponsored a day of advocacy. During the first half of the day, we were given a crash course in advocacy work. Topics ranged from communication and messaging, to strategies for continued conversation. SPARC then arranged for us to break into small groups to meet with our local representatives.

Kirsten Dean, Lillian Rigling (NCSU Libraries Fellow), and I met with a representative from South Carolina Senator Tim Scott’s office. Prior to the meeting, we reviewed Senator Scott’s legislative agenda to develop a message primarily focused on Open Educational Resources and economic development through access to education in South Carolina. Senator Scott’s office was receptive to the message and enthusiastic to support openness. We encouraged them to take a concrete approach by supporting FASTR in the senate, and we hope to continue the conversation going forward.

How you can get involved

Joining the OpenCon community is as simple as signing up at: You might also consider contacting your local senator or congressperson. I was honestly a bit nervous attending a meeting on Openness with a conservative Senator’s office, but in doing a bit of research, there are powerful arguments in favor of Openness that will resonate with each side of the aisle. For example, Senator Scott’s office appeared receptive to arguments in favor of Openness that focused on efficient spending of taxpayer dollars and expanded access to community college and vocational training.

Join us for 2017 SCUNC in Atlanta

Following the success of ASERL’s first unconference in May 2015, we are excited to announce the 2017 SCUNC (Scholarly Communications Unconference) on Friday, January 20, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia. Piggybacking on the ALA Midwinter Meeting, ASERL is hoping that many of our scholarly communications colleagues who are already planning to attend Midwinter will be able to join us for a fun day of ALL THINGS SCHOLCOMM!

Never been to an unconference before? Never fear! They are fun, relaxed yet energizing days where YOU pick the content and help drive the discussions. Doing something cool at your library you wish to share? Propose it! Want to talk about challenges you face, to see if others face them too (short answer: yes)? Propose it! This is YOUR conference, to make it be what you need.

So register today to join us in January for SCUNC at Georgia State University Libraries!

Details, links, and all those etceteras…

  • Registration limited to the first 50 ASERL members; $50 attendance fee (to be billed later)
  • Register today – registration deadline January 6, 2017
  • Propose sessions after you register – proposal deadline January 10, 2017

Questions? Feel free to contact John Burger (, Melanie Kowalski (, or Molly Keener (

Anticipated Timeline

Week of Oct 17: Registration opens for attendees. Session proposals open, too.

January 6: Deadline for any registration changes/cancellations. People can still register after this date if space permits, but no refunds will be granted after Jan 6.

January 10: Proposal submission closes

January 15: Deadline for any pre-readings, handouts etc for sessions. Content will be posted to this website and be available for attendees’ use

January 16: Advance mailing (last-minute travel info, other background) sent to registrants

January 20: Event day at GSU!

January 25: Evaluations sent to attendees

February 5: Evaluations due from attendees


Let’s Learn Together!

Did you know that ASERL frequently offers high quality, timely topic webinars to its members for free? I bet you did – but that doesn’t mean a friendly reminder of all that’s on tap for this fall isn’t in order!

Webinar topics come from all different sources. John Burger, Director of ASERL, and the Scholarly Communication Interest Group co-chairs, Melanie Kolawski and Molly Keener, brainstorm ideas that might be of interest or importance to our members, looking to conference presentations, social media conversations, professional literature, and colleagues for inspiration. We welcome suggestions from our ASERL colleagues, either to share exciting work you are pursuing, or to learn more about a topic of interest to you. So don’t be shy about sharing your ideas!

If your semester schedule is anything like mine, it is filling up fast. Knowing about all the great webinars from ASERL, and specifically about those with a scholcomm focus, is critical for ensuring that I don’t miss out on these upcoming learning opportunities.

This fall’s lineup of Scholarly Communication-focused webinars:

Findings from Ithaka S+R’s “Organizing the Work of the Research Library”
September 19, 2016, 2pm ET / 1pm Central Time

Overview of Collabra and Luminos from University of California Press
September 29, 2016, 2pm ET / 1pm Central Time

What is ACI Scholarly Blog Index?
October 7, 2016, 2 pm ET / 1pm Central Time

Overview of Open Textbook Network
November 10, 2016, 2pm ET / 1pm Central Time

For a full lineup of all ASERL webinars, see the list on the homepage. And if you have an idea for a webinar topic, let me know at!

Here’s to a great fall semester, y’all!