5 Questions With… Hillary Miller

_N2A1199_crop Hillary Miller, Scholarly Communications Outreach Librarian, Virginia Commonwealth University

This is #5 in our series of get-acquainted posts featuring members of the ASERL Scholarly Communications community.




Q1. Describe your current scholcomm position.

I’m the Scholarly Communications Outreach Librarian and a member of our libraries’ Scholarly Communications and Publishing Division. I help guide faculty and students on matters of copyright, open access, author rights, open educational resources, and research impact. I offer consultations and workshops, and I collaborate with library and university partners to build larger-scale outreach initiatives and educational programming. Some recent and upcoming examples include Science Speak (a collaborative university event on science communication), Copyright for Creators (a workshop series on copyright for artists and art scholars), and OpenCon Virginia (a regional satellite event of the main international OpenCon).

Q2. What attracted you to scholcomm work?

In graduate school, I worked in the library’s e-resources and serials management division, where I first experienced e-resource license negotiations and learned about copyright, license restrictions, and open access. This sparked my interest in the broader scholcomm ecosystem, and I was excited by how dynamic this area of work is. Although change and uncertainty can be a challenge, it’s something I welcome!

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

My favorite part of my job is how many different parts of the university it brings me into contact with, and how excited people get when they find out that the libraries are working in this area. In addition to working with faculty and students across all of our academic schools and departments, I get to work with amazing colleagues from units like our Office of Research, Division of Community Engagement, and Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. And now with an emerging focus on open educational resources, I am building relationships with even more groups like the campus bookstore, Student Affairs, Academic Technologies, and more.

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

I’d use the magic wand to create an instant culture change in the academic community, one that would give all stakeholders a strong sense of ownership over the scholcomm ecosystem and scholarship in general. I’d like to bring all stakeholders to the table with a commitment to building and sustaining community-owned infrastructure and a drive to experiment with new forms of dissemination (and recognize this through promotion and tenure processes) that would support greater research impact, particularly for communities outside of the academy.

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

Inside of libraries, I would probably go back to e-resources acquisitions. I truly love reading and negotiating contracts!

Outside of libraries, I would love to work for a grant giving foundation. My dream job is to be able to give money and resources to people who have good ideas and who are doing good work. Being a billionaire philanthropist would also let me do this, but that’s probably a lot less likely to happen

George Mason University’s OER Metafinder Search Tool: The Back Story

wallyg-gmu2Authored by Wally Grotophorst, Associate University Librarian for Digital Programs and Systems, George Mason University Libraries

This past summer I attended a meeting with the library’s Mason Publishing Group and representatives of the Provosts office, exploring what we could do to reduce the cost of textbooks and promote open educational resources across campus.  During the course of the meeting, we looked at several of the most popular OER content sites and batted around a few ideas for surfacing appropriate content for interested faculty–maybe lists by subject, maybe a LibGuide for OER content, and so on.

I wasn’t convinced an exhaustive list of OER sites would be enough. I left the meeting with the image of a faculty member—excited by idea of OERs–feeling the enthusiasm drain away as she dove in and out of the various content silos.   Soon I found myself thinking much less about OERs and far more about how to improve their discoverability as a way to improve OER adoption.  I finally realized that discovery of OER materials presents a problem that’s tailor-made for a federated search solution.

Looking across OER sources we find:

  • a large number of search targets (a federated search would save hundreds of clicks),
  • and fortunately each site is more-or-less focused (that’s good, minimizes noise in retrieval sets).
  • redundant content across many of these sources (de-duping retrieval would be a huge win, too bad eccentric metadata makes that difficult), and
  • a vertigo-inducing variety of search interfaces (distilling that to one would be great, wouldn’t it?).

Beyond improving the discovery process, building a federated search engine would also give us the opportunity to take a more expansive view of what constitutes an OER – by searching the more common OER repositories but also hitting sites that offer quality, open educational content even if that isn’t their sole or even primary purpose. Sites like DPLA, HathiTrust (of particular value where the educator belongs to a HathiTrust member institution), Internet Archive, and World Digital Library to name a few.

I pitched the idea to Abe Lederman, CEO at Deep Web Technologies (a company we use to provide several subject-specific metafinders). He was very enthusiastic and offered to help us turn the idea around quickly.  True to his word, within just a few weeks we had a powerful OER discovery service ready to go.  See https://library.gmu.edu/oermetafinder for the interface.  Currently the Mason OER Metafinder allows users to search 16 sites with a single click:

  1. American Memory Project (Library of Congress)
  2. AMSER – Applied Math and Science Education Repository
  3. BC Campus:Open Ed
  4. College Open Textbooks
  5. Digital Public Library of America
  6. Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB)
  7. HathiTrust – Full View Available
  8. Merlot.Org
  9. MIT OpenCourseware
  10. OAOpen.org
  11. OER Commons
  12. OERs at Internet Archive
  13. Open Textbook Library
  14. OpenStax CNX
  15. Project Gutenberg
  16. World Digital Library

After a few local attempts to publicize the tool with limited success, Deep Web Technologies’ staff posted a story about the OER Metafinder on their tech blog (http://bit.ly/2AMBdpt). That post was picked up by Information Today and other corporate PR news sites.  Soon our Metafinder began to build a small audience but still nothing dramatic. Three to four weeks later that we saw a large spike in traffic thanks to a mention of the site in a SPARC Libraries and OER Forum:

“I don’t remember seeing this announcement on any of our OER lists last month, or at OpenEd, but one of our library liaisons just forwarded it to me. It’s the announcement of an aggregated OER search engine created by George Mason and a web tech company, which looks, on the face of it, to be a “Google for OER”. It searches many open archival/book repositories (DPLA, HathiTrust, Internet Archive) as well as the standard OER ones (Merlot, OTL, OpenStax, etc.) and has some great limiters to narrow down results. Congrats GMU!”

This unsolicited mention on a listserv aimed at precisely the right group of people proved catalytic.  Within two days, I found 28 institutions already linking to our OER Metafinder.   Noticing that it was catching on with LibGuides users, I added sample search widget code to our “About the Metafinder” page — – see https://publishing.gmu.edu/the-mason-oer-metafinder-widget/  for details. Today, more than 100 sites are linking to the Metafinder, including five ASERL libraries (<– marked with asterisks below):
1. Albertus Magnus College
2. Anderson University
3. Arizona State University
4. Auraia Library
5. Austin Community College
6. Bates College
7. Bowling Green State University
8. Brandeis University
9. Brigham Young University
10. Brock University
11. Bronx Community College (CUNY)
12. Bucknell University
13. California State University San Marcos
14. Central Connecticut State University
15. Central Michigan University
16. City College of New York (CCNY)
17. Clackamas Community College
18. Clatsop Community College
19. College of the Canyons
20. College of William & Mary*
21. Colorado State University Pueblo
22. Columbus State Community College (Georgia)
23. Community College of Baltimore County
24. Denison University Libraries
25. Eastern Michigan University
26. Florida State University*
27. Fulton-Montgomery Community College
28. George Mason University*
29. George Washington University
30. Howard Community College (Maryland)
31. Hunter College (CUNY)
32. Iowa State University
33. Justice Institute of British Columbia
34. Kirkwood Community College (Iowa)
35. Lakehead University (Ontario)
36. Lansing Community College
37. Leeward Community College (Hawaii)
38. Lehman College (CUNY)
39. Linn-Benton Community College (Oregon)
40. Loyola University New Orleans
41. Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
42. Massachusetts Maritime Academy
43. Montgomery County Community College (Pennsylvania)
44. National Science and Technology Development Agency (Thailand)
45. New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)
46. New York University
47. Niagara College (Ontario)
48. Northern Illinois University
49. Northwestern Michigan College
50. Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD)
51. OER KnowledgeCloud
52. Open NYS
53. Otterbein University
54. Pasadena City College
55. Piedmont Virginia Community College
56. Pitt Community College
57. Randolph-Macon College
58. Rhode Island College
59. Rutgers University
60. Santa Clara University
61. Shenandoah University
62. Sonoma State University
63. Southern Connecticut State University
64. St. Cloud State University
65. SUNY Cortland
66. SUNY Old Westbury
67. Tacoma Community College
68. Temple University
69. Texas Tech University
70. University of Alaska Anchorage
71. University of Alaska Southeast
72. University of Arizona
73. University of Arkansas
74. University of British Columbia
75. University of California San Diego
76. University of Central Florida
77. University of Colorado
78. University of Houston-Victoria
79. University of Kansas
80. University of Kentucky
81. University of La Verne
82. University of Mary Washington
83. University of Massachusetts Amherst
84. University of Massachusetts Boston
85. University of Massachusetts Lowell
86. University of Missouri – Kansas City
87. University of New Orleans
88. University of North Carolina – Charlotte
89. University of Pittsburgh
90. University of Regina (Saskatchewan)
91. University of Richmond
92. University of South Carolina*
93. University of Texas – Arlington
94. University of Texas – Austin
95. University of the People
96. University of Winnipeg (Manitoba)
97. UtahOER
98. Victoria College
99. Villanova University
100. Virginia Tech*
101. Virginia Wesleyan University
102. Washington State University
103. Western Illinois University
104. Wilmington University
105. Worcester State University

We would love to see other ASERL libraries link to or offer a search box to the Mason OER Metafinder.  We’d also love to hear of other targets to include in our search for OER content.  I can be reached at wallyg <at> gmu.edu for questions or suggestions.



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.


NASIG Adopts Core Competencies for Scholarly Communication Librarians

Scholarly communications issues and initiatives are of increasing importance to contemporary library organizations. This is evidenced by the recent substantial increase in the numbers of scholarly communication librarian positions. Finlay, Tsou, and Sugimoto (2015) found that positions for scholarly communication librarians, as a percentage of total open librarian positions, more than doubled between 2006 and 2014. Organizations are clearly investing in these roles, but despite this investment, “scholarly communication” remains a broad and often amorphous term with little consistencies in the job duties of the scholarly communication librarian (SCL) between institutions. Clarifying these roles will assist those creating position descriptions for SCLs, as well as iSchools in the development of curricula.


In 2014 the executive board of NASIG established a task force charged with developing core competencies for scholarly communication librarians. The creation of the task force was timely, as NASIG was actively expanding its vision and mission beyond serials to include the entire information lifecycle, including scholarly communications. Beyond the development of core competencies, the expanded vision and mission offer a professional home for scholarly communication librarians in which they may engage with other librarians, publishers, and vendors collaboratively. One should keep this in mind when reading the core competencies, as the task force recognized the need to address Open Access advocacy in an important but non-ideological way.


The Core Competencies for Scholarly Communication Librarians Task force began their work sifting through hundreds of job ads and position descriptions emphasizing various aspects of scholarly communication librarianship. These were obtained through calls to germane listservs, the ALA Joblist archive, and partnerships with other groups obtaining position descriptions and job ads for similar purposes. To address the broad and amorphous aspects of scholarly communication, the Task Force identified four themes found in all SCLs and five areas in which the SCL may focus, as determined by existing strengths and organizational needs.


The full Document may be found here: http://www.nasig.org/site_page.cfm?pk_association_webpage_menu=310&pk_association_webpage=9435


The Core Competencies outlined in this document will be interesting to revisit going forward. Scholarly communication is a rapidly emerging and evolving field, and I suspect that it matures, we will see fewer general entry-level “scholarly communication librarian” positions and more positions with a stronger focus on the areas of emphasis (eg. Data Management Librarians or Publishing Services Librarians). Moreover, new trends in scholarly communication will likely emerge and should be added to the core competencies. For example, at some point, the core competencies should address the recent explosion in OER services and resources commonly associated with the SCL, potentially as a new area of emphasis.


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.


Five Questions With… Claudia Holland

chollandClaudia Holland, Associate Professor & Scholarly Communication Coordinator, Mississippi State University Libraries
This is #2 in our series of get-acquainted posts among members of ASERL’s Scholarly Communication community.

Describe your current scholcomm position.

This year I was hired at Mississippi State University Libraries in essence to build a sustainable scholarly communication (SC) program. A few years ago, the library created six in-house SC committees (copyright, open access publishing, OER, IR, open data, & digital scholarship) to address institutional needs and expand services that the library offered. We’re currently defining priorities and integrating them into a new strategic plan–with populating our IR, establishing a data repository, and OER outreach priorities floating to the top. Copyright is pretty much a given no matter what.

What attracted you to scholcomm work?
I enjoy change and challenges, hallmarks of SC in general, I believe. I kind of fell into this “specialty” when I became the University Copyright Officer in 2008 at George Mason University, my former institution. I was happily working as a Liaison Librarian for the Sociology/Anthropology and Communication departments, but the library needed someone to take the copyright position. I said I was interested and that eventually fed into broader SC work. I was asked to chair Mason Libraries’ first SC team, which I led for four years until I was named Head of the Scholarly Communication and Copyright Office (all 1-½ of us). One of our most successful endeavors supported by the Dean was to establish an Open Access Publishing Fund. The fund enabled a lot of faculty conversations about open access. Our long term goal was to put the fund out of business insofar as possible because researchers would learn to build OA publication costs into their grant proposals rather than rely on the library for assistance. We tried to set up a research profiles service, but it was too labor intensive; plus, the open software we were using required more maintenance than we had time for and expertise in. But it was a great experience!

Scholarly communication work is a moving target in many ways. Just when you think you have a plan of action, something changes and you have to decide whether to stick with your original plan, integrate the new approach, or simply walk away. To me, making that call is the most difficult part of the job. Also, unless you have dedicated help from colleagues, working alone can be isolating and makes your projects much harder to advance.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is collaborating with others to develop an idea into a successful program or service, and seeing evidence that this effort makes a positive difference in the lives of students and faculty in my university community and, hopefully, beyond. It sounds hokey but it’s real.

If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in the scholcomm ecosystem, what would it be?
Wow, this is a hard one; there are so many aspects of the ecosystem I would like to change. Some brief thoughts, unweighted:

  • I would like to see commercial academic publishers willingly cap profits at reasonable rather than extortionist levels.
  • I would like to see promotion and tenure processes for all disciplines modified to embrace openly-published scholarship and different forms of scholarship.
  • I would like to see all researchers feel personally driven (not mandated) to share their scholarship and data in open repositories.

If you were NOT a scholcomm librarian, what would you be?
If you mean work-related, I would either focus my efforts solely on OER advocacy and policy change at the state level, or return to my first academic love as a cultural anthropologist (I went into archaeology because I knew I could get a job with a Masters). I enjoy working with people no matter what I’m doing. We can learn a lot from each other; all we have to do is listen and observe.

If you mean non-work related, I would buy a good-size chunk of land somewhere I love and have several gardens and lots of critters. I would invite my closest friends and family to build their homes on this land and live the rest of my life exploring opportunities that crop up. 😉

Road Show Report: ORCID Workshop in Atlanta

orcid-logoOn September 8, 2017 as Hurricane Irma was approaching landfall and thousands of Floridians were packing into Atlanta to avoid its fury, our colleagues at Georgia State University Libraries hosted a one-day “road show” workshop led by ORCID, the researcher identification system (www.orcid.org). Despite the looming storm and the crowds that came with it, approximately 25 librarians from across the region attended the workshop, most from ASERL institutions.

Founded nearly five years ago, ORCID is a nonprofit organization that offers a free 16-digit identifier (“ORCID iD”) to academic authors and other contributors to research and scholarship. This iD number allows researchers to connect themselves with their works and affiliations so their outputs can be correctly attributed to creator(s) and aggregated and tracked throughout their careers. To date, more than 3.8 million ORCID iDs have been minted, and registration is growing at a rate of approximately 25,000 IDs per week. ORCID has produced a fun and informative video that provides an overview of their services: https://vimeo.com/97150912

ORCID iDs are provided at no charge, so how does a not-for-profit membership organization with a staff of 29 people scattered around the world support itself? In its early days, ORCID received initial support from loans from the scholarly communications community and later grant monies, including a significant endowment from the Helmsley Foundation (Leona Helmsley was not always the “queen of mean,” leaving all her fortune to her dog.) Today, ORCID is supported largely by libraries, research institutions, publishers, research funders and other players in the scholarly communications ecosystem that pay annual fees in exchange for real-time access to the ORCID database via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)

ASERL members have access to deeply discounted ORCID Premium memberships via an agreement with the Greater Western Library Alliance. The discount provides five APIs for a cost of $4,000/year, more than 80% less than ORCID’s “list price” for Premium memberships that are paid by large commercial entities. Several other library consortia (LYRASIS, NERL, Big Ten Academic Alliance, etc.) offer similar discounts. (Note: ORCID’s services and pricing schedule is the same for libraries as for publishers and other commercial users, but only nonprofit organizations receive the deep discounts.)

To achieve full functionality of ORCID is far more complex than I initially realized. This may explain why few universities have fully implemented the complete suite of ORCID services. ORCID’s integration program is called “Collect and Connect.” Full utilization of ORCID includes member organizations (universities, publishers, repositories, etc.) undertaking the following:

  • Confirming the affiliation of author identify of the researcher through an authentication process (OAuth), providing trust in the community;
  • Collecting and storing authenticated ORCID iDs;
  • Displaying iDs on member directories and other sites;
  • Connecting information about affiliation and contributions to an individual’s ORCID record, so creators can share trusted information with other systems and profiles they use;
  • Synchronizing data between systems to improve reporting accuracy and speed  and to allow researchers to spend more time making contributions and less time managing them.

For universities, full implementation includes:

  • Faculty/staff/students signing up for an ORCID iD, using it when prompted (e.g., when publishing an article or applying for a grant), and adding personal information such as links to their profile on relevant websites (personal pages, departmental pages, etc.);
  • Where needed, updating information previously added to ORCID records, such as articles published prior to receiving the ORCID iD. (In some cases this work is done by liaison librarians as a courtesy to the faculty they serve.);
  • University systems providing independent confirmation that a researcher is employed at the institution and pushing that information to their ORCID record;
  • Use of ORCID APIs by university systems (e.g., faculty profiling systems) that facilitate reporting of scholarly output at the institutional level.

Publishers and standards organizations also play a vital role, including:

  • Implementing ORCID IDs as part of their metadata schemas;
  • Using ORCID’s APIs to connect DOIs with iDs to ensure ORCID profiles are up-to-date.

So, it’s complicated. Members of the national ORCID consortia in Australia and Italy have implemented more ORCID services than in other parts of the world. Italy has a nationalized university system that mandated use of ORCID, resulting in over 90% take-up of ORCID among Italian researchers. In Australia, the Australian Access Federation has funded two full-time staff to work closely with universities and their libraries to implement various ORCID-related services. This has resulted in 35 of the consortium’s 40 members having one or more ORCID integrations up and running.  Additionally, a growing number of publishers are requiring authors to provide ORCID iDs for all submissions, incentivizing the use of ORCID from the publisher side.

To help foster greater utilization of the full array of its services in the US, ORCID has suggested US consortia consider supporting a model similar to the one used in Australia: to fund staff specifically to work directly with libraries to develop the communications and systems needed to implement ORCID fully. How this would be done across various library groups is yet to be determined – perhaps via a surcharge on the annual ORCID membership fee paid by each US library to cover staffing costs? LYRASIS is leading the development of a national survey that will determine the interest and price levels that ORCID members (via their consortia) are willing to pay for this kind of direct system implementation support.  The benefits are clear, as seen in the Australian example.  Given the huge discounts on the ORCID Premium membership fees enjoyed by libraries and the apparent need for implementation assistance, it seems a modest surcharge might be a useful method to ensure libraries get the most from their investment in ORCID. This survey is expected to be distributed to consortia (which will then distribute it to their member libraries) later this Fall.

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 http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v21i5.6360.

© 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?


Revenge of the Fourth Factor: GSU Back in Court

posted by Tucker Taylor (University of South Carolina) and John Burger (ASERL), July 31, 2017.

The Georgia State University e-reserves copyright case is still going after all these years. Officially starting in 2008, this case has bounced around the courts for many years, and it was back at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, July 27, 2017.  The plaintiffs are Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and Sage Publishing, with significant financial support from the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).  The case deals with nonprofit academic institutions’ rights to post portions of copyrighted materials online for their students –  how much and under what circumstances is this allowable?  Most of the importance of this case revolves around how US copyright law interprets Fair Use provisions under these circumstances, which is common to all academic institutions.

There have been many blog posts and articles about the GSU case by library copyright experts such as Brandon Butler, Dave Hansen and Kevin Smith, and others.  And a good overview, if a bit outdated, to this long, complicated case can be found on Wikipedia.  Please check those out for more detailed information on the case.

Potential for Market Harm
While each lawyer had prepared remarks, most of the time in court was devoted to a back-forth conversation between the three judge panel and each of the attorneys.  The focus of the overwhelming amount of the conversation focused on how Judge Evans at the District Court interpreted and implemented the directive from the first Appeals Court panel regarding the importance of the potential for market harm, the fourth factor in assessing Fair Use.  The first Appeals panel noted that in this type of case – nontransformative use of copyrighted materials  – the risk of harm from market substitution was “severe” and directed Judge Evans to give the fourth factor greater weight than in her first analysis.

In her first decision, Evans gave each of the four factors equal weight — 25% each.   After receiving the first Appeals Court ruling, Judge Evans’ second decision re-calculated the weighting of each of the factors:

  • 25% to factor 1 (purpose and character of the use),
  • 5% to factor 2 (nature of the copyrighted work),
  • 30% to factor 3 (amount and substantiality of the portion taken), and
  • 40% to factor 4 (the effect of the use on the potential market).

In her second review, Judge Evans also changed the methodology she used to determine the fourth factor, taking into consideration the licensing revenues the plaintiffs would have received for each of the book excerpts they cited as potential infringements.  In some cases, the revenues the publishers would have gained if GSU had  licensed the content would have been quite small — just a few dollars — which seemed to impact Evans’ interpretation of potential for market harm.

The product of Judge Evans’ detailed analyses:  In her first decision in 2012, Evans identified 31 instances of potential copyright infringement using the 25%/25%/25%/25% formula.  In her second decision in 2016, Judge Evans found only four of the same uses to be infringing using the ‘new’ 25%/5%/30%/40% formula and the new process for determining the 4th factor.   In this most recent hearing, Judge Pryor in particular found this change in methodology and its results to be completely untenable and he was singularly focused on this issue.  Further, at one point Judge Pryor commented to the court that he “hates balancing tests” and believes them to be “antithetical to the rule of law.”  He later noted that if Judge Evans’ second ruling was allowed to stand “everyone in educational settings could do what GSU did and steal the content.”   Ahem.

Availability of Licensing
Judge Rosenbaum’s main line of questioning also centered around the fourth factor, although not the same aspect.  Rosenbaum questioned the “circularity” of relying solely upon the availability of a license to determine market harm, and noted that the availability of a license is not, in her opinion, “determinative.”  She pointed out that this sole criteria created a situation that would never allow Fair Use if a license were available, and this was not a sufficiently meaningful way to determine where the scale tipped for the fourth factor.  She even quoted from the preamble to the Fair Use statute that includes teaching with multiple copies for classroom use as an example of a fair use to bolster her line of reasoning.  This question was raised several times by Rosenbaum and Pryor during the arguments, however a clear answer was not offered as a result of their discussions.

The Specter of an Injunction
The publishers’ attorney noted that the case has always been about seeking a judicial injunction against the type of uses they found objectionable at GSU, not monetary damages.  Judge Pryor asked the plaintiffs’ lawyer what they would like to see an injunction, beyond a ruling of “follow the law.”  Rich pointed to the Classroom Copying Guidelines drafted by Congress in 1976, as well as the need to have training for and oversight of faculty who are tasked with determining if their desired use of content falls within the boundaries of Fair Use.  Attorney Rich was also able to work several anticipated points into the discussion, such as the detrimental effect of repeated use of the same material, to Princeton v Michigan Document Services (the ‘course pack case’), to American Geophysical Union vs Texaco, and others.  Regrettably, GSU’s lawyer failed to rebut those analogies, as each has been found to be not germane to this case in earlier proceedings.

In his argument, GSU’s lawyer Steven Schaetzel pointed out the lack of evidence for market harm.  Most of his time was devoted to defending Pryor’s barrage of questions regarding Judge Evan’s re-evaluation of the fourth factor determinations.  Schaetzel defended this by saying Evans needed to examine the evidence holistically in order to judge how to best weigh the factor.  Schaetzel summed up his arguments by stating that the publishers’ fear was not that faculty would make bad Fair Use decisions, but instead that they would make good ones.  He believes the goal of this case is to enshrine the availability of a license to be the only determining factor, which would remove the possibility of Fair Use from educational use.

Who Should Pay Legal Fees?
A small amount of the discussion was spent on reviewing Judge Evans’ decision requiring the plaintiffs to repay all of GSU’s legal fees, approximately $3M at this point. Judge Martin questioned Schaetzel to explain why he felt the court costs should be awarded to Georgia State.  Schaetzel felt that there were several actions by the publishers that were worthy of deterrence, including how they had complained of thousands of unspecified possible infringements before the trial, but at trial they only could specify 99 instances, and later could only pursue legal action on half of those claims because of lack of evidence and lack of case, either because the publishers could not show they owned the copyright or they could not prove there was any use of the works.   The discussion of legal fee awards was very brief, and difficult to gauge how each judge felt about the matter.

We were partly expecting – hoping, perhaps — that this hearing to be focused primarily on who would pay the legal fees, considering the two previous decisions from the District Court strongly favored GSU.  However, it was clear the publishers are dogged in their determination that Judge Evans at the District Court erred in her methods in both the first and second rulings, and they are continuing to actively pursue an injunction against GSU.  If there is a decision against GSU, it would ostensibly be limited in its effect — impacting only  universities in the 11th Circuit (Georgia, Florida, Alabama) and how they can use Fair Use principles to provide unlicensed content to students via e-reserves.  In reality, the final ruling will likely be interpreted to apply to libraries nationally, so the implications here are significant.  On the other hand, the use of e-reserves varies widely among libraries — some libraries see it as a technology that has come and gone, while other libraries continue to use it quite actively – the ultimate impact of this seemingly-endless litigation could vary widely.