Summary: Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy: Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment

Below is a summary of the points made in the white paper: Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy: Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment

We will be discussing the paper at the June 5 Librarians’ Information Literacy Practice Exchange.  In addition to the summary below, take 5 minutes to read Kevin Smith’s April 29 blog post, Meet Me at the Intersection, which brings together many of the key points using a recent, vivid example.


This paper argues that librarians need to realign their activities to integrate issues of scholarly communication into their support for teaching and learning.

“Every librarian in an academic environment is a teacher.” (p. 4) The need for librarians versed in information literacy principles and techniques to incorporate scholarly communication into their information literacy programs and cases extends to every level of student, from undergraduate to graduate.  Additionally, the paper contends that individual library structures, which are in many ways are still grounded in divisions of public service and collections services,  may benefit from redesign in order to foster librarians’ deeper knowledge and capacity in both information literacy and scholarly communication.

The facts:

  • Students are not just users of information but are becoming authors and editors of new knowledge, through avenues such as:
      • student journals, as authors of published articles
      • creation of blogs, Wikipedia articles, videos, social media and online content. Many students want  to publish their content online.
  • Publishing is in a state of turmoil. The existing model of scholarly publishing is unsustainable and no single replacement model has been found, resulting in much experimentation.
  • Digital technologies are extremely fragmented; users have much greater unmediated access to scholarship now; sharing of knowledge is commonplace and in many cases, expected.  With this comes new pressures to understand intellectual property, ethical use of copyright materials, appropriate application of fair dealing/fair use. Users need help navigating these complex pathways, and as librarians we need to understand the life cycle of scholarship, its environment, and the need to respond to specific questions on a case-by-case basis
  • Universities face increased materials costs but lower budgets; increased student enrollments; reduced library staff; and increasing pressure on universities to demonstrate value and student success.
  • The published item is no longer the ultimate and preferred vehicle for all things scholarly, e.g. multimodal journals, born-digital content
  • Boundaries between disciplines are shifting/blurring
  • Increasing openness allows additional, non-traditional voices to add to the scholarly dialogue.

Information literacy implies an awareness of the social, economic and legal conditions for scholarly communication within specific disciplines.

  • Librarians have come a long way from delivering “bibliographic instruction” and increasingly see themselves as essential partners in both student learning, and as driving forces in scholarly research. They seek to create high-impact teaching and learning experiences.  Issues of scholarly communication offer many “teachable moments”
  • Adapt our teaching approaches to support students working in the digital environment, integrating new types of content into our teaching.  Our challenges now go far beyond bibliographic and textual information.
  • Students — even early-stage undergraduates — can benefit from an understanding of “the forces that shape the information they consume” (p. 7)

Some ways this can be achieved:

  • Become involved with student-run journals and formal undergraduate research programs. These offer opportunities to consult with students on economic, technological, and legal aspects of publishing.
  • In research-based courses, create experiential learning opportunities that explore elements of the scholarly communication process
  • Consult with grad students on their dissertations beyond the lit search. Help them with publishing questions that inevitably arise (e.g. reuse of figures; repository selection, access issues)
  • Partner in open online courses (e.g. MOOCs) that require advice on copyright, access and use of content
  • Develop information literacy programs that are more fully integrated into the curriculum and include scholarly communication topics
  • Incorporate interesting case studies and “active learning” into class projects
  • Treat publishing as “course work”
  • Create learning opportunities where students gain knowledge/information from peers and their environment (ie not just literature searches)
  • Help students understand best practices in the use of copyrighted and free materials
  • Help students understand the causes of  barriers to information access after they leave university
  • Help student authors use Creative Commons licenses in their work
  • Support students wanting to add senior papers or honors thesis to the institution’s digital repository — in doing so learn about copyright, OA and digital publishing

  • Help students learn new ways of thinking about evaluating, using, citing many different kinds of media
  • Help students find and use data, incorporating this into assignments. Not just numeric, but also textual data.

    Help students understand how their choices as users and creators of data affect access, reuse and preservation.

  • Teach the economics of publishing:  e.g. the academic “gift economy” where faculty volunteer labour which is sold back by publishers

  • Help students understanding the life cycle or “social life” of information, including how impact is measured
  • Educate students and faculty about disseminating the results of their work for maximum reach

  • Help students understanding emerging concepts of “peer review” (e.g. crowdsourcing post-publication)
  • Make presentations to stakeholders — faculty, departments, research groups, grad student meetings
  • Create online instructional materials aimed at different audiences
  • Build expectations of basic scholarly communication knowledge into liaison librarian role descriptions

How can librarians develop our skills and abilities in this area?

  • While information literacy roles are reasonably well integrated into many librarians’ activities, scholarly communication is much newer.
  • Liaison or subject specialist models have focused mainly on collection building, reference and disciplinary instruction support.  The comprehensive liaison model affords new opportunities to become valuable partners in new initiatives and services to the communities served.
  • Share best practices in teaching across disparate areas. “All librarians regardless of job title need to learn, understand, and practice the best approaches to instruction in their many different environments.” (p. 16)
  • Collaborate with differently-skilled librarians to develop educational programs to support information fluency among students, faculty and staff (defined on page 14) Collaborations enable librarians to become transliterate  — understand the interaction across all literacies, digital, visual, textual, data
  • Partner with faculty to help students develop new skills and new habits
  • To be resilient in the face of changing roles, we need to be willing to practice and model innovation organizationally. Explore options for organizational change that break down barriers between information literacy and scholarly communication





Recap: OCLC MOOC Conference, Philadelphia, March 18-19 2013

On March 18-19, OCLC sponsored the first conference to bring together librarians supporting (or planning to support) large-scale MOOCs through major providers like Coursera, Udacity and EdX.  I was able to attend the conference, and learned much about the challenges and opportunities for libraries and librarians to support MOOCs

The video/audio archives of the conference are here:  In particular, I highly recommend the panel Copyright, Licensing, Open Access (59:39) featuring Kevin Smith (Duke U), Kenny Crews (Columbia), and  Kyle Courtney (Harvard).  These experts provided great examples of how we can promote open resources, use provisions of fair use/fair dealing to permit (very careful) use of copyright content in videos, and recommendations for procedures and policies regarding transactional licenses.

Many libraries have had challenges connecting to their campus agencies that are developing and supporting MOOCs.  We’re so fortunate at the U of T to already have great linkages through CTSI to our Director of Online Learning, Laurie Harrison, and through our Chief Librarian, Larry Alford to the provostial Open UToronto committee and its chair, Vice-Provost Cheryl Regehr, who is providing overall MOOC leadership and direction.

How has the Library participated in MOOC development? Laurie Harrison provides me with the list of upcoming MOOCs.  I then make an initial contact with instructors and their Ed-Tech support team to offer Library services in copyright advice, resource curation, and in-course link troubleshooting.  Not all courses require library support or resources. Our greatest involvement to date has been in Jean-Paul Restoule’s course  Aboriginal Worldviews and Education and Charmaine Williams’  Social Context of Mental Health and Illness.

Liaison librarians Sara McDowell,  Jennifer Toews, and Jenaya Webb have been involved in resource verification (mainly verifying open access for recommended links) for these courses.  Librarians at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health were involved in resource selection for Social Context of Mental Health and Illness.  I’ve coordinated the initial contacts with instructors and fielded their questions on copyright and permissions.  We’ve secured 4 transactional licenses (1 paid, 3 not).

What surprises have we encountered along the way?  I’ve had to spend considerable time persuading potential licensees of the value of giving us free access to their content in exchange for the eyeballs of thousands of interested viewers. I’ve also been surprised by a couple of “geoblocked” videos — in particular 4 from our own CBC which are geoblocked outside of Canada.  There was no way we could have known that in advance, and it’s mildly shocking when thousands of students find that they can’t get access to linked content and report it on the course web site. In the case of the CBC, the instructor quickly responded by licensing the content and streaming it on unblocked Coursera servers for the duration of the course.

Being involved on the “ground floor” of MOOC development and support has been a great experience.  We’re learning a lot about deploying large-scale online courses, flipping the classroom, and other aspects of effective online learning.  Those experiences will translate well to U of T’s own courses in the coming months and years.