Discussing New Information Professionals' capacity to addressing the OA challenge
There is a lot of discussion …
Academic libraries have long been devoted to providing opportunities for dissemination of the scientific record without barriers. Loyal to their commitment of reliably and steadily responding to changes in patron needs (Steeves, 2017) and recently to the growing demand for information in the areas of IRs, publication metrics, fair use, copyright and research impact evaluation many of them have been led to establish OA initiatives as a logical extension of their scholarly communication programs (Engeszer & Sarli, 2014).
While there is a lot of discussion around Rosenblum’s 2010 presentation on ways librarians support OA practices and policies, including educating and training other librarians and students, and although libraries have long provided support across the reproducibility spectrum (Steeves, 2017), less is known around NIPs capacity to addressing the OA challenge and formal OA education; inadequate advocacy, a lack of awareness and a lot of misconceptions surrounding benefits of OA publishing not just on the researcher and faculty but also the librarian’s side (Jain, 2012) still remaining quite a challenge.
With these issues in mind, we addressed the university library closely affiliated community of LIS students and recent graduates a set of questions that sought to identify factors standing in the way of librarian success to addressing the OA challenge, hoping it would provide valuable feedback on student OA-specific knowledge gaps today and at the same time help better cater for the future.
Participants, in their triple capacity of soon-to-be or newly appointed library staff, OA consumers and contributors, grasped without delay the opportunity to make their voice heard around librarian changing functions through expressing a good number of comments on how to reverse the situation. Their suggestions, mostly revolving around the necessity of institutional support to jointly, systematically and coordinately in close collaboration with professional associations and OA advocacy organizations address the problem, should and hopefully will be taken into consideration by OA strategy working groups at the time of elaboration of their white papers and before launching their next advocacy campaigns.
A substantial number of Ibero-American library school undergraduates and New Information Professionals responding to our open call for survey participation distributed through IWETEL and EDICIC listservs, pinpointed training and continuing professional development as one of the top three current OA scenario pain points indicating the Web as their major knowledge source on the topic. Furthermore and above all, almost half of them acknowledged the fact that they aren’t been adequately prepared to address community considerations around OA despite its gradual transformation to the new scholarly communication norm.
It all comes down to …
According to their insightful comments, it all comes down to increasing LIS expert capabilities (KSAOs) to effectively support the OA community as it seems that the current model for disseminating reliable and authoritative information about OA is unsustainable and not effective on a large scale since its diverse, disperse, varied intensity nature can’t adequately accommodate the needs of future research library staff.
And it’s equally true that OA strategic groups have been puzzled for quite some time now with the librarian OA skills’ development case to the degree that a central part of their recommendations is dedicated to suggesting how to turn around this controversial situation, that is expecting librarians to be able to effectively move forward OA on one hand, without however providing them with the cognitive and competential means to sustainably do so on the other.
More specifically, in order for libraries to serve as a credible source for objective information, reliable education, advice and guidance to researchers and faculty, helping them effectively cope with all those barriers when considering OA as a publishing option, it would be absolutely necessary to
- instill OA publication habits to NIPs and future librarians
- help share a common OA understanding in terms of sound knowledge and tactics which could remedy existing ambiguity or inconsistency among research librarians regarding their role and core responsibilities; a situation currently resulting in the lack of constructive professional discourse around Scholarly Publishing Literacy (SPL) and insecurity when researchers approach them with scholarly publishing queries (Hansson & Johanneson, 2013)
Establishing therefore a sustainable OA model requires professionals of a high educational background able to analyze, conceptualize, make judgements, develop and implement policy responses (Ghosh, 2011). However, no matter how essential this librarian profile enrichment may be to the OA advocacy cause, it will never become feasible without targeted continuing professional development and OA component integration in LIS formal training programs.
The Bottom Line…
Extending IP training beyond occasional workshops and ad hoc support to full-blown programs is a crucial step, building on the momentum, towards ensuring helping librarians develop baseline expertise necessary to providing holistic research services. And the OA strategy network, thanks to its holistic appreciation of librarian skills and expertise necessary in the area of publishing, research dissemination and scholarly communication, should be considered the most valuable partner to preparing, in close collaboration with library schools, future information professionals to work in the new and evolving scholarly communication environment (ACRL Libguides, 2018.)
Only by jointly creating a task force to help librarians eliminate misconceptions and move beyond superficial awareness of OA (Zhao, 2014), LIS curricula developers and OA advocacy organizations could ensure a new cohort of Information Professionals proficient in developing OA viable services, sustainable workflows, creative strategies and solutions in a ‘full-service’ approach (Engeszer & Sarli, 2014) to effectively market OA benefits to academic and non-academic audiences.
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