ARL Publishes Scholarly Communication Education Initiatives SPEC Kit

The Association of Research Libraries has published Scholarly Communication Education Initiatives, SPEC Kit 299. The front matter and Executive Summary are freely available.

Here's an excerpt from the "Executive Summary" of this very interesting SPEC Kit:

The majority of respondents [there were 73] indicated that the leadership for these [scholarly communication] education initiatives comes from within the library. Only 11 (17%) indicated that a group outside of the library plays a leadership role. In 25 cases (39%), leadership is shared by some combination of library SC committee, SC librarian, other library staff member, and outside group or is otherwise distributed across the organization. In most of the remaining cases there is a single leader. Twenty-one institutions reported that this is a library committee, eight that it is a chief SC librarian, three another library staff member, and two a committee outside the library.

Twenty-one respondents (32%) identified a "Chief SC Librarian" who has primary responsibility for education initiatives. About half of these are at the Assistant/Associate Librarian level. Only three of these librarians (14%) devote 100% of their time to SC initiatives. Most of the chief SC librarians have split appointments and all but a few devote less than 30% of their time to this work. Judging from their titles, they frequently also have responsibility for collections. . . .

It was anticipated that many institutions would not have a chief SC librarian yet would have another librarian who was shouldering the primary SC responsibility. Eighteen respondents (28%) indicated this was the case and 12 identified the position. The survey results showed that, again, this responsibility most frequently is assumed by a collections or science librarian. . . .

The most frequently mentioned effective means to deliver the SC message were one-on-one conversations and presentations. One-on-one interactions, in person or via personal e-mails, were good for reaching individuals such as faculty editors, department heads, or regular faculty members. Presentations were an effective means to reach groups such as graduate students, librarians, and the Faculty Senate Committee on the Library. Many also reported that symposia are effective; several reported that their campuses hold annual symposia. Several listed Web sites as effective tools, without much explanation. Other activities that were mentioned multiple times were marketing campaigns, passage of Senate SC resolutions, and newsletter items. Workshops—both library-sponsored and campus-sponsored—were also an effective means to reach the campus. A number of institutions have found it effective to work through their Faculty Senate Committee on the Library.

The SPEC Kit also highlights the many significant challenges involved in offering a successful scholarly communication program, which must educate library staff about key issues and outreach to university administrators, faculty, graduate students, and other constituencies. I found this to be true at my former employer, the University of Houston Libraries, where I chaired a Scholarly Communications Public Relations Task Force that produced a Transforming Scholarly Communication website and a weblog (although the weblog is still active, the website does not appear to have been updated or enhanced since my departure), organized a Transforming Scholarly Communication Symposium (conceived of as an annual event, but no follow-up is evident), and engaged in other activities.

SPEC Kit readers should make particular note of one issue: support from the library administration. This is a make-or-break issue: if top-level library administrators do not have a strong interest in and adequate understanding of scholarly communication issues as well as a real commitment to foster change, scholarly communication programs are hamstrung, and they become token efforts or die.