New to the SCN: EDI in Scholarly Communications Outreach

This is the latest post in a series announcing resources created for the Scholarly Communication Notebook, or SCN. The SCN is a hub of open teaching and learning content on scholcomm topics that is both a complement to an open book-level introduction to scholarly communication librarianship and a disciplinary and course community for inclusively sharing models and practices. IMLS funded the SCN in 2019, permitting us to pay creators for their labor while building a solid initial collection. These works are the result of one of three calls for proposals (our first CFP was issued in fall 2020; the second in late spring ‘21, and the third in late fall 2021)

Today we’re excited to share “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications Outreach” (available in the SCN OER Commons Hub as well as in Google Drive), contributed by Camille Thomas, who is also a contributor to our related open book project. Camille builds on a qualitative study (Perceptions of Open Access Publishing among Black, Indigenous, and people of color Faculty, forthcoming in College & Research Libraries News), offering instructional materials to help elucidate conclusions of that research. Here’s Camille to introduce the project:

The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications Outreach contribution to the SCN is intended to fill a gap in the way we talk about scholarly communication work, particularly outreach. I am a co-PI on the in-progress study, Black, Indigenous, and Person of Color Faculty Perceptions of Open Access, with Tatiana Bryant at University of California Irvine. Though there are existing studies examining faculty perceptions of open access and BIPOC faculty experiences, there is not much on the intersection of the two. It is important not to treat researchers, faculty or otherwise, as a monolith when it comes to the experiences, communities, and values behind their publishing decisions. Our study illuminates how their perceptions motivate or diminish their own interest in and adoption of open access as well as their level of advocacy for open access in their field, campus, and department. It seemed like a natural contribution to the SCN.

Tatiana and I decided to provide separate contributions based on our own ideas. We discussed what might be most impactful for students based on preliminary analysis from the study and our own experiences as library school students, then professionals. We did a kind of internal review of each other’s work before submitting to the SCN team. Tatiana’s related contribution to the SCN is discussed in this News post. My contribution features readings, discussion questions, sample scenarios, and assignments that prompt reflection and learning on BIPOC perceptions of OA.

The most time consuming part of creating this contribution was getting clear on the scope and  approaching this subject matter in a practical, impactful and considerate way. I thought a lot about the audience for which the resource is primarily intended. I wanted to be careful to have students exercise empathy and procedures for scholars’ diverse values when it comes to supporting new models for scholarly work. This work is intended to create deeper engagement and understanding of one’s position in true partnership — as neither savior nor servile. I wanted library professionals and scholars alike to empower themselves and others to become aware of where their agency lies in interdependence (i.e., “power with”, “power to” and “power within”) — with neither awe nor inadequacy. After that, drafting was smooth sailing.

My work with EDI in scholarly communication builds on work by Charlotte Roh, April Hathcock, Leslie Chan, Harrison Inefuku, Jessica Dai and many others. Their work often speaks to the impact of systematic marginalization of certain scholars and scholarship in traditional and open publishing. I tend to examine how we might integrate considerations for equity, diversity and inclusion in our workflows as open advocates and scholarly communication librarians. The  expectations and labor in this area are complex, unwieldy and in many ways different from other types of librarianship. In my opinion, the message, the medium and the messenger matters.

Of course, we are all learning and unlearning the ways we perpetuate exclusion and inequity in our culture and by extension in research and higher education (and even further extension in our materials). There is no one lesson plan or assignment that will solve systemic inequities or capture what for most is deep, personal, and lifelong work. The purpose of my contribution is simply to get students and new professionals (and maybe some seasoned professionals) thinking about building equitable open infrastructure and an inclusive culture when discussing open access at institutions. It is also to get them thinking about what will have the most impact in advancing open and addressing barriers in the context of their organization. I want them to think strategically rather than replicate common practice alone.

Most of the provided sample scenarios are real experiences I have encountered in my career as a scholarly communication librarian. I actually edited the contribution quite a bit when thinking from a student perspective. I am a bit of an exception, in that I knew very early on in library school that I wanted to be a scholarly communication librarian. I planned my courses accordingly, cobbling and connecting relevant courses (Information Policy, Digital Libraries, etc.) together. There was definitely no open textbook on scholarly communication at that time and few if any Intro to Scholarly Communications courses.

One of the courses that prepared me the most and still impacts my approach today is Strategic Marketing. So, I based the Needs Assessment and Engagement Plan on templates I used in that class, which I continue to use. A lot of scholarly communication work and outreach benefits from strategic planning. It can help manage expectations and boundaries around the labor required as well as carve out diversity and inclusion work as a priority. It can also be a space to examine our power, privilege and consciousness when it comes to talking to diverse audiences.

About the Author

Camille Thomas is the Scholarly Communication Librarian at Florida State University Libraries and a former SPARC Open Education Fellow. Her professional interests include labor, leadership and equity in open access, open education and digital scholarship. She has an MLIS from Florida State University and a BA in English from the University of Central Florida. She’s on Twitter as @afrofuturistlib.