The Book, and the Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN)

The OER + Schol Comm team started working together in late 2016, initially around the idea of an open textbook about scholarly communication library work. As we pursued that goal, applied for and were awarded funding, talked to peers, and presented at conferences, our collaboration evolved to include a second major product, which we took to calling the Scholarly Communication Notebook, or SCN, an overt nod to the Open Pedagogy Notebook by Robin DeRosa and Rajiv Jhangiani. The book and the SCN are two distinct but related aspects of our work. We’ve realized there’s some confusion and conflation of these two related projects, so we thought it might be helpful to provide clarification. If you want deep background on both, read on. If you’d rather get the tl;dr version, scroll down to the third header, “Relationship between Book and SCN”.

The Book

The idea for an open textbook of scholarly communication librarianship, which we sometimes called the OER of scholcomm, took initial shape over the course of 2017, when we also applied for IMLS funding to conduct some research and outreach to inform its development. Then and now, the primary audience we’re creating for is students in MLIS graduate programs (and their professors), as well as practitioners who want to learn and may benefit from a book level intro to get them started. By mid-2018, based on many conversations with colleagues and other stakeholders, the book had more or less taken the conceptual form it has now: a broad introduction to scholarly communication work in academic libraries, the forces that shape it (Part 1), the major advocacy movements within it (Part 2), and practical contributions from peers about the nature of the work (Part 3). In late 2018 we learned that ACRL would be our publisher, embracing the openness that is core to the work, and our approach, as messy as it is. Recognizing that we shouldn’t be the only voices in such a work (for a variety of good reasons), in mid-2019 we brought on section editors to help us present the open movements that are so core to scholcomm work; experts in those areas, shaping their section as they thought most appropriate, with authors they wanted to feature. These sections and their editors are Open Data  edited by Brianna Marshall, Open Education edited by Lillian Hogendoorn, Open Access edited by Amy Buckland, and Open Science and Infrastructure edited by Micah Vandegrift. Then in late 2019 we issued a CFP for contributions to Part 3, which we conceived as Voices from the Field: Perspectives, Intersections, and Case Studies. We were able to accept about 25 short pieces that further expand the number of folks, ideas, practices, and so on involved. In late 2020 we announced our intention to provide parts of the book for open review, and that process continues. All told, there are over 80 people who are directly contributing content to the book, and THEY are what make the book rich! We are deeply, DEEPLY, indebted and grateful to every single person that has contributed editorial work, content, feedback, and ideas all along the way. It’s very humbling, and we feel an immense burden to get it as right as we can on our end, with the knowledge that we will inevitably fall short in some ways. The pandemic has slowed our progress a bit, but we’re still moving forward and hope to deliver a complete manuscript to ACRL in the next few months.

The Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN)

The SCN grew from our realization that no matter how expansive we try to be, no matter how many folks we provide a platform for, a book, even an open one that we hope will have some living/breathing instantiation, is inherently limited, linear, hierarchical, and static. That became troubling because scholcomm itself, and the work it entails, is highly dynamic, and we at least aspire to it being maximally inclusive, even as we recognize that hasn’t been reality in the field. We realized (and heard from others) that modularity would be useful. We wanted to expand on the existing open learning content, make it more discoverable to our stakeholders, let anyone contribute, and leverage open educational practices to increase knowledge and create useful and renewable content for scholcomm topics. So we went back to IMLS with the idea of the Scholarly Communication Notebook, based on the Open Pedagogy Notebook, a platform to collect and host open scholcomm content that is intentionally pedagogic. And, wonder of wonders, in 2019 they gave us almost $250K to use over three years, a lot of which we are giving to contributors (we do not get any direct financial benefit from the grant, other than some travel funding that we built in, but haven’t been able to use because pandemic). With this funding, we’re able to hire our excellent colleague, Jenna, and to pay selected contributors through a competitive CFP process for their time and labor, and some other miscellaneous things. The pandemic imposed some new conditions that we have been adjusting for, with IMLS support. We recently contracted ISKME OER Commons to host the SCN as an OER Commons Hub (in production now), and a professionally designed logo is coming soon. We’ve got some other plans in the works for remaining funding.

Relationship between Book and SCN

The book is just that: a book, to be published by ACRL next year, with a CC-BY-NC license. Print copies will be available for purchase, alongside a free download. It’s a general introduction, highlighting the work of others as much as possible, with some minimal pedagogic apparatus (discussion questions, suggested further reading) to get those that want to dive deeper pointed in the right direction. The SCN is a platform, both a complement to the book, as well as a standalone collection of open content addressing scholarly communication topics. After reviewing a number of options, we chose to work with ISKME OER Commons because it best meets our needs as we presently understand them. The SCN should grow over time, with contributions from many quarters.

Either the book or the SCN can be used independently, or in conjunction with another. For example, one might read the Copyright and Legal Issues chapter in the book (in Part 1), and then dive into Carli Spina’s SCN materials about Copyright, Disability, and Accessibility in the SCN if they want or need to learn more about that topic. They might also discover Talea Anderson’s Accessibility Case Studies for Scholarly Communication Librarians in the SCN, and the wealth of perspective and further reading available there. An MLIS instructor might use the book, or a chapter of the book, perhaps with an assignment prompt from the SCN that results in student-created content that can become part of the SCN. A librarian skilling up on scholcomm topics might play Stewart Baker’s ScholCom 202X interactive fiction game as a way of learning about the daily issues that we encounter, and further reading to learn more about the issues. They might read the open education section (in Part 2) of the book as a gateway to that rich landscape. Our goal with these projects is to connect people with each other through content and collaboration, to break down silos, to welcome our future peers to our profession, whether they are in dedicated scholcomm roles, or work in another area, to increase knowledge and skills that advance scholcomm work, and we believe the book and the SCN can help make these things happen.

New to the SCN: ScholCom 202X (an interactive fiction game)

This is the 5th post in a series announcing resources created for the Scholarly Communication Notebook, or SCN (see Recent Posts for other, well, recent posts). 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 our first CFP last fall (round 2 CFP open right now, to June 21). 

Today we’re excited to share ScholCom 202X (ready to play html, also available in GitHub as well as Google Docs, both everything to host html as well as text-based to use offline), by Stewart Baker. Stewart gamified scholcomm work with a series of openly licensed situations we encounter regularly in our work, wherein players have to choose how to respond and try to maintain some work/life balance (if you win that one please let us know). These cases and this model hold a lot of potential for interesting instruction. Here’s Stewart introducing the game:

Interactive Fiction (IF) is essentially a text-based video game, a cross between a short story and website where the user clicks links or types in commands to move a character through the game’s plot. Although it’s an obscure medium even in the video game world, I think IF has the potential to offer librarians and educators a low-tech way to create effective, engaging learning games. I decided to put this theory to the test by creating ScholCom 202X, my contribution to the Scholarly Communication Notebook. (Okay, I’ll admit I also suggested it because I thought it would be fun!)

Learning games have a long history in education, with some classic games like Oregon Trail being so successful they are still considered iconic in popular culture today. As computer technology has improved, however, so have the technical skills required to create learning games that look and feel like what people expect from a contemporary video game. This makes it hard for small teams of OER creators and those without advanced programming skills to create effective computer-based learning games. Additionally, contemporary video games have large asset libraries, making them large files that some users may be unable or unwilling to download and making them difficult or impossible to play directly in a web browser.

IF potentially resolves both these issues. Free IF authoring tools such as Inklewriter (the program used for ScholCom 202X) are designed to lower the technical skills needed to create an effective text-based game. Additionally, almost all programs used to create IF today can output a game that is embeddable on a website using JavaScript or a related technology. Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s easy to write IF or effective text-based learning games. All the same, these benefits make IF a potentially attractive format for those interested in writing their own learning game to share as an OER.

In ScholCom 202X, the player takes on the role of a new scholarly communication librarian at a small public university in a ‘distant future’ that shares elements with our own time (Zoom jokes included). The game is structured as ten distinct scenarios covering four general areas of scholarly communication (rights, publishing, institutional repositories and dissemination, and open access). In each scenario, the player is introduced to a library patron with a scholarly communication problem or question for them to respond to.

After reading the scenario text, the player can check their ‘augment’ (a science-fictional smartphone equivalent) to see a short annotated bibliography of relevant sources and check how busy their schedule is before deciding whether they decline to help the patron, help them a little bit, or provide extensive, comprehensive assistance. Players must balance how well and thoroughly they respond to each scenario with how much time they have available.

After proceeding through a set number of scenarios selected by the player at the beginning of play, the game ends and the player is presented with a brief text ‘score’ describing how well they helped people and how overwhelmed with work they are. The idea is that players learn about not only the various aspects of scholarly communication librarianship but also project management and how to say ‘no’ to things—concepts that will benefit new and early-career librarians in particular. Presenting the OER’s educational information in a game setting also enabled me to introduce a diverse cast of characters similar to those librarians are likely to encounter in a real-life public university setting.

To make the game more accessible and adaptable, I created text-only PDF file equivalents of each scenario and a PDF file that contained just the annotated bibliography. Although these lack the interactivity of the IF version, they allow teachers to run role play sessions in a classroom environment and may also provide a more familiar, comfortable context for individual learners to think about scholarly communication and librarianship.

Whether you buy into the idea of IF and learning games as useful educational tools or would rather just use the equivalent text scenarios for roleplay, I hope you’ll find ScholCom 202X an engaging way to learn or teach about the challenges scholarly communication librarians face on the job. If you’re intrigued and would like to learn more about the process of creating an interactive OER, you can view my presentation from this year’s Online Northwest conference. I have also written about my process and the Ink programming language in particular in the Code4Lib journal (Choosing Your Own Educational Resource: Developing an Interactive OER Using the Ink Scripting Language).

About the Author

Stewart Baker is the Systems/Institutional Repository Librarian at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, OR. Stewart’s research interests include open access, learning games, and web accessibility. When he’s not working or parenting, you can usually find him writing, reading, and playing science fiction and fantasy short stories, poems, and games. You can find him at https://wou.edu/~bakersc or on Twitter at @stewartcbaker.

CFP Round 2: Contribute to the Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN)

UPDATE: deadline extended from June 21 to July 12, 2021

We are pleased to announce our second call for proposals for materials to be included in the Scholarly Communication Notebook. Successful proposals will contribute openly-licensed educational materials (OER) about scholarly communication that reflect the broad range of people, institution types, and service models in scholarly communication and specifically fill gaps of representation in the current body of materials. With generous support from IMLS, we are able to offer $2,500 financial awards in recognition of the expertise and labor required to develop these resources. You can see the full application as a Google doc, read more below, and submit here.

Note: the SCN is distinct from, but related to, an open book project that we’re also pursuing. Learn more about the relationship and distinction, if you’re interested.

Call for Proposals

The Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN) team is excited to invite proposals for the development of open educational resources (OER) that reflect and encourage diversity in scholarly communication. The SCN is an online community/repository that is explicitly intended to support and educate a diversifying workforce of LIS professionals and to extend social justice values to all participants by intentionally and thoughtfully reflecting the broad range of people, institution types, and service models in scholarly communication.

With generous support from IMLS, we are able to offer $2,500 financial awards in recognition of the expertise and labor required to develop these resources.

We are particularly interested in proposals from authors from a broad range of institutions and intersectional identities, particularly emphasizing marginalized and underrepresented perspectives.

The Materials

The OER should be a learning object or collection that is ready to be used in both a formal classroom setting and as a resource for self-guided learning. We are leaving space for a variety of approaches to design of the core resource and pedagogical apparatus. We are also committed to working with contributors to develop proposals before they are submitted and continuing to support development and refinement throughout creation.

Example Projects

Because this is a new project we invite proposals that reflect a variety of approaches to building open resources and supporting open practices. The following examples are results from our first CFP (Fall 2020):

But don’t let these examples limit your thinking! Creativity is welcome! The following hypothetical examples reflect a small set of gaps in the literature that a proposal might help fill:

  • A lesson introducing a model open education program being run at an HBCU
  • An exercise exploring strategies for supporting open and public access at a community college
  • Narratives and discussion questions that highlight unique work being done on archiving and supporting engagement with local materials at a regional college or university
  • A podcast or videos describing a tribal college’s work developing tools that support digital scholarship that engages the college’s history and the communities it serves

Selection Criteria

Proposals are open-ended but should address the following areas:

  • An overview of the topic being presented (copyright, OER, digital scholarship, etc.)
  • The need for this resource and the gaps that it fills. Why is it important? Are you building on existing openly licensed content or creating something new?
  • Your approach to presenting this material. What methods are you using? How are you addressing the need you identified above?
  • The format of the learning object? Is it a selection of readings? Video/s? A podcast?
  • What sort of pedagogical apparatus will be included? Will you include discussion questions? A structured assignment? What will you add to make this an educational resource, not just a document? If you have concerns about this area we are happy to work with you to refine these through discussion.
  • What are the learning outcomes/objectives for these materials?
  • Suggested (foundational/canonical) further reading? What are the most important readings, either necessary or optional for a learner to engage with these materials?

Submission Process

Submit a proposal at SCN CFP 2 Form. Review of proposals will begin on June 21 July 12, 2021. We hope to communicate acceptances by July 16, with work to take place through remainder of 2021 (we’ll work with accepted projects to agree on a timeline that makes sense, and remain as flexible as we can be along the way). In the first round, we accepted 10 proposals, and intend to do roughly the same in this round.

To view the entire proposal application as a Google Doc, click here. To use it as a template, click here to create your own editable template.

Please direct questions to Will Cross (wmcross@ncsu.edu), Josh Bolick (jbolick@ku.edu), or Maria Bonn (mbonn@illinois.edu).

New to the SCN: Static Web Publishing for Digital Scholarship

This is the 4th post in a series announcing resources created for the Scholarly Communication Notebook, or SCN (see Recent Posts for other, well, recent posts). 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 our first CFP last fall (round 2 opening soon). 

Today, in the midst of the 2021 Library Publishing Forum, we’re excited to share Static Web Publishing for Digital Scholarship: Resources for Scholarly Communications Librarians, by Chris Diaz. Chris notes that static sites can be a powerful technology for scholcomm work, and provides a lesson plan, annotated bibliography, and tutorials. The site hosting these resources is itself a static site. In a web full of bells and whistles, sometimes simple is just right. Here’s Chris introducing his work:

Static site generators have helped me publish digital humanities projects, open textbooks, serial publications, and scholarly monographs for free. This category of open source software is not a popular “publishing platform” for scholarly communications librarians or library publishers because there are hundreds of options out there and each of them may be difficult to learn without prior experience using command line programs. My goal with the tutorials and learning resources in “Static Web Publishing for Digital Scholarship” is to help librarians get started with static site generators and reveal their potential as scholarly communications infrastructure.

Static site generators are open source, command line programs that build a static website on your computer that can be uploaded to any web server. Static websites are flat HTML files that render without the need of a database backend. Static websites have many benefits to librarians who support digital scholarship and scholarly publications:

  • They are cheap (sometimes free) to host, secure, and maintain because they do not require server-side application software in order to function
  • They are built from human-readable plain-text files that can be opened on any operating system using any text editor, which is good for preservation
  • The files are portable and self-contained, giving you the freedom to store and access the files on any machine, laptop, server, phone, or hard drive
  • HTML files are easier to design for accessibility than PDF files; however, static websites can serve PDFs alongside HTML

There are hundreds of open source options out there, but most use very similar workflows and organizational concepts so that knowledge of one can translate to quick familiarity with another. I use Jekyll, Hugo, Bookdown, and Pandoc regularly, depending on the needs and use cases of the project in front of me. I consider static websites (and the minimal IT infrastructure needed to deploy them) a strong example of a next generation library publishing tool. The strategy behind using them for digital publishing is informed by a few recent developments in scholarly publishing and academic libraries, mostly:

Content management systems are great for most websites, but scholarly publications are not like most websites. Scholarship is rarely updated after it is published and it needs to be maintained in perpetuity. Technical maintenance comes at a cost, which makes it more difficult to allocate resources to “legacy” content when the costs get high. Static websites eliminate “the library server” problem, which Alex Gil defines as the “often unseen indirect cost of database-driven infrastructure on the technical support systems and personnel within libraries. Database systems require maintenance and security in a way that flat HTML files do not.”

My experience building static websites for journals, monographs, and open textbooks has made me a more valuable collaborator on a variety of library technology and academic research projects. This knowledge is useful even when static websites are not the best platform for a project. I wish I had learned about these when I took an introduction to web design class in library school because they demonstrate important skills for librarians, such as accessibility, web standards, project management, document organization, markup languages, and basic IT infrastructure. Given the growing interest in static site generators from the scientific, digital humanities, cultural heritage, and library communities, now is a great time to learn and explore new potentials.

About the Author

Chris Diaz is the Digital Publishing Librarian at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He maintains his own static web presence at https://chrisdaaz.github.io/ and is on Twitter at @chrisdaaz.

New to the SCN: Accessibility Case Studies for SC Librarians and Practitioners

In the last couple of weeks we’ve started sharing works created for the Scholarly Communication Notebook (SCN, ISKME OER Commons Hub coming soon), 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 provided funding for this project so that we can build a solid initial collection, and pay creators for their labor. These works are the result of our first CFP last fall (round 2 opening soon; see also Recent Posts). Today we’re sharing Accessibility Case Studies for Scholarly Communication Librarians and Practitioners by Talea Anderson, Scholarly Communication Librarian at Washington State University. This is great and valuable work that helps all of us better serve all of our constituents and we’re proud and happy that we can support it! We’ll continue sharing projects and announcements (like the next CFP) on the News page of our project site. Here’s Talea introducing her book:

As a scholarly communication librarian, I think all the time about making resources accessible but I’ll confess that I didn’t consider the needs of people with disabilities until more recently. This is an ironic confession because I was actually born blind and, following surgeries, grew up with low vision. However, I don’t use assistive devices apart from text magnification so I’ve been able to use the Internet largely barrier-free. Only when I read Raizel Liebler and Gregory Cunningham’s article about accessibility issues in institutional repositories did I really begin to think about how my profession contributes to a system that excludes certain people on the basis of ability.

When I initially started this project, I knew I wanted to collect a variety of case studies that show how library publishers, scholarly communication librarians, and similar professions are handling accessibility in their work. I chose this format because I find that accessibility training materials sometimes tend toward the technical how-to checklist and I wanted to do more storytelling that connects publishing practices to the lived experience of people with disabilities. Rather than sketching out the technical details of a perfectly accessible document or publication, I wanted to show a variety of people and organizations thinking through what accessibility means in their work.

Of course, it’s not just libraries that are engaging with accessibility. Many other groups and organizations are doing this work, and I tried to include some of these examples in my case studies. For instance, in 2020, I was able to attend the National Federation of the Blind’s annual convention and listen as people grappled with the intersections between racism and ableism. These conversations partially informed a chapter I wrote about inclusive alt text descriptions and I’m sure many other case studies could have been included as well. I hope that we in libraries can continue to look outside of our own organizations to learn about inclusive practices from the communities that we aim to serve.

Thank you to the Scholarly Communication Notebook for supporting this project and to the many people who kindly shared their experiences, perspectives, and resources via the case studies. It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me personally and I hope this resource proves useful to others as well.

About the Author

Talea Anderson is the Scholarly Communication Librarian at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. She has participated in two excellent fellowship programs: the OER Research Fellowship with the Open Education Group in 2017/18, and the SPARC OE Leadership Program, Class of 2018. Talea is on Twitter at @anderstales.