Column Editor: Donald T. Hawkins (Freelance Editor and Conference Blogger)
Against the Grain Vol. 33#4
Column Editor’s Note: Because of space limitations, the full text of my conference notes will now be available online in the issues of Against the Grain on Charleston Hub at https://www.charleston-hub.com, and only brief summaries, with links to the full reports, will appear in Against the Grain print issues. — DTH
Forecasting Changes on the Horizon of Scholarly Communication: A Charleston Hub Trendspotting Seminar
The Charleston Hub Trendspotting Initiative was started by Katina Strauch about five years ago. The current seminar, a pre-conference event of this year’s Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) annual conference, occurred on May 18, 2021. Leah Hinds, Executive Director of the Charleston Conference introduced it and welcomed the attendees. The seminar was directed by Lisa Hinchliffe, Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) Library. It attracted about 20 attendees. According to its announcement in the SSP conference program, “The Charleston Hub Trendspotting Initiative is a community-engaged process for collaboratively exploring social, policy, economic, technology, and educational trends and forecasting their impacts on scholarly communication, publishing, and academic libraries.”
Jennifer Frederick and Christine Wolff-Eisenberg, Survey Analysts at Ithaka S+R, presented some findings and factors for futures thinking from Ithaka’s 2020 US Library Survey. The vision, strategies, and challenges of over 600 leaders of academic libraries were surveyed. Specific questions included management of the COVID-19 pandemic and equity, diversity, and inclusion policies.
The COVID pandemic has affected much of society. In libraries it accelerated the investment in digital resources and services. About 80% of the survey respondents anticipated that this trend will continue after the end of the pandemic. The transition back to in-person teaching is not likely have a large impact on library services.
Most libraries have experienced budget cuts in the past year, and recovery from them is uncertain. Personnel cuts have mostly affected those who work in physical library spaces. Digital materials will continue to be purchased, and spending on streaming media is predicted to surpass that for printed books and journals.
Many libraries are planning for a fall start to in-person classes. The next year will be very significant in determining how well virtual classes will continue to exist. As e-readers have become more widespread, the demand for printed materials has decreased.
A panel discussion followed; panelists were Nancy Kirkpatrick, Executive Director and CEO, OhioNET; Lori Carlin, Chief Commercial Officer, Delta Think; Aaisha Haykal, Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, College of Charleston; and Sarah Appedu, M.S. LIS Student, UIUC.
Libraries are experiencing a lot of budget cuts. How are they interacting with publishers?
They are doing many things they have always done, but are looking at e-resources closely. Some are saying that if they cannot purchase a product at the same price as last year, they will drop it.
What are publishers doing to respond to cuts?
They are working on their relationships, especially with societies. More than ever, relationships will matter at renewal time. Budget cuts also impacted publishers. There is a lot of empathy and collaboration to work together.
Without publisher tools to facilitate diversification of collections automatically and efficiently, most institutions will not make significant progress in this area.
How have users been struggling and engaging with library materials?
Most libraries are completely closed to the public. Some have a pickup service. There are many questions at the beginning and end of semesters. Many people have struggled with campus VPNs and using their library accounts. They have trouble using the Hathi Trust because the platform is complex and hard to use. They also do not understand copyright and its limitations. E-books are generally challenging because every platform is different. Many users do not like reading online and want to be able to download books. They still want print materials and appreciate the assistance of librarians.
What is the social environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion? How do we care for the community?
Examine the metadata are you collecting about people. Many subject access terms are harmful (“illegal aliens”, etc.). Caring for a community means working with them.
How will you use your future position as a librarian?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are calls to reorient our work. Think critically about what you do in your work and what limits it. Library programs are becoming more critical, so the call for social justice will be growing.
What are the issues around peer review, etc.?
Publishers are heavily involved and have their own staff. Some of our language must change and be tailored to researchers. We are not a homogeneous community, and publishers are becoming awakened to this.
Lisa Hinchliffe concluded the seminar with a presentation entitled “Peering Into the Future to Make Decisions Today.” She noted that we cannot predict the future, but we must deal with it; today’s decisions create tomorrow’s futures. Futures thinking offers ways of helping to shape the future, stimulates strategic dialog, and strengthens leadership. An ARL report (see https://www.arl.org/resources/the-arl-2030-scenarios-a-users-guide-for-research-libraries/) issued in 2010 contains 26 scenarios of what the future might look like. For example:
• The research enterprise could become more aggregated or more diffuse.
• We will struggle to balance the mission and value of our libraries with the research enterprise of our institution.
• Working cooperatively is a driving activity for publishers and libraries.
• Local collections and expertise will become increasingly valuable.
• Technology will be ubiquitous.
• A new financial model is necessary.
The report envisions that by 2033 research libraries will have shifted from being knowledge service providers to become collaborative partners in a rich and diverse learning and research ecosystem.
A “futures wheel” can be used to explore implications of a change by brainstorming consequences of actions and the consequences of the consequences. It is useful to apply this process to current events in our industry. A similar approach to futures thinking extends the futures wheel with speculations by imagining that if something happened, how researchers or students would react. For example, if Google Scholar ceased to exist, Federal funding agencies in the US implemented the Plan S guidelines, a major publisher was sold to a Chinese company, library memberships were available only to individuals who paid a fee, or everyone had a virtual intelligent assistant, what would this mean for libraries, researchers, publishers, and students?
Our goal is to develop a desired future. Sometimes a look back is useful:
• What would you have predicted a decade ago?
• What was prominent that disappeared?
• What services did we provide that we do not offer any more?
2020 showed us that we cannot predict the future, but we can think about what might be possible.
For further information, see Lisa’s article (Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (2020), The Futures of Scholarly Communications: Techniques and Tools for Futures Thinking, The Serials Librarian, 78:1-4, 28-33) available at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0361526X.2020.1739473.
Charting a New Course: The 43rd SSP Annual Meeting
The 43rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP), held on May 24-27, 2021, was SSP’s first virtual meeting. It attracted a global audience of 770 attendees which exceeded all expectations.
In her opening keynote, “How to Amplify Knowledge in a World of Information,” Dr. Laura Helmuth, Editor-in-Chief, Scientific American, presented an interesting look at issues with misinformation and how journalists meet it. Because of the enormous physical and psychological effects of the COVID pandemic, Scientific American is expanding its coverage into why science matters. Scientists must engage more with the public and explain what they do. We are in the most collaborative time in the history of science.
• The Glass Ceiling You Don’t Know About: Removing Barriers For People With Disabilities at Work
• COVID-19 Changes in Scholarly Communication: What Pandemic Changes will Result in Permanent Changes?
• Impact of COVID Lockdown Measures on Women Academics
• Mythbusting Preprints in a Pandemic
• Walking the Rocky Road from Policy to Compliance
• Lessons and Silver Linings in Research Dissemination: Should COVID-19 Provide a Push Toward Lasting Change?
• A Cross-Industry Discussion on Retracted Research: Connecting the Dots for Shared Responsibility
• AI and Library Discovery
Industry Breakout Sessions:
• Scholarly publishing now: What’s hot, what’s not, and why you should care
• Connecting Scholarly Communities: How the American Marketing Association (and others) Reinvented Their Conferences Online
• Improving Speed and Quality in Journal Production Using Intelligent Editorial Workflows
• How Corporations Use Research Output: What you Should Know and Why
• What Works? Can Publishers Increase Citations for Their Journals?
Keynote — Fighting Racial Inequity in the Publishing Industry: Closing the Intention-Behavior Gap
Dr. Joseph Williams noted that race is a central mechanism in which inequity exists, and racial equity means to guarantee of equal treatment of people of color. We must promote equity because it is the right thing to do. It has a cost; are we willing to pay it? We need to reallocate resources and take an anti-racism approach.
The intention-behavior gap describes the failure to translate intentions into actions. Personal and professional obstacles exist; the scholarly publishing community has taken an important first step in trying to address these issues by preparing an anti-racist toolkit.
Closing Plenary: The Scholarly Kitchen Live. What’s Next for an Equitable and Sustainable Future?
A survey of readers of The Scholarly Kitchen (TSK) was followed by a panel discussion with several of the TSK “chefs.” Many readers feel that TSK is relevant to their professional needs. TSK is seen as favoring open access, and readers like the increasing number of articles authored by guest authors.
Comments from the “chefs”:
• We can and should do better to provide opportunities for all researchers and treat them with dignity. People are recognizing the issues, which is encouraging. The APC approach does not work for everyone.
• Publishing models move us toward a more equitable future. 2020 showed us how to make the impossible possible. We must shift our resources toward a more equitable space.
• We need to sustain scholarly publishing and make content accessible. Some journals are expanding their horizons. Virtual and hybrid conferences are available to a new global community. Have we seen an increase not only as attendees but also as content promoters?
• Organizers are now looking for speakers from other countries which should continue after the pandemic is over. Hybrid meetings are becoming more equitable. People have more access to conferences now, but we must think about what they will look like.
• Many staff members are anxious to get back into the office; others are exhausted. The concept of the home office is not sustainable; people will go into their offices regularly but not every day. Offices are spaces for collaboration; it will take time to figure out how to make hybrid arrangements work.
• Will we have more international travel for business deals, etc.? We have learned that things like editorial board meetings do not work well at conferences, but they work very well in a virtual environment.
Annual Business Meeting
TSK has 14,500 subscribers. The future of SSP is bright and its finances are strong. The 2021-22 President of SSP will be Alice Meadows, Director of Community Engagement at NISO.
The 44th SSP Annual Meeting is planned to be at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers on June 1-3, 2022.
Donald T. Hawkins is an information industry freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. In addition to blogging and writing about conferences for Against the Grain, he blogs the Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences for Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and maintains the Conference Calendar on the ITI Website (http://www.infotoday.com/calendar.asp). He is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, (Information Today, 2013) and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits (Information Today, 2016). He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley and has worked in the online information industry for over 50 years.