Joy Connolly, President, American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS); presented this keynote address. Jim O’Donnell, University Librarian, Arizona State University was the moderator.
Our role is the production and circulation of vital knowledge. ACLS is a network organization and has existed for over 100 years. It works with executive directors of learned societies and deans in associated universities. While more and more people have access to more and more information, colleges and universities have become more specialized and feel pressured to produce more specialized knowledge. An Apple ad mentioned those who think differently; they cannot be ignored. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do that. The online teaching at the start of the pandemic has led to a replacement of online meetings. The reward system in academia allows almost no room to think differently. We are out of time when it comes to young careers; what can we do to change the system? We need to find what can help in the circulation of knowledge.
ACLS just won a large grant to support scholarship. How do we translate this into something that libraries and presses can work in? We need to create living documents that will preserve communities. One of the most exciting things is how we invite people in to the house of scholarship.The problem is not about reopening the doors; it is about rebuilding the whole house. Scholars have been doing this sort of work for a long time. With a little help, people can do very good work. We need to help people who are working on less obviously connected topics.
We need to figure out how to change the way students are advised. We are trying to come up with thinking differently and work together with more depth and have an impact on collaboration. Libraries still have experts and amazing resources so they can help people connect. They are the center of the creation of knowledge. We can work together on the unequal application of knowledge. We have a deep vested interest in scholarly publishing. We need to examine the promotion and tenure process and see where changes can be made and convince people who have benefited from the process that changes are necessary. We must think more broadly about the kind of people we want in our academies. How can societies be relevant to junior scholars in the present brutal hierarchy? Societies are one of the only ways that people can connect.