Intersections is an occasional series where community members reflect on what they are seeing in other parts of their professional world and what library publishers can learn from it.
Many people who come to librarianship have a background in a particular discipline of scholarship. In my case, this disciplinary experience is not just in the past, but rather an ongoing engagement with a scholarly discipline through work for a scholarly society. This work not only gives me insight into the lived experiences of scholars in my discipline who are attempting to carry out the open scholarship and publishing practices that we in the Library Publishing community often advocate for, but also presents opportunities for me to share resources and knowledge that can help the society and its members with their work. I hope that by sharing my experience with one scholarly society, I can inspire other people in our field to consider engaging with a disciplinary scholarly society as a way to not only develop and hone your own skills, but also to bring the practices and values of the library publishing community to the disciplines.
In my case, my scholarly background is in linguistics, and the scholarly society for linguists in the United States is the Linguistic Society of America (LSA). I was a student member during my PhD days; not only was I involved as a local host for the conference when it was in Pittsburgh, but I also took advantage of several of the training workshops as well as the job listings. When I transitioned to library work in 2013 with a new position in the library publishing program at the University Library System, University of Pittsburgh, my membership in the society lapsed for a few years because I was very busy learning about my new job. However, when I heard that the LSA was planning its 2016 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., and that part of the conference would include an Advocacy Day at the Capitol and meetings with Senators and Representatives, I was excited to sign up again to go back to the LSA conference.
The opportunity to advocate for linguistics, the discipline where I first felt like a scholar, was what drew me back to the Society, and while at the Annual Meeting I discovered another opportunity: the newly-formed Committee on Scholarly Communication in Linguistics. I attended the first meeting and immediately signed up. As a Scholarly Communications Librarian with a PhD in Linguistics, what more perfect service opportunity could there be?
From my time talking to the other members and engaging with linguists through the work of the committee, my work in scholarly communication and publishing has been transformed. Most notably for my own professional development, I have gained hands-on experience in crafting guidelines for data sharing for journals, and the subsequent issues encountered by editors and authors who try to implement those guidelines. I met a group of like-minded linguists who have brought me in to work on a project on data citation and data management practices in the discipline, resulting in research and publishing opportunities associated with the Austin Principles for Data Citation in Linguistics, the Tromsø Recommendations for Citation of Research Data in Linguistics, a series of NSF-sponsored workshops on Data Management for Linguistic Research, and most recently a co-editor role for the forthcoming Open Handbook of Linguistic Data Management.
I have also gained useful knowledge and connections that help me in conversations at my library and other scholarly communications groups. For example, I have been part of society discussions about business models for open access journals, which has given me helpful insight to share not only with my library but also with groups like Transitioning Society Publishers to Open Access (TSPOA). Through participation in networking and conference events, I hear tales of woe from linguists who are editors of journals as they try to move to online-only formats or explore open access, and I can share with them my knowledge about library publishers (and a link to the Library Publishing Directory) that could help them address their needs. One such conversation led to my library’s acquisition of the journal of the American Name Society, NAMES: A Journal of Onomastics.
Beyond acquiring new publications and getting hands-on experience with scholars who do the work of publishing, this work also provides an opportunity for me to help a discipline with knowledge and resources that may be unique to our field of Library Publishing and Scholarly Communication broadly – and the capacity and resources to do that work. One such opportunity has led to one of the most meaningful projects in my career so far. I was delighted to have the opportunity to provide feedback on and early draft of the LSA’s 2018 Statement on the Evaluation of Language Documentation for Hiring, Tenure, and Promotion. This Statement cited the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) in an argument that the intense data management work involved in Language Documentation projects should be viewed on par with other scholarly outputs when evaluating hiring and promotion portfolios, and gives practical advice for doing so. Based on the findings of the RPT Project from the ScholComm Lab at Simon Fraser University, open publishing and open scholarship generally are not mentioned often in Review, Promotion, or Tenure documents, and that this is a very practical barrier for scholars to engage in more open practices. After the LSA’s Statement about Language Documentation was adopted, I heard use cases where scholars and department chairs were able to effectively use this Statement to advocate for hiring and promoting linguists who devote incredible amounts of energy to the careful documentation and sharing of language data.
At this same time, some chairs of linguistics departments had become involved in a project from NASEM’s Roundtable on Aligning Incentives for Open Science to identify ways to encourage open scholarship in review documents. Since I had volunteered to be the Chair of the Committee on Scholarly Communication in Linguistics, I was invited to introduce representatives from the Roundtable, Greg Tananbaum and Chris Bourg, at the Department Chairs Meeting in 2020 to talk about this initiative. After their presentation, multiple linguistics department chairs mentioned the usefulness of the 2018 Statement on Language Documentation. As I sat on the sidelines and listened, I sensed the opportunity to create a Statement on the Scholarly Merit and Evaluation of Open Scholarship in Linguistics that would extend the utility of the Language Documentation Statement for all linguists who engage in Open Scholarship. I brought the idea to the committee, and members were enthusiastic about the opportunity. We worked over the next year and a half to draft a statement, conduct an open asynchronous review, make multiple rounds of edits, present at an open meeting at the 2021 Annual Meeting, and finally submit the Statement for approval of the LSA’s Executive Committee. I am proud to say that this Statement was adopted by the LSA on April 29, 2021, and you can now read it published officially on the Linguistic Society of America’s website. When you read it, you will no doubt see resources familiar to Library Publishers – including DORA, the Metrics Toolkit, NASEM’s Roundtable, and the RPT Project. These resources, although familiar to us in the Library Publishing world, are brand new to many linguists reading this Statement. And for Library Publishers, open scholarship products are often the kinds of materials we publish, whether in the form of journals, books, educational resources, datasets, or digital projects; yet our authors are often actively disincentivized from producing this kind of work by evaluation systems that privilege closed-access, traditional forms of scholarship. If we want to enrich and expand our publishing ecosystem, we must lower the barriers that scholars face when they do this work.
This is just one illustration of how one librarian was able to gain experience and knowledge of incredible value through participation in a disciplinary society. There are many societies out there that have similar conversations and interactions going on, and potentially similar opportunities for librarians with a disciplinary interest to be involved and have an impact. My advice to others working in the Library Publishing space is to explore the intersections that you might have with scholarly societies, whether that is through your own work as an individual or through your publishing program’s affiliations. Not only will you have the opportunity to see how scholarly communication ideas and resources work in disciplinary research settings, but you will no doubt arrive at moments of inspiration for your own research, creation, and service that can propel our community and your career forward.