Goal and Structure of the Paper

In this white paper we present a case for exploring and articulating the intersections between scholarly communication and information literacy. We argue that these point to areas of strategic realignment of the roles of librarians in order for libraries to be resilient in the face of tremendous change in the scholarly information environment. Based on these intersections, this paper provides strategies that librarians from different backgrounds and responsibilities can use to construct and initiate collaborations within their own campus environments between information literacy and scholarly communication. Awareness of these intersections and strategies equips librarians with the insights they need to develop formal and informal educational programs that prepare their constituents to function in the dynamic digital environment of contemporary scholarship and to improve the current scholarly communication ecosystem.

In this paper, we identify three intersections between information literacy and scholarly communications that have developed as a result of the effects of the digital age on scholarly publishing and on teaching information research skills:

1.) economics of the distribution of scholarship (including access to scholarship, the changing nature of scholarly publishing, and the education of students to be knowledgeable content consumers and content creators);

2.) digital literacies (including teaching new technologies and rights issues, and the emergence of multiple types of non-textual content);

3.) our changing roles (including the imperative to contribute to the building of new infrastructures for scholarship, and deep involvement with creative approaches to teaching).

Our identification of these intersections is intended to serve as a guidepost directing librarians to core strategic responses to the profound impacts of the digital revolution on both information literacy and scholarly communication. The core responses that we believe are necessary in the changing digital information environment reflected by these intersections are as follows:

1.) towards information fluency: We make a case for the collaborative development of educational programs to support the cultivation of information fluency among our students, faculty, and staff;

2.) evolutions in pedagogy: We acknowledge the importance of adopting and adapting approaches to teaching that support student learning in the digital information environment, and of integrating new kinds of content in our teaching;

3.) opportunities for collaboration and changes in organizational structure: We emphasize the need to develop new collaborations and make dramatic changes in the organizational structures of academic libraries.

All of these responses require new professional development opportunities for librarians.

Origins of the White Paper

The need for a white paper that could articulate the intersections of scholarly communication and information literacy emerged after numerous discussions throughout ACRL. A discussion on “global trends and local actions for liaison and teaching librarians to support changes in scholarly communication” in 2011 highlighted the changing demands on librarians. Joyce Ogburn’s column in ACRL’s news magazine C&RL NewsLifelong Learning Requires Lifelong Access” (Ogburn, 2011) provided leaders of ACRL’s scholarly communication initiative with the focus and support needed to move ahead with this white paper.

Developments within our professional associations reinforced the importance of promoting this conversation within and across the profession; for example, ACRL has just published a book entitled Common Ground at the Nexus of Information Literacy and Scholarly Communication (Davis-Kahl and Hensley, 2013). In June 2012, an ACRL task force reviewed the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education and recommended extensive revision to include acknowledgment of complementary literacies (including digital literacy, media literacy, and visual literacy) and to address the role of the student as content creator (ACRL, 2012).

The ACRL Board approved these recommendations and, in fall 2012, ACRL began appointing a task force to undertake the revisions. Also in fall 2012, the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy (OITP) Digital Literacy Task Force was circulating a draft report (2012) that defined what it means to be a digitally literate person as a consumer and creator. Finally and fundamentally, ACRL’s strategic directions in the Plan for Excellence (2011) has goal statements in three areas: Value of Academic Libraries, Student Learning, and the Research and Scholarly Environment. The language of those three goal areas could be linked to create the following assertion:

In order for academic libraries to demonstrate alignment with and impact on institutional outcomes, librarians must accelerate the transition to a more open system of scholarship and transform student learning, pedagogy, and instructional practices through creative and innovative collaborations.

Librarians are uniquely situated to lead in these areas.

In response to these concurrent developments, a working group of practicing academic librarians was formed in late 2011 (see Appendix A: Working Group Members) and first met in January 2012. The contributors to this white paper come from diverse institutional settings, with backgrounds in a broad range of disciplines, and varied perspectives on what constitutes an intersection of information literacy and scholarly communication. Through meetings, discussions of these issues, and the iterative process of composing this white paper, the authors identified several broad areas of common concern for scholarly communication and information literacy librarians (for more detail, see Appendix B: Process for Developing this White Paper).

Our discussions focused on what academic librarians teach, how we teach in the digital information age, and how our roles, collaborations, and organizational structures are changing. We drew from examples in our own practices as librarians and from the professional literature. Some of us work with students as authors and editors. Others have capitalized on our institutional repositories to develop educational outreach programs. Some of us have grappled, as subject specialists and liaison librarians, with demonstrating expertise both as teachers and in scholarly communication issues. Despite our diverse experiences, the working group was able to develop and agree upon a fundamental argument for the importance of exploring and articulating intersections between scholarly communication and information literacy.

Foundations of the Argument

Librarians’ work practices, discussions, and professional literature all confirm that our roles have been changing rapidly in the digital information environment and will continue to do so. In constructing this paper, the working group agreed on the following interrelated assertions:

  • Every librarian in an academic environment is a teacher.
  • All roles in an academic library are impacted and altered by the changing nature of scholarly communication and the evolution of the dissemination of knowledge.

Therefore, every librarian has a role in teaching, whether formally or informally, about scholarly communication issues.

In addition to these foundational assertions, the argument of this white paper assumes the following basic definitions of scholarly communication and information literacy:

  • Information literacy is defined as a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and effectively use the needed information. Teaching these skills has always required an implicit awareness of the social, economic, and legal conditions for the communication of scholarship within specific disciplines. The fragmentation caused by digital technologies, however, and the unprecedented, unmediated access to scholarship that is now possible, forces us to adapt our approaches to teaching users to be fluent in the new information environment.
  • Scholarly communication refers to the systems by which the results of scholarship are created, registered, evaluated, disseminated, preserved, and reshaped into new scholarship. The unprecedented ease of reproduction and distribution of information due to digital technologies has opened wonderful opportunities for sharing scholarship. These developments have dramatically broadened the opportunities for the dissemination of ideas, research, and scholarship, but they have also put new pressures on intellectual property rules and policies within the academy and beyond. (Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities)


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