Transnationalizing Scholarly Communication in Anthropology

Editor’s Note: The is the second in an occasional series of posts highlighting ACRL’s liaison relationships with higher education groups. This post by Annie C. Paprocki discusses her work with the American Anthropological Association.

In my second year as ACRL Liaison to the American Anthropological Association (AAA), I have continued to focus on scholarly communication and higher education, both areas of interest shared by ACRL and AAA.

In April, I participated in the annual meeting of the Central States Anthropological Society (CASA), a large, regional section of the AAA in the Midwest.  The smaller venue allowed me to have more relaxed conversations about scholarly communication with like-minded CASA members.  For example, I spoke to Virginia Dominquez, the current president of AAA about the new publishing models that AAA is considering.  At a question and answer session at that conference, she also spoke more broadly to members about the fiscal sustainability of the current modes of funding scholarly societies like AAA.

At the 109th AAA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, my goal was to participate–both formally and informally — in this discussion about the evolving publishing models in anthropology.

Transnationalizing Scholarly Communication:

To this end, in between conferences, I’ve worked with the Commission on World Anthropologies on international scholarly communication issues.  An email mailing list and blog were set up after the 2009 meeting to facilitate the exchange of ideas among a wide-flung group–editors of both AAA and non-AAA journals, leaders of international anthropological organizations, AAA President, AAA Publishing Staff, myself, and others.  In New Orleans, at Open Editorial Forum II: Moving Forward with Transnationalizing Scholarly Communication, participants brainstormed ways to meet the need for anthropology researchers to have access to scholarship from all over the globe.

Several practical ideas were put forward.  For example, a potential reciprocity agreement was circulated, which proposed anthropology journals from the agreed countries would share articles in the original language or in translation.  This was not adopted by the group.

However, it looks likely that the leadership of the World Council of Anthropological Associations (WCAA) will draft a “letter of invitation” to interested parties to work towards creating an online anthropological magazine.  Editors of anthropology journals worldwide would send in a sampling of their best articles of the year to be added to the open-access magazine.  Issues may be thematic. The hope of the assembled group was that this would provide a platform for diverse voices to infiltrate what can sometimes be closed communities of practice (around regions, language, institutions, etc).

Despite the general enthusiasm for the planned online magazine–true to the always questioning nature of anthropology–someone in the room pondered, “Is this the production or reproduction of anthropological knowledge?”

Library Advisory Committee:

This group, loosely made up of the producers (AAA publishing team, Wiley-Blackwell representatives) and the users (academic librarians) of AAA content, has met annually to learn from each other.  When I participated in the committee meeting in 2009, it was a useful exchange of ideas.  Before the Annual Meeting, the Library Advisory Committee was disbanded and, therefore, did not meet. Oona Schmid, the committee Chair and Director of Publishing at AAA, has convened a similar group which looks to be important and influential in the context of the debate in AAA around how to disseminate the work of anthropology scholars in an increasingly globalized and electronic environment.  At least one of the former members of the Library Advisory committee has joined the AAA Committee on the Future of Print & Electronic Publishing, so there continues to be academic librarian representation.

And, as my term ends in June, I would like to give heartfelt thanks the ANSS Executive Committee for their support of my liaison activities over the last two years.  The past three or four ANSS Chairs worked doggedly to push the AAA Liaison program into existence.  Hopefully, we have started a relationship with AAA that will continue for years to come.  If you are interested in liaison work, I would be happy to speak with you about my experience.  I can be reached at

Annie C. Paprocki works as a librarian in New York.  She is also an ANSS Member-at-Large.