A Values Driven Future for Academic Libraries


We are in an era of nearly constant change.

IU Libraries at Indiana University-Bloomington is working hard to keep pace with the demands that new forms of scholarship and the needs of an innovative faculty body have created.

We have invested in collaborative makerspaces and virtual reality. We have hired functional specialists (like me) as well as a data librarian; digital initiatives and engagement librarians; teaching & learning librarians focusing on critical information literacy; OER librarians; and so on.

The ability to do this rests on the efforts of library workers.

The spaces and materials, systems and technology, electronic databases and so forth – all these cannot happen without the people who are turning on the lights, sweeping the floors, and stacking the shelves.

Equally essential are those who are setting priorities, negotiating with publishers, thinking about library users’ needs, ensuring user privacy is protected, investing in interoperability, cataloging and creating metadata to enable discoverability, bringing historically excluded and marginalized voices to the forefront, and keeping track of changes in the research enterprise and scholarly communication system.

We must consider closely the pressures these changes put upon the library, then ask (and answer) big questions about:

  • terms of licensing electronic resources,
  • patron data collection when they access electronic resources,
  • transformational agreements, and
  • developing support mechanisms for equity in scholarly communication.

Taken together, these are questions of governance, which is simply put, mechanisms for decision making. Governance considers the infrastructure, the power structure, and ways of affecting change. It involves setting the parameters for what is permitted and not permitted; monitoring commitment and compliance; identifying how changes can be made and who can make those changes; and establishing processes for managing conflict. Important core values should guide our responses, and these principles are echoed in communities of best practice among academic libraries.

First, TRANSPARENCY.
  • At IU – Town Halls, department meetings, and empowering subject specialists to share information, and gather faculty feedback
  • Taking the issues to faculty and being forthright with the challenges we are dealing with.
  • Transparency is also the strategy that libraries are using in pushing back against undesirable data collection on publisher platforms by making these practices transparent to our user community.
The next principle is FLEXIBILITY – there is no one size fits all approach.
  • In Europe, APC-based Open Access publishing and transformative agreements have raised parallel expectations among some of our own faculty.
  • However, not every library is willing to go that route – we don’t accept that this approach is either settled or a new norm. Some libraries are saying quite frankly, there are other ways to provide public access that are a better fit for our institution.
EQUITY is crucial
  • The workforce of librarianship and scholarly publishing is not very diverse. Faced with an environment where it is now part and parcel of the work to transgress boundaries to make meaningful change, I theorize that you need to include people who have always had do this, to live with the discomfort of being an outsider, of constantly navigating borders, and complexities that go right to identity.
  • So you need the perspective of indigenous, Black, and brown people, people of color (BIPOC), immigrants, neurodiverse and gender diverse people, people with disabilities, and people of all sorts of religious backgrounds, because their perspective can bring a particular strength to a team.
COMMUNITY is the final principle I want to touch on.
  • As a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), we have been able to access consortial resources for data analysis, publisher analysis, and the piloting of transformational agreements.
  • We have been using some of these agreements to strengthen our support for scholars who are BIPOC to publish Open Access, including support of community-based publishing, and making plans to strengthen our own library publishing program in the future.

Ultimately, the principle of community extends to the internal community of the libraries themselves. This very complex system – the front end of which is overwhelmingly digital – cannot be unlinked from the materiality of the people behind it.

Willa Tavernier spoke at CCC’s most recent Town Hall: What’s Ahead for Libraries and Researchers?

Author: Willa Tavernier

Willa Tavernier is the Research Impact & Open Scholarship Librarian in the Scholarly Communication Department at IU-Bloomington. She assists schools and departments in tracking the impact of faculty research & funding. Her research interest is in the field of equitable scholarly communication, specifically governance and sustainability, from the perspectives of both systems and labor. Before she was a librarian, Willa worked as a lawyer for 17 years and continues to consult on legal knowledge management issues.
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