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ARL Membership Convenes in Washington, DC, for Fall 2016 Meeting

The White House
image CC-BY-SA by Diego Cambiaso

Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member representatives, ARL leadership fellows, staff, and guests gathered in Washington, DC, on Tuesday–Wednesday, September 27–28, 2016, for the 169th Association Meeting. All available presentation slides are linked from the speakers’ names or session titles in the following summary of the meeting.

During the ARL Business Meeting on Tuesday morning before the start of the Association Meeting, the ARL membership ratified the Board’s election of Mary Ann Mavrinac (Rochester) as ARL vice president/president-elect and elected three new Board members to serve three-year terms: Constantia Constantinou (Stony Brook), Diane Parr Walker (Notre Dame), and Leslie Weir (Ottawa). For more details, see “ARL Board of Directors 2016–2017 Elected by ARL Membership.”

New ARL member representatives were introduced: Rhea Ballard-Thrower (Howard), Trevor Dawes (Delaware), David Leonard (Boston Public Library), Rebecca Mugridge (Albany), Simon Neame (Massachusetts Amherst), John Unsworth (Virginia), and Paul Wester (National Agricultural Library). Interim directors Alison Hitchens (Waterloo) and Jennifer Taxman (Dartmouth) were also introduced.

The membership saluted ARL library directors who plan to retire before the next Association Meeting in May 2017: Anne Kenney (Cornell), Sarah Michalak (North Carolina at Chapel Hill), and Karin Trainer (Princeton).

Also on Tuesday morning the Coordinating Committee presented the first of a two-part session describing Projects in the Pipeline.” Incoming chair of the committee, Vivian Lewis (McMaster), demonstrated IdeaScale, the online platform the committee has selected to crowdsource and evaluate new project ideas from the membership. She noted that the committee’s primary role is capturing, shaping, and directing ideas and it seeks to democratize that process while not bureaucratizing it. Lewis urged member representatives to brainstorm new ideas and enter them in IdeaScale, vote on others’ ideas, and stay in touch with the committee.

Outgoing chair of the Coordinating Committee, Brian E. C. Schottlaender (UC San Diego), introduced the project descriptions, in which Judy Ruttenberg (ARL) and Geneva Henry (George Washington) gave an update on SHARE and Pat Burns (Colorado State) reported on his recent survey of ARL library expenditures on journal subscriptions. Ruttenberg and Henry noted that SHARE is becoming a vital part of the research life cycle by partnering with researchers, developing SHARE metadata curation associates/ambassadors, powering research discovery beyond articles, strengthening open repositories, and deploying customizable dashboards that institutions can use to visualize their own research outputs. Burns argued that his survey results show the current way that libraries manage the escalating cost of journal subscriptions is unsustainable. He suggested that the Association form a strategic group to work on gaining more control over negotiating journal subscriptions with publishers.

On Tuesday afternoon, Larry Alford (Toronto), then ARL president, convened the Association Meeting at 3:00 p.m. Bob Fox (Louisville), then chair of the ARL Assessment Committee, moderated the opening session on “Trends in ARL Statistical Data.”  First Quinn Galbraith (Brigham Young), an ARL visiting program officer, presented findings from his research into wage gaps based on gender and race/ethnicity for professional staff in ARL member libraries. Galbraith found that, when he controlled for position, years of experience, motherhood, and other factors that might contribute to a gender-based pay gap, women were paid 98% of what men were paid in 2014—a much smaller gap than is found in other professions. He also found that there was no pay gap between whites and people of color in this population in 2014, although there was a gap for Hispanics compared to other ethnic groups.

Stanley Wilder (Louisiana State) discussed his recent work on updating his demographic analysis of ARL library staff, with a focus on the age profile of the staff and trends in retirements. Wilder said that, when he began this research in the early 1990s, he expected to see huge numbers of retirements between 2010 and 2015, but then the global economy sank into a recession in 2008 and many people delayed retirement. He noted that, in 2015, 23% of the staff in ARL libraries were age 60 and above, an “unprecedented” occurrence. He also observed that, in 2015, 7% of ARL library staff were new hires, down from 11% in 1986. Wilder concluded by predicting a generational shift in ARL libraries by 2020 or 2025, since “delayed retirement can only go so far.”

The next morning, Wednesday, September 28, the meeting picked up again with a lively session on “Open Access, Shared Values, Different Paths: Exploring Options to Move Open Scholarship Forward,” moderated by Ginny Steel (UCLA), chair of the ARL Advocacy and Public Policy Committee. Steel opened the session by reading “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost to emphasize the different paths to open access that the three speakers would advocate. Ellen Finnie (MIT) described an effort underway at MIT to build a global, open platform for scholarship, the foundation of which is their institutional repository, DSpace at MIT. The MIT vision is that “The MIT Libraries must be a global library serving a global university and its audiences.” Ralf Schimmer (Max Planck Digital Library) discussed the Open Access 2020 initiative, an international effort to shift libraries’ collections budgets away from subscriptions and towards article processing charges (APCs) in order to convert journals to open access. Dave Shulenburger (Association of Public and Land-grant Universities) argued against the APC model of open access, due to concerns about the ability of disadvantaged institutions and their faculty to pay APCs. Instead he urged libraries to continue to: make publications widely available, which will push prices down; insist that faculty retain copyright so they can put their articles in repositories; advocate for repositories; create open access journals; and support antitrust laws.

The pre-lunch session sponsored by the Coordinating Committee, “I’ve Got a Hunch,” featured six speakers who each gave a five-minute description of a new idea, line of inquiry, project, or experiment. Moderator Tom Wall (Boston College), Innovation Lab Advisory Group chair, set the stage with a call to library directors to inspire staff to “create, innovate, follow hunches, and make them happen.” The speakers were: Lauren Di Monte (North Carolina State), who explored potential roles for research libraries in democratizing algorithm knowledge, developing algorithm literacies, and contributing to the emerging science of algorithm assessment; Shan Sutton (Arizona), who discussed how research libraries can engage with emerging disciplinary repositories and with institutional repositories to maximize access to scholarship; Jesse Lopez (North Carolina State), who proposed offering all student veterans library orientation and other customized services to build lasting relationships with these students, who are often nontraditional students, e.g., first-generation college students, older students, married, and/or parents; Jason Clingerman (National Archives), who talked about how the National Archives catalog functions as  a “social catalog” in that users can interact with records (by tagging, transcribing, commenting), staff, and one another; potential enhancements include “game-ification,” translations, geo-tagging, user-scanned records, and integrating 3rd-party platforms, such as Facebook and Google; Adam Rogers (North Carolina State), who suggested there are opportunities for libraries in the Internet of things—exemplified by such experiments as a networked environment monitor that reports temperature and humidity of offsite storage—and possibilities for sharing projects,  code, expertise, data platforms; Ann Thornton (Columbia), who discussed the idea of a faculty member, Peter Muennig, to automate some functions of journal editorial boards in order to disrupt the academic publishing model and improve the speed of research breakthroughs, primarily by using open, crowdsourced, peer review.

After lunch the Coordinating Committee presented its second Projects in the Pipeline session, which included updates on six projects. ARL Innovation Lab visiting program officer, Mark Robertson (Brock), described two initiatives that came out of the ARL/Wikipedia Summit in August: (1) a Wikipedian Academy that would create an ongoing learning opportunity for cohorts of Wikipedians-in-residence and Wikipedia visiting scholars and (2) leveraging linked data to address diversity gaps in Wikipedia, starting with enhancing content about women as a test case. The Association hopes that both of these projects will influence the culture of Wikipedia and advance our shared mission of improving global access to information.

In her role as chair of the ARL Academy Advisory Group, Vivian Lewis then presented updates on four projects being explored by the ARL Academy: (1) forming a community of practice in digital humanities, led by the University of Rochester, as a test of the idea of forming additional communities of practice; (2) offering the popular Library Management Skills Institute (LMSI) I: The Manager and LMSI II: The Organization at ARL member institutions, facilitated by consultant DeEtta Jones; (3) providing professional development opportunities for incumbent ARL library directors, especially working with LIBER, the Association of European Research Libraries, which does something similar for their members; and (4) creating lightweight, professional development opportunities for new ARL library directors, customized by cohort.

The final two sessions of the meeting were somewhat linked in topic. First, Anne Kenney moderated a session on “Disciplinary Public Goods,” which presented a range of views on what fits in the category of public content goods, possible models for financially supporting public goods, and principles that address collective action. Speakers were Anne Kenney, Judy Ruttenberg, and Brian Schottlaender. Commentators were Jeffrey Spies (Center for Open Science) and Don Waters (Andrew W. Mellon Foundation). Kenney defined public content goods as “services and scholarly content that are freely and immediately available on the Internet worldwide and to which authors can contribute without charge,” citing the preprint server arXiv.org as the “poster child” for such goods. She laid out criteria for determining public support of such goods and asked if ARL library directors could engage scholars in the process of identifying public goods across the disciplines. Kenney proposed developing a fund within the ARL community to support those goods, e.g., if all ARL libraries were to redirect 1% of the amount they spend on materials, that would be $16 million that could go to public goods.

Brian Schottlaender followed with a proposal he calls red open access—red as in “stop” because he suggests stopping subscriptions as well as article processing charges. Schottlaender asked, what if the 62 ARL libraries that are also members of arXiv stopped subscribing to the journals whose preprints appear in arXiv? They would save about $30 million that could be rerouted to pay for layering editorial services on top of arXiv, he said.

Judy Ruttenberg explored the idea that patreon.com, which facilitates crowdfunding for ongoing (rather than one-time) support, could be a model for funding public goods. She sees several advantages to trying such a model, compared to the current system: the funding pledges would be transparent, while subscription costs are not; libraries would become benefactors to scholarly societies, while libraries’ interests are currently at odds with those of scholarly societies; and pledges would be based on actual budgets, while subscription fees are tied to imprecise, proxy measures of budget.

Don Waters noted that the Mellon Foundation is focusing anew on the broad structural problem that these discussions addressed. The foundation will be holding a series of events in the coming year and hopes ARL member representatives will participate.

Jeff Spies applauded the definition of public goods that Anne Kenney provided, especially “freely, immediately, equitably available.” He believes that those characteristics lead to greater research accessibility, efficiency, and quality, citing the example of the Human Genome Project—anyone was welcome to join and the project made their data freely and immediately available.

The final session was a spirited panel discussion of “Sci-Hub: Piracy or Public Good?” moderated by Joe Lucia (Temple). Panelists Rebecca Graham (Guelph), Arnold Hirshon (Case Western Reserve), Judy Russell (Florida), and Kevin Smith (Kansas) answered a series of questions posed by Lucia to surface their thoughts about Sci-Hub, a controversial platform launched in 2011 to provide free access to scholarly articles that are normally behind a paywall. The conversation covered four main issues: (1) security and credential theft, which is how Sci-Hub’s database was built; (2) copyright, intellectual property, and piracy, with references to Napster; (3) Sci-Hub’s extreme stance on open access (OA), what Lucia called “renegade OA”; and (4) ethics and professional practice of librarians, e.g., should librarians recommend Sci-Hub to patrons if they have no other way to freely access the information they need? Smith noted that the dichotomy in the session title is a false dichotomy because piracy often turns out to be a public good by instigating changes that benefit the public and rightsholders. He also explained that there is a distinction made in the law between things that are considered wrong in themselves (mala in se) and things that are wrong because prohibited (mala prohibita). Copyright law falls in the latter category and could be changed “without violating moral or natural laws.” Smith noted that laws about crimes that are mala prohibita are appropriate targets for civil disobedience, especially given that access to information is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Before the Association Meeting adjourned at 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Larry Alford handed the president’s gavel to Mary Case (Illinois at Chicago), who began her one-year term as ARL president. The ARL Fall Forum, “Libraries and Archives as Agents of Social Justice,” was held the next day, Thursday, September 29. See “ARL Fall Forum 2016 Explores How to Create Libraries That Facilitate Social Justice,” for a discussion of the forum by this year’s Julia C. Blixrud Scholarship recipient, Sofia Leung.

See also the tweets that were shared with the #ARL16DC hashtag, captured on Storify.

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