#FSUnited

*Disclaimer – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own, and do not reflect the views of FSU Libraries, FSU, or anyone I work with.

A year ago today FSU Libraries faced a tragedy. Someone came to our campus with the intent to do harm to others. I was not at the library at the time of the shooting, but it affected me way more than I thought it might have.

In the weeks following, I was working on a draft of an invited talk I was scheduled to give at a conference in New York. Free counseling was available to the FSU community, and for a long time I meant to go and show someone this draft. Of course, life/work got in the way and I never did. This past week, as we prepared to remember the event, I dug up this draft and decided to share it for my own healing. The version of the talk that I actually ended up giving turned out very different, and is available here.

Most importantly, we are all healing. These pictures, and more on my Twitter throughout the day, represent the FSU Libraries family as we are today. We wore FSU colors today as a symbol of our strength and endurance.


 

Draft one:

Two weeks ago, a man was shot and killed in front of my library. A young, black man was shot and killed on the steps I walk every morning at 8am. A kid is now paralyzed from the waist down after being shot, because he was hanging out in front of my library late one Wednesday night. A library staffer, who works the overnight shift and who I nod hello to every morning as he leaves was shot in the leg. I didn’t even know his name until I saw it in the news. This isn’t the talk I intended to give today. But it’s all that I have in my mind and heart, and I couldn’t pretend that open access matters when someone’s life was ended under a banner that says “A great university requires a great library.”

At 630am when a flood of texts came from concerned family and friends that were catching the morning news that day, my first thoughts were “I’m glad I wasn’t there” and “I knew this was going to happen sooner or later.” My Facebook status was a mix of shock, helplessness and confusion. “All my deadlines and projects seem to matter so much less now.” That sentiment has followed me these two weeks. I don’t care that SPARC hosted OpenCon and that a bunch of young people are excited about making real change in academic publishing. The Gates Foundation announced an Open Access Policy that I believe will be a significant turning point in research funders dictating how open access moves forward – but I could care less. The Friday after the shooting, I moved into a new position (Digital Scholarship Coordinator) and got a raise, something I’ve been working toward for months – bittersweet, and mostly bitter.

The talk I wanted to give today would have been a challenge, as I am wont to do in my professional life. A challenge to academic librarians to stop talking about open access and start doing it. To force our own field to change by taking collective action against Big Publishing and refuse to continue to perpetuate a system that continues to prove its blatant disdain for author’s rights, libraries budgets and the good/right of information access to the global knowledge ecosystem. That challenge is still in my heart, but as an echo. The talk that I have to give today is a feeble plea, in light of the sense of smallness that was inflicted on me two weeks ago. My simple response to the prompt “What is the role of the academic librarian in open access?” is this: access for all.

I titled my talk “Scholarly Communication is People” because I believe that is the number one thing that we have lost over the 8 years that Open Access Week has been observed in libraries internationally. In the beginning, we (libraries) made it about money; scholars have made it about their rights to their work; funders have made it about a return on investment; policy makers have made it about civic life. I believe all those things are true; but what we overlook too often is that the academic enterprise, and by extension all this goddammned writing we do, is about making better humans. I submitted a proposal to the Scholarly Communication Institute at Duke, held at the beginning of November. The proposal was rejected, but the core idea behind it has been driving me since early this year: The only real reason open access matters is because of the potential it offers. The possibility that a member of the public will discover academic research is the reason I wake up. And we have done a disservice to the public by making it all about us.

Could open access to publicly-funded scholarship about the historical and social constructs of race relations in America have saved Michael Brown? Might open access to research on mental health have prevented death and tragedy from visiting my library? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But, I do believe that it matters when my dad tells me he is tracing our family genealogy using some weird website called HathiTrust. Or when my sister, a single, working mother of two, is able to complete an MBA relying on Google Scholar as a resource because she doesn’t have time to learn about Ebsco’s Business Resource Complete database. I wont make the claim that open access will save the world, but I believe that it could make it a significantly better place to raise my son.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve thought a lot about what matters. Over the past three years, what has mattered a lot to me has been pushing buttons and asking questions no one seems to want to ask – like why the Journal of Academic Librarianship still exists in its present form? Or, why library schools indoctrinate students with ALA’s Code of Ethics, but those same faculty fail to exercise their rights to place their works in institutional repositories? Or, why we all walk on eggshells when vendors or publishers are around? Or, why librarianship acts to principled but has yet to live up to the edict under which every libraries’ heritage lies – access for all? What I’ve learned in three years as a librarian is that it’s a lot more complicated than a young, idealistic blogger can hope to change. And that, many of my questions are important more in the asking than in the answers. What I’ve been forced to reconcile these past weeks is that the strife and bickering and how ridiculous it is for librarians to sue one another and the conversations we have in and across our literature that seem so huge (PhD’s taking all our jobs! Library school doesn’t prepare you for the workforce! Numbers, metrics, assessment = funding!)– all of this doesn’t matter as much as we hope.

What does matter, and what I think is the most important thing about anything we do, is that you and I are here right now and that I really want to know what you’re excited about. What matters is that across the pond, my former Grad Assistant Chealsye is struggling through a Master’s degree in the History of Science and Technology, while at the same time working on the Open Access Button. What matters is that Erin McKiernan, an early career  neuroscientist, has pledged to only do open access with all her work, for the rest of her career. What matters is that lots of new librarians will be hired in the next 2-5 years never knowing a library-land before DPLA, Open Access Policies, Research Data Management or Digital Humanities. What matters is that the morning of the shooting I was comforted and honored to be part of a profession where emails flowed in all day long – from Molly Keener at Wake Forest, Ellen Duranceau at MIT, Kathryn Pope at CDRS, from Colin Lukens at Harvard, Claudia Holland at George Mason U, and countless others on Twitter.

I do strongly believe that every library needs a scholarly communication initiative, and that every librarian can and should participate in this work. I believe that scholarly communication (and everything connected to it, DH, Data management, GIS) is offering us the chance to exert our principles, “access for all” in the real, practical benefit of global change. I believe the academic librarians role in open access is to just do it, to embody the change we hope to see, to be a catalyst for shifting research patterns at our institutions. I believe the time for timidity and “service” has passed, and that our role now is active, collaborative participation in research, teaching and learning. I believe there is a good chance I am wrong about some of this because I am still a new librarian, and am just learning to be ok with making mistakes.


 

That’s where the draft ended. Some of the threads here have changed the way I live since I wrote this. I started leaving my laptop at work when I went home at the end of the day. I pulled back from a lot of researching/writing and speaking to stay around Tallahassee. I have invested a lot more energy in connecting personally with people I work with (#tacotuesday has been amazing.) I won’t leave you with any grand takeaway, except that I love this library. It’s been a strange, interesting, and delightful year since Nov. 20th, 2014.

*Disclaimer – all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own, and do not reflect the views of FSU Libraries, FSU, or anyone I work with.