Open Access at FSU

Preface: These are my own thoughts and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of my employer. 

Since May of this year, I have been working as the Scholarly Communications Project Manager for a Faculty/Librarian Task Force at Florida State University. The task force, created by the Faculty Senate Library Committee, was charged with researching Scholarly Communications* initiatives and making recommendations about how FSU might respond to evolution in the scholarly publishing cycle. As Project Manager, it has been my duty to compile research materials, prepare informational documents, manage communications within the group and conduct outreach around campus related to our work. The number one goal of the Task Force is to propose an open access policy* to our Faculty Senate, beginning FSU down the road to active participation in the adaptations happening in higher education, especially relating to how, why and who should have access to the knowledge produced therein.

So, after 6 months of hard work (2 of which I spent entirely dedicated to reading and researching), we’ve come to the apex. Tomorrow, we will present our proposed policy to the Faculty Senate, and next week I will be leading coordination of Open Access Week @ FSU. It’s strange, but it all feels kind of bittersweet, and I found myself chatting with a colleague today saying, “What happens next in a Scholarly Communications initiative?” That question remains and will be dealt with in coming weeks, but I wanted to take a second to outline some important facets of our work so far:

1) Our proposed ‘policy’ is very different than the policies passed by the likes of Duke, Kansas and Princeton, all of which have similar language about faculty granting the University a certain type of license for their scholarly articles. We are actually referring to our policy as a “Resolution” in that it is an expression of support for continuing to explore this area, more so than a dictation or mandate. Many will see this as a policy with no teeth, but we are approaching is as the best case for our university at this point, and a key first step toward developing this area here.

2) A factor in this decision was the fact that a bulk of our research and work was conducted this summer, when much of the university community is not very active. A scholarly communications initiative must be developed in tandem with an educational/informational campaign, and we just haven’t had the time or resources to do that as extensively as is necessary… yet.

3) Taking into account the culture and politics of the University organization is incredibly important when pursuing these types of grand initiatives. Having previously worked in a University, I had a little knowledge of this fact, but working so directly with it on this project has made me much more aware of the ways that administrative offices, libraries, academic departments and others have to put in a lot of work building consensus… and that is a job in itself.

4) The misunderstandings and misconceptions of open access are rampant and strongly held. This was never more evident than when talking with a friend, who happens to be a faculty member, about my work; he expressed his thoughts on this topic and was shocked when I offered some facts and ideas that countered his preconceived ideas of how open access works. There is much education to be done to combat misinformation.

5) It has been, and is constantly, an encouragement to know that there is an active, brilliant, available community of open access advocates who are willing to offer tips and advice. I contacted Scholarly Communications Librarians around the country, read their papers, viewed their presentations (shared online with CC licenses, of course), and learned so much through others’ experiences.

6) Working in collaborative bodies, like the task force I worked for, is an amazing opportunity to see what the future of the university can be. I am very interested in continuing to explore the nature of trans-disciplinary collaborative projects within the University, and I hope to remain an agent in that work, academically and as a professional librarian.

At this point, I almost feel like I am pushing my baby bird out of the nest, letting the work I’ve put into developing this open access resolution and scholarly communications initiative go to the Faculty Senate to see if it will fly. Come tomorrow afternoon, we’ll know for sure, and will proceed, fighting the good fight, and, rephrasing myself,

…to the best of our ability making it our duty to provide access to information, with the tools available to us, always and forever.

*Scholarly Communications – The cycle of producing, sharing and consuming academic scholarly work, most often focused on journal articles.

*Open Access Policy – the document by which many of these evolutions in the scholarly communications cycle become realized. OA Policies are meant to serve as an endorsement of the underlying principles at work in scholarly communications (faculty empowerment, the public good of access to research, etc.), while providing some clear goals for how open access will play out in the institution. Often an open access resolution is just the first step in the process of a university acknowledging that scholarly communications is an institutional priority.


The MLIS vs. the MLS

You know what’s cool? Starting to feel like you are part of a career/profession. I am nearing the end of my degree program, and I am starting to reach out to the profession and have been really excited and impressed by the responses I have gotten from established librarians/bloggers. Especially through my “What I Learned in Library School…” series, I am excited to enter the field with such interesting and qualified peers as I have had the pleasure of featuring.

Seeing the profession a little closer has also raised some questions about the value of my degree. Uh oh. The “What the hell am I going to do after I graduate” question. Well, not exactly. In my Foundations of Information Professions course the other day, taught by the amazing Dr. Christie Koontz, a point was raised that caught me off guard. She noted to us that we are on track to receive a Masters of Library and Information Studies, NOT a Masters in Library Science. Hmmm… no big deal, right? I don’t know. I have been going back through all the people I respect and read regularly and have been noticing that there is a pretty even spread between the MLS and the MLIS.

Image from US News and World Report

After some further research I learned that the discrepancy that I have so recently noticed is not at all a new trait in the profession. Almost since the advent of library schools has the issue of theory vs. practice been at stake. Is this the core issue between the MLS and the MLIS? Does the Information part make that much of a difference, or is it the “science” vs. “studies” part? Is Library School supposed to be specialized professional training in the work of Librarianship, or are there larger considerations that must be accounted for in the preparation of the new “Information Professional“? Does it really have to be that complicated?

Here’s what I think: it doesn’t really matter either way. The value of the degree comes from the effort put into it by the student. I plan to get out of my MLIS what I came into it for, a thorough understanding of the current information climate so that I can be prepared to address whatever may come my way as a professional. I may work in a library, I may not. What is important to me, and perhaps to many of my peers, is the fact that we believe in the mission of cultural institutions to preserve and share Knowledge and that access to Information of all types is crucial to the continuation of an engaged society. (OMG. Did I just write a personal mission statement?!)

One thing I am sure of is that things won’t be the same. I really believe that the future of the field will consist of a variety of cultural institutions (and corporations) plucking their employees from a extremely qualified, interested and hard working pool of Information Professionals with broad interests and broader skill sets. Professionals already working in the field, what do you think? Does the degree matter that much? Are the variety of skills necessary for your institutions being addressed in library school? When hiring a fresh-faced library student what are the top 2 things you must see on their resume? ALA membership and an accredited degree? What about great references and good ideas?

This post was inspired in part by Kim Leeder’s article on the “real work” of librarianship and Bobbi Newman’s amazing list of links for a potential/job seeking library school student.

[Guest Post] – What I’ve Learned in Library School So Far: Me, You, and All Of Us.

And now for another episode of the “What I learned in Library School” series! I am growing ever more fond of this series as it goes on, and reading the variety of perspectives that have been offered has given me another really cool idea that I will be revealing in the coming weeks. Library school students, take note!

Without further ado, welcome Britt Foster to The Infornado. Ms. Foster graduated from San Francisco State University as an English Literature and Creative Writing major, and after an epiphany while sitting on the floor of the children’s section of the main San Francisco Public Library, decided to pursue a Master’s in a field with an equally impressive career outlook– public librarianship.  Britt is currently beginning her second year at UCLA, and would like to visit every LAPL library before graduation.  She hopes to work as a children’s/youth librarian, and includes a comprehensive knowledge of E.L. Konigsburg and mad glitter skills on her resume.  Britt also enjoys writing, knitting, salvaging furniture off the street, and road tripping, making Google maps of yarn stores and libraries before all journeys.

Britt writes about her own experiences in the MLIS at Library Moth, and tweets about all kinds of things here.

Britt Foster



At my internship the other day, a librarian mentioned to me that she couldn’t believe she didn’t figure out she wanted to be a librarian sooner, but thank goodness she did.  I think a lot of librarians come to the idea of being a librarian with this same feeling– it’s the X on the treasure map after a long journey along a dotted and meandering line.  There’s something about librarianship that brings together so many disparate elements in a meaningful way that can effect real change in the way a person views their abilities.  In library school, I have found validation and a place for my passions and concerns, from the banal (glue sticks, glitter, and the subtle way shelves of books change a space) to the lofty (community advocacy, continuing education, and non-corporate services).  I had such high expectations for becoming a librarian that I was afraid when I started my MLIS there was no way the reality could live up to my hopes.  Not only way I wrong, I underestimated the experience entirely.  Things have only gotten better, more right, a better fit.  The more I learn about librarianship and the development of my career, the more I view it as continuing phases of awesomeness, from my master’s and being a new librarian, to being an experienced librarian, developing professionally and personally all the way.  Librarianship for life.


Library school has also taught me librarianship is not for egotists– the profession is service-oriented and external.  In a guest lecture for one of my courses, a special librarian described her career as being a meta-profession.  Everyday she compiles bibliographies, searches databases, and delivers content towards the professional goals and betterment of others.  I think this is universal to librarianship, and libraries; there are few institutions that benefit so directly from continually promoting and advocating for the welfare of other institutions and individuals.
UCLA requires a course on ethics and diversity for graduation, and in this course our professor often asked us about the role activism plays in the information professions.  It took me awhile to understand the divide between activism as I have viewed it prior to library school, and what activism means in the library and for information professionals.  I have pretty strong personal and political convictions, but in the library most of these have to be checked at the door.

As a librarian, I won’t be campaigning for myself or my beliefs, but for your beliefs, your politics, your lifestyle, your right to read The Anarchist’s Cookbook or Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets.  To be trusted with that responsibility is an amazing thing.

All of Us:

Prior to library school, I never really thought about information as information.  I remember learning about Sunshine laws and thinking, “That’s an idea worth advocating for,” but I never actually named the concept behind it as access to information.  Librarians, of course, are all about naming things, and while I’m still not sold on the idea of a label for everything, I am for information and ways to get to it.  The library (amongst other information institutions) is this way.  What is the value to society in a place where we can go to find just what we’re looking for?  Or when we don’t know what we’re looking for?  Or if we’re not looking for anything at all other than a place to just be?
The first required course in my program is “Information and Society,” and when we were introduced to the public library as the third place the rightness in this idea made my heart race.  Society needs more spaces where status does not affect access.  No money, no job, can’t read, don’t speak English– all barriers to access in other institutions that won’t be found in the library.  We can enter the library and leave changed– or not.  The way we use it is completely up to us, unfettered by any expectations or conditions other than our own.
Los Angeles Public Library’s recent struggles to remain open and provide services have come to concretize all of these elements to me as a resident of California.  I attended a protest earlier this week to mark the first non-holiday Monday the LAPL has been closed to the public.  Protestors were provided with sheets of chants, one of which read, “What do we want? Libraries open six days a week! When do we want it? Now!” The librarian standing next to me pointed out that we don’t want libraries open six days a week– we want them open seven days a week, 24 hours a day.  This commitment to access points to one word, that in my library school experience, has taught me should describe the library, both literally and symbolically — open.  For me, for you, for all of us.

Advising 2.0

Never in my life did I think I would be writing (or caring!) so much about utilizing technology in my professional life. But, as I wrote a few weeks ago, you never know where you’ll end up, and once you’re there you just have to take the opportunity and make the most of the experience. Taking my own advice, I have charged myself with bringing a new aspect of student services to FSU. I call it Advising 2.0.

Image from NACADA TECH

My concept is simple – meet the students where they are. This is a student services mantra at universities all around, but how many actually follow through? Better yet, how many actually know “where the students are”? This is my first hurdle. Luckily I am enrolled in a course for my MLIS (Master’s in Library and Information Science) on Assessing Information Needs, and one of our projects is to identify the information behaviors of a group. So, like a good little social scientist or cultural anthropologist, I will need to gather some data. What percent of FSU students are online? How often? What sites?

Once I have an idea of a baseline, it will become a matter of targeting specific needs in the student population and getting creative with meeting those needs. My first experiment will be to develop the “Advising First” brand in a small variety of Social Media sites. I’d like to see how utilizing these technologies can affect the value students place on their advising. From there, it will only be a matter of continuing to build our presence and interact with students in a new medium. Obviously, all personal advising will have to stay face to face, but I hope that establishing a presence online will give Advising First an informal and inviting face, encouraging students that advising at FSU is more than scheduling classes.

I am excited about this process and will continue to write about it here. Please feel free to let me know what you think. Do you, or would you, interact with professional development organizations (like advising at your university) through social media? What would make this process worthwhile to you? Should university offices stay out of the business of social media?

Please read over my proposal, and visit Advising First on Facebook, Twitter and Delicious. We are just getting started.

“Post-grad” OR “You Never Know Where You’ll End Up”

Last year around this time I had an eye twitch. I was under the gun to complete my thesis, and was probably behind on some deadlines. For work I was teaching an undergrad class AND single-handedly administrating the American and Florida Studies program, as the director had retired and I was the most invested grad student at the time. On top of all that, I had somehow volunteered to take on the advising of the ~30 American Studies undergrads. For the first time in my life, I was entirely overwhelmed with the magnitude of responsibilities I had taken on.

must... finish... thesis...

Aside from the pressures of my coursework and teaching, I was anxiously waiting to hear back from the 5 PhD programs I had applied to. Wifey and I were on the edge of our seats, ready to move to New York, Texas or Boston depending on which letters came back. A few weeks into March, I got word back from my applications – 5 “no’s” in a row. Needless to say, I was very disappointed and immediately my post-grad plan was thrown out the window. I was unsure of what applicable “work” skills I had after 6 years of writing papers on cultural theory, and despite my enthusiasm for the American Studies program I knew I couldn’t stay there part time.

I spent the summer working as a temp receptionist for a medical supply office here in Tallahassee, and did my best to not get to down about having an unmarketable Masters degree with seemingly abstract skills. It was a long summer. Then, I got the call. There was a position open as an academic advisor at my alma mater that I had applied for and totally forgotten. My brief stint as advisor in American Studies must have caught their attention. I had never even imagined an actual job at the university that wasn’t a professorship, and wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out there are a million little offices that make the university function as a business in addition to academic institution. Who knew?!?

I begun in early August with 2 full weeks of training and was placed in the College of Visual Arts, Theatre and Dance, an area I knew little to nothing about. But one thing was sure of, I was excited and grateful to have a job at all, and I was going to do my best. I dove in headfirst and would like to think that I have done pretty well advising Theatre and Art History students, helping them navigate university policies and college life. In my second semester now, I am starting to get the hang of things, and really enjoying working in student services.

The moral of the story? You never know where you’ll end up, what you will be good at, or how your path through various jobs can affect your interests differently than you thought. One thing I advise my students is to take every opportunity that presents itself and mold it into your goals. So, I may not always be an academic advisor, but for now I am doing my best and trying to make the position my own. In fact, as I am interested in social media/blogging/ect, I am in the process of proposing an Advising 2.0 strategy to my bosses. Who knows? I could end up being a big time social media consultant for Higher Education someday! (Gotta beef up that resume with “go get ’em” projects, right?)

To seniors who are about to enter the work world: keep your eyes open. The opportunity might not look like you expected, but you will have the chance to start somewhere and get a feel for the amazing amount of options out there. How many people actually go into a job that directly relates to their major right away anyhow? (Pretty sure Lauren Novo will! ;))