Supporting scholarly communication: Considerations for library leadership

Irene M. H. Herold

I have been impressed by the wide diversity of topics that encompass scholarly communication, and the intellectual capacity and thoughtful prose that has filled this column. While familiar with scholarly communication issues as the head of a library and through the work supported by ACRL and its Research and Scholarly Environment Committee, which oversees such diverse activities as the Scholarly Communication Road Show to advisory statements on national information policy,1 I am not a scholarly communication expert. My research and scholarship have been on leadership and leadership development.

Starting from the question of what library leaders can do, I approach the topic of supporting scholarly communication from three perspectives: mentorship, effective partnerships, and the leadership role. I reviewed past columns from a leadership perspective. I also asked some of my “thought leader” colleagues what they saw as important trends and considerations.


David Clutterbuck views a mentor’s key role as encouraging mentees to reflect and make choices about the future.2 This definition contrasts with what may typically be thought of as the “sponsorship” approach to mentoring for career advancement. In the spirit of reflecting and moving into the future, ways of thinking about what may be needed to help our colleagues grapple with the changing work in scholarly communication can be summarized as follows.

  • Increase knowledge and awareness. Writing on the ARL Library Liaison Institute, Nisa Bakkalbasi, Barbara Rockenback, Kornelia Tancheva, and Rita Vine discussed the perceived skill gaps that librarian liaisons felt in view of new expectations with the increasing need to support scholarly communication.3 They identified five areas to address: project management, skill and attitude changes, empathy, relationship development for more effective learning, and expertise. They also identified training and reskilling as essential.
  • Engage with other disciplines. In the editorial introduction to Nancy Sims’ June 2016 column, a “train-the-trainer” concept was presented, whereby librarians become knowledgeable enough to “educate researchers about copyrightability as applied to scholarly publishing.”4 Maria Bonn reinforced this need for further education in order to broaden the role from person-to-person to one of library as an entity to the campus’ scholars: “The libraries step in to help bridge this gap between interest and expertise and develop frameworks of support for scholars.”5 Joan Lippincott, associate executive director for the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), summarized her thoughts about mentoring for scholarly communication as, “Librarians who are expected to partner with faculty should be mentored on how to build relationships, communicate their expertise, and facilitate both informal and formal interactions with faculty.”6
  • Reconceive liaison and team work. Amanda K. Reinhart talked about what is needed to be perceived as scholarly communication resources for the campus. She outlined the six skills of active listening (paying attention, withholding judgment, reflecting, clarifying, summarizing, and sharing), and likened learning about others’ needs in the scholarly communication arena to a reference interview, in which clarifying and meeting a user’s needs involves establishing trust.7 Ann Campion Riley described librarians, subject specialists, and technical staff as consultants in the data management realm.8 Riley pointed to the trend of data concierge, which implies a specific ability to connect a user to many different aspects of research data management.
  • Bridge local to global trends and actions. Riley also stated that librarians “need a specific body of knowledge, with training in local and nonlocal options for data curation, to help researchers effectively.”9 From Bonn’s perspective, libraries are uneasy with activities that resemble marketing, since they define their work as service and not sales. She suggested, however, that libraries are “systematically and strategically applying their long-held and well-developed skills in connecting users to information,” in this case for open access—a sentiment that applies across the scholarly communication landscape.10

There is a need for reskilling, open dialogue, and creating a community. Mentoring approaches should include acknowledgement that turning to outside experts is appropriate. We need to educate each other and reshape our thinking about what constitutes librarians’ roles in this changing landscape.

Effective partnerships

When considering effective partnerships in the area of scholarly communication, multiple entities come to mind. SHARE,11 SPARC,12 Library Publishing Coalition,13 HathiTrust Digital Library,14 and many other organizations and ventures have arisen to offer partnerships in the 21st-century scholarly communication world. However, figuring out which ones to work with can be challenging. A recent institution’s library partnership with a vendor to make the journal articles authored by the institution’s researchers more visible by ingesting vendor-supplied article metadata into their institutional repository received mixed responses, including one that called it a “Trojan Horse.”15

Chris Bourg, director of MIT Libraries, pointed me to several blog posts that describe MIT Libraries’ collaboration with MIT Press.16 Bourg and Amy Brand’s blog post described their work as connected to three communities: “the global academic community, the MIT community, and the community of library and press employees.”17 Another innovative approach in MIT Libraries is to place the collections budget under the scholarly communication program “to transform the scholarly communications landscape towards more openness, and toward expanded, democratized access.”18 In essence, MIT Libraries are creating new partnerships for scholarly communication within the libraries and with other campus constituents. It is a holistic approach to the changes in the scholarly communication environment within the academic and research library.

In addition to other entities with whom libraries may partner, consider the partnership we enter into with scholars. Helping researchers “to find places and ways to preserve the data in and from their research is an essential extension of the ways librarians have for many years helped authors find places to publish,” said Riley.19 Lippincott cautioned, “While librarians bring their professional expertise to partnerships with faculty, they must also be aware of the cultural and disciplinary environment in which faculty do their work.”20

Leadership role

When thinking about leadership in an evolving environment, John Kotter’s definition of change leadership as concerning the “driving forces, visions and processes that fuel large-scale transformation” is helpful.21 Kotter developed it into an eight-step approach to leading change.22 As students, Gennie Gebhart and Juliya Ziskina provided an example that exemplifies Kotter’s description of change leadership when they described the process of their campus adopting an open access (OA) policy.23 They gained support for the concept of implementing OA, met with diverse stakeholder groups, created a vision of how this initiative could be of benefit, and created “a united commitment to moving this cause forward.” Bringing together a “nexus of support” that removed barriers, Gebhart and Ziskina also drew on champions who talked to their peers about OA issues, generated short-term wins—such as the efforts to draft the resolution that passed—and instituted the first steps to implementing change that marked “a key threshold victory.”24

While Gebhart and Ziskina are examples of nonpositional leadership, Deanna Marcum, in Library Leadership for the Digital Age, suggests that those in positional library leadership roles require recalibration to meet the evolving world. She expresses concern about leaders who, for the majority of their careers, were firmly rooted in the print world but now are responsible for “articulating the digital library’s mission and vision. And most have been trained to focus on local collections, but now a national, even global mindset is key. And this different and necessary perspective requires a different kind of leadership.”25

I concur that library leaders need to be open to different and evolving perspectives. Successful leadership practices today require the same essential skills and approaches that made one a successful library leader in a previous era. An effective leader uses multiple approaches (is situational and flexible), creates a culture that invites experimentation and risk-taking (not failures but, rather, wins and learning experiences, to paraphrase Nelson Mandela), and is emotionally intelligent.

Kevin Smith, dean of libraries at the University of Kansas, notes two administrative issues looming in scholarly communication: It can no longer be the task of one person or a small team, but needs to be reflected in the values of the community, which in turn means we need to evolve our liaison models to a team consultant approach not only for service requests but also for acquisition decisions—whether purchased, stored, or harvested. Smith’s take affords a “big picture approach to facilitate the transitions” in how we spend funds and position ourselves “for the production of scholarship instead of its consumption.”26 Lippincott adds, “Library leaders can encourage their staff to better understand the priorities of their institution, the manner in which faculty are evaluated, and the ways that infrastructure assists or hinders their work.”27 Clifford Lynch, executive director of CNI, offered these thoughts:

One of the greatest challenges for library leadership for the next decade or two is finding a balance between participating in a national and global network of memory and knowledge management organizations and stewards of the broad scholarly and cultural record on the one side, and meeting the particular needs of the local institutions that they are employed by on the other. Closely related to this is balancing short-term and long-term objectives, commitments, and needs.28

Smith summarizes that the library leader’s role is “to help the library staff keep their eye on the ball—focus on why we are making these changes and understand that the changes are really ways that we can continue to serve our core mission to support the teaching and learning of our faculty and students.”29 Smith’s view aligns with the fourth goal area that ACRL added in 2016 to its Plan for Excellence, “New Roles and Changing Landscapes” (NR&CL).30 NR&CL focuses on equipping us to work effectively at leading, managing, and embracing change, which is certainly the situation in scholarly communication—a growing and changing field. Of course, if we revolutionize the academic discourse by employing change leadership along the way, being a catalyst for transformational change in higher education, while helping to understand NR&LC and scholarly communication, that’s good too!


See ACRL Speaks Out,


See page 3,

3. Bakkalbasi, N. Rockenback, B. Tancheva, K. Vine, R. , “ARL Library Liaison Institute: What We Learned About Needs and Opportunities for Reskilling. , C&RL News, vol. 77, no. 3 (March. 2016 ), 118-121 –.
4. Sims, N. , “My Unpublished Research was Scooped? Misconduct Reveals One Way Copyright Preserves Academic Values. ,” C&RL News 77, no. 6 (June. 2016 ), 296 .
5. Bonn, M. , “Computation, Corpus, Community: The HathiTrust Research Center Today. ,” C&RL News 77, no. 4 (April. 2016 ), 195 .

Personal communication with the author, June 13, 2016.

7. Rinehart, AK.. , “Getting Emotional About Data: The Soft Side of Data Management Services. ,” C&RL News 76, no. 8 (September. 2015 ), 438 .
8. Riley, AC. , “Data Management and Curation: Professional Development for Librarians Needed. ,” C&RL News 76, no. 9 (October. 2015 ), 504-5 –.

Ibid., 505.

10. Bonn, M. , “Maximizing the Benefits of Open Access: Strategies for Enhancing the Discovery of Open Access Content. ,” C&RL News 76, no. 9 (October. 2015 ), 493-4 –.




13. Library Publishing Coalition,
14. HathiTrust Digital Library,
15. Finnie, E. Eow, G. , “Beware The Trojan Horse: Elsevier’s Repository Pilot and our Vision for IRs & Open Access. ,”

See and





19. Reilly, . , October. 2015 , p. 506 .

Personal communication with the author, June 13, 2016.



The eight steps are: “Create a sense of urgency; build a guiding coalition; form strategic vision and initiatives; enlist volunteer army; enable action by removing barriers; generate short term wins; sustain acceleration; institute change. ,”
23. Gebhart, G. Ziskina, J. , “Students as Leaders in Open Access Advocacy: The Story of the University of Washington Initiative. ,” C&RL News 76, no. 10 (November. 2015 ), 530-33 –.


25. Marcum, D. , “Library Leadership for the Digital Age Issue Brief. ” (Ithaka, March.28. , 2016 ), 2 .

Personal communication with the author, May 22, 2016.


Personal communication with the author, June 13, 2016.


Personal communication with the author, June 14, 2016.


Personal communication with the author, May 22, 2016.



Copyright © 2016 Irene M. H. Herold

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