How did you wind up working in and with libraries?
Part of being a graduate student with ambitions of working in the university entails learning about how structures of the academy function. When I was doing my Ph.D., I went through this learning process and I was being encouraged to publish in specific journals, with specific presses and all the usual sensible moves for a career path. At the same time, I was setting up an interdisciplinary, online journal with some friends and was charged with running the technology. When it came to putting our platform online, it never occurred to us to put a paywall in front of it, but we also hadn’t realised that this subscription setup was the economic model behind most academic publishing. The entire economic system did not make sense to me, given that we couldn’t afford all the research material we needed, even while faculty were giving away their work to those journals in which I was being encouraged to publish. As time has gone on, my initial outrage has given way to a more considered intellectual and pragmatic set of paths. The reason I work with librarians, though (besides the fact that I greatly value the library as an institutional space, even if virtual, and wish it to continue), is probably because libraries feel the economic strain of the current economics of scholarly communication and most are glad to find a humanist interested in such discussions!
How do you stay motivated when working on a project?
I am privileged to have the freedom in an academic post to work on projects that I think are important and interesting, so I rarely find motivation a problem.
What do you view as the primary objective of your work?
The primary objectives of my work as it pertains to scholarly communications in the humanities disciplines are twofold: 1.) to spur humanists into critical, informed debate about the way in which we disseminate our work and the changes that the digital environment introduces (open access); 2.) to seek and implement practical models (both economic and social) to effect a transition to open access. My reasons for pursuing these goals, which sit behind the Open Library of Humanities platform, pertain to the future of the humanities and to addressing inequalities of access. Without public visibility, I fear for the future of the humanities disciplines. Even within our disciplines and institutions, though, there is a huge access gap that affects students and researchers from the smallest to the largest institutions. I want to work to address that.
Why are you excited to speak at the LYRASIS eGathering?
LYRASIS continues to be a great North American partner and it will be excellent to discuss the challenges and opportunities with a range of libraries from a variety of backgrounds.
What is your best advice for librarians new to open access?
Read the core literature, don’t panic and don’t buy extreme rhetoric. Peter Suber’s excellent book, Open Access (2012, MIT Press and itself open access), is a great place to start and it’s very readable. Martin Weller’s The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory (2014, Ubiquity Press, also open access) is a compelling account of how open movements are proliferating across various academic spaces and the challenges this creates. Finally, for a specific humanities take, my own Open Access and the Humanities: Contexts, Controversies and the Future (2014, Cambridge University Press, open access) may prove of interest.