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Report on the Association for College & Research Libraries (ACRL) 2017 Conference in Baltimore, Maryland

Posted by on April 12th, 2017 Posted in: Advocacy, Document Delivery, Funding, Training

by Emily Chan
Scholarly Communications Librarian
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library
San Jose State University
San Jose, CA

With the generous support of a Professional Development Award from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), Pacific Southwest Region (PSR), I was able to attend the Association for College & Research Libraries (ACRL) 2017 Conference in Baltimore, MD from March 22-25, 2017. The theme for ACRL 2017, a biennial conference geared towards academic librarianship, was At the Helm: Leading Transformation.

My role as Scholarly Communications Librarian includes reaching out to faculty, staff, and students for deposits into the University’s institutional repository, SJSU ScholarWorks. Issues of copyright, license to distribute, and open access mandates compliance must be considered when posting materials to the repository. Prior to the full conference programming, I attended the preconference Law School for Librarians: A Tangled Web of Copyrights, Contracts, Courts, and Conundrums. This preconference offered a whirlwind crash course on legal matters that directly intersected with libraries. The presenter, Dwayne K. Buttler, J.D., posed the question, “How can the law protect the public interest, the free flow of information, privacy, and the rights of libraries to undertake their core mission?” During the all-day session, we considered the legal ramifications of delivering content through e-reserves, learning management systems, open educational resources, and interlibrary loan. Further, we discussed makerspaces, fair use, digital reproductions, authors’ rights, compliance with funders’ mandates, and licensing. This extremely worthwhile session will help when evaluating materials for campus repository inclusion.

Keynote Speakers

David McCandless

David McCandless, the author of Knowledge is Beautiful, Information is Beautiful, and The Visual Miscellaneum, was the opening keynote speaker. He addressed how the Internet has enabled our ability to process graphic information and that we are all visualizers. McCandless indicated that “data is the new soil” from which new domains of knowledge would be unlocked. As an example, he asked us to consider how data visualization could help clinicians with communicating lab results with patients. Could data visualization impact patient understanding and consequently effect change on the behaviors that need modification? In terms of how data visualization influences libraries, McCandless posited that information/data design and data visualization are intertwined. Furthermore, authenticity (and authority, for that matter) is a function of data design and visualization. In today’s information economy, data visualization is another camera or lens from which to view a topic.

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay, the author of Bad Feminist, How to Be Heard, and An Untamed State, read from her first published book, Difficult Women. In addition, she spoke of her recent experience with Simon & Schuster; she had removed her upcoming book, How to Be Heard, from their imprint when they signed Milo Yiannopoulos to a book deal. When Simon & Schuster cancelled the Yiannopoulos book contract, some critics contended that this harmed freedom of speech. Gay said while we are afforded the freedom of speech, there is no freedom from the consequences of what we say. She called for a greater level of community engagement from the attendees given the precariousness of specific groups in today’s political environment. She also reminded us that this political moment is varied and uniquely based in one’s identity and privilege.

Carla Hayden

Carla Hayden, the 14th Librarian of Congress, closed the conference. She spoke of her experience as Director of Enoch Pratt Free Library during the Freddie Gray 2015 Baltimore riots and how the library was a beacon of hope and community during that trying time. Additionally, she spoke of her role as the Librarian of Congress and the amazing items in the collection. Through her @LibnOfCongress Twitter account, she hopes to uncover the hidden gems in America’s collection and historical legacy. She affirmed the importance of librarians, their work, and role in today’s information economy.

Noteworthy Sessions Organized by Theme


Changing Tack: A Future-Focused ACRL Research Agenda
Vanessa Kitzie, Rutgers University; Stephanie Mikitish, Rutgers University; William Harvey, OCLC; Jaime Hammond, Naugatuck Valley Community College; Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC
This Chair’s Choice program emphasized future directions of academic librarianship research, which was derived from three data sources: a literature search, focus groups conducted with individuals from an advisory group, and semi-structured interviews with provosts. The team concluded that these are priority areas and research questions: 1) communication with individuals outside of the library and who wield power on campus, 2) collaboration with campus stakeholders and community members to leverage resources, 3) alignment of the library’s work to the University’s mission, 4) incorporation of the library into teaching and learning through the faculty and students, 5) connecting the library’s activities to student success, and 6) utilizing library data for learning analytics. I thought that the last item was the most interesting, as collection of user data would constitute the greatest change in philosophy and general practice.

Library use data was front and center of Data in the Library is Safe, But that’s Not what Data is Meant For: Exploring the Longitudinal, Responsible Use of Library and Institutional Data to Understand and Increase Student Success. This session looked at what barriers currently exist in connecting library use data to institutional data (e.g., library philosophy and values, lack of partnership with Institutional Effectiveness, data mining, working with vendors to obtain data, etc.), how to mitigate those concerns, and how some institutions have made those connections for the libraries’ benefit.

Scholarly Communications

You Say You Want a Revolution? The Ethical Imperative of OA
This lively discussion featured a panel of speakers who discussed the future and financial feasibility of open access. Among the speakers were representatives of Elsevier, SPARC, and University of Guelph. When posed the question, “What’s the tipping point for OA?,” I especially liked the answer, “When the default is open.” Not serving as peer reviewers nor submitting one’s work to traditional journals were among the recommendations to help change the system. While it was generally acknowledged that traditional publishers have added much value to the publishing process, there was concern that open access and article publishing charges (APCs) were another way to create revenue streams. APCs, in particular, were thought to be highly inflated, especially given how inexpensive data storage is today.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Predatory Publishing
Monica Berger, NYC College of Technology, CUNY
This contributed paper session defined predatory publishing and described the difficulties in identifying predatory publishers. Items to look for when evaluating a journal include: article publishing charge in relation to peer review/editorial review, rapidity of peer review and/or acceptance, similarities of the title with reputable journals, and “Indexed in SHERPA/RoMEO” – this is not an index. Look for where these journals may be indexed. Previously, one would have consulted Jeffrey Beall’s list of potential predatory publishers, but this list is no longer available. Berger emphasized that as librarians we help to break the conflation of open access to predatory publishing. There are problems with the business model for open access, not open access itself. Berger mused that as more traditional journals move to an open access structure, will open access journals lose that aura of predatory publishing, or will people still connect open access to predatory publishers?

Advances in Scholarly Communications Affecting Authors, Readers, and Libraries
Robert Boissy, Martjin Roelandse, and Henning Schoenenberger, Springer
This session was sponsored by Springer and focused on some of their scholarly communications advances that would affect authors, readers, and libraries. For libraries, benchmarking “good use” can be identifying institutions with similar educational and student profiles and comparing use statistics. For readers, the provision of free-to-read links to promote sharing and dissemination is on the horizon. Other advances include embedding Bookmetrix, an Altmetric-supported tool for books and book chapters, and a recommendation service, which would work with other platforms, like PubMed. For authors, discoverability is critical, so there is an emphasis on search engine optimization and metadata description. There was some mention of open citations, which would help librarians with populating institutional repositories.

Addicted to the Brand?: Brand Loyalty Theory as a Means of Understanding Academics’ Scholarly Communication Practices
Cara Bradley, University of Regina
Bradley offered brand loyalty theory as a way to understand why researchers continued to select traditional publishers over open access journals, even with the understanding that their work would potentially reach fewer readers. She discussed how brands have personality and that there is a construction of one’s social identity with the identification with or use of a brand. For researchers, they identify and want to be associated with those who have previously published with a particular journal title. Thus, they are aligning their work with the prestige of the journal and, likewise, expecting that the journal’s brand and personality will be conferred to their work. To address this potential phenomenon in scholarly communications, librarians will have to work closely with faculty members to understand, communicate, and address these brand loyalties.


I learned a great deal that I will continue to apply throughout the year. Attending ACRL provided me with more ideas and practical tools for connecting with faculty, students, and staff. I also learned more about assessing and communicating the value that librarians bring to the scholarly communications enterprise. Through my attendance I was able to identify metrics or benchmarks that I will use to demonstrate the growth, development, and influence of the institutional repository.

Conference registration also includes one-year access to the Virtual Conference, consisting of the digital archive of all keynotes; webcasts that were delivered digitally; and slidecasts from every contributed paper, invited paper, panel session, and TechConnect program presented at ACRL 2017. This is wonderful, as I was not able to attend all of the programs of interest. With access to the Virtual Conference, I will be able to view and re-view sessions that could impact how I perform my duties as Scholarly Communications Librarian. Thanks to the Professional Development Award from NN/LM PSR, I will be able to revisit ACRL 2017 programming to inform my professional practice for the year to come, which will directly benefit the faculty, staff, and students of San Jose State University!

Image of the author ABOUT Alan Carr
Alan Carr is the Associate Director, National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region, based at UCLA.

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This project is funded by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Cooperative Agreement Number UG4LM012341 with the UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library.

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