Submitted by Debbie Malone, VAL Committee member: This blog post is the third in a series of posts discussing the library value work being done by the ACRL Liaisons to non-library higher education organizations. We welcome Julianne Couture, University of Colorado, Boulder who is our liaison to the American Anthropological Association (AAA).
In August 2012 I was appointed as the ACRL Liaison to the American Anthropological Association (AAA), a professional organization for scholars and practitioners of anthropology. The association has approximately 12,000 members and attracts about 5,000 attendees to its annual meeting. AAA aims to advance anthropology and to further the professional interests of anthropologists. Its Statement of Purpose and the AAA Long-Range Plan provide an overview of the association and more information on its goals and objectives.
To determine my outreach strategy, I sought to understand the issues facing the organization and connect them with relevant parts of the ACRL Plan for Excellence. Looking through official AAA communication methods as well as exploring twitter, listservs, and blogs, I discovered that one major issue dealt with the future of the AAA publishing program and open access. Additionally, my work on ACRL Anthropology & Sociology Section’s Instruction and Information Literacy Committee prompted me to explore issues of student learning within the discipline. My objective was that engagement in these areas within a disciplinary association would also enhance the value of academic libraries.
The year prior to my appointment as ACRL Liaison, AAA sought to understand more about the sustainability of its publishing program by commissioning an analysis by a consulting firm and conducting a member survey. The association released the analysis in a report to AAA members which details the association’s current publishing trends and major issues it will face over the next few years. While this report is restricted to AAA members, the overall takeaway is the association faces a time where it must make critical decisions regarding the future of the publishing program and the options are varied and complex. Around the same time, outgoing American Anthropologist editor Tom Boellstroff (University of California, Irvine) penned an editorial calling for AAA to move to a gold open access publishing program after the current contract with Wiley Blackwell expires in 2017.
This provided context for my first year liaison activities and I focused on making connections within the organization and having conversations with other AAA members regarding the issues of open access, scholarly publishing and student learning at the 2012 Annual Meeting. This proved to be a challenging task since the association has 40 sections, 10 interest groups, and 20 association level committees. Many members focus on their sub-disciplines making it difficult to engage in conversations about overarching issues. I combed through the 700 page program book to select programs, meetings, and sessions related to open access, student learning, and scholarly communication.
My strategy of attending meetings and engaging in conversations related to scholarly communication led to an invitation to join AAA’s Committee on the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing (CFPEP) for a three year term. This committee’s purview includes examining the future of the publishing program and recommending changes and also includes the continued development of AnthroSource. While I am still a relatively new member of the committee, I welcome the opportunity to advocate for open dissemination and participate in influencing publishing policies.
AAA has taken some steps to make anthropological research more open including the launch of Open Anthropology, an online-only journal whose issues offer a selection of articles based on a timely theme. Additionally, AAA partnered with SSRN to create the Anthropology and Archaeology Research Network, a resource for grey literature in the discipline, and instituted a 35 year un-gating policy. To explore the feasibility of an open access publishing program, CFPEP put a call out to the 22 AAA journals for volunteers to pilot open access. Cultural Anthropology was the only journal to express interest and February 2014 marks the journal’s first fully open access issue. For an excellent overview of Cultural Anthropology’s transition to OA check out Savage Minds interview with the managing editor. These recent developments mean there are many opportunities to have formal and informal conversations around scholarly communication, how it is produced, how it is valued and measured, and how it is disseminated. My experience as ACRL Liaison provides me the opportunity to have these conversations at the national level and highlights one role academic librarians can take on at the local campus level.
The area of student learning is one where I’ve faced bigger hurdles. While there is a Committee on Teaching Anthropology under the General Anthropology Division, this is not a very active committee and there have only been a handful of posters and presentations related to teaching anthropology. I continue to explore ways to increase partnership with the association to advance information literacy as part of student learning. Recently, AAA launched the Teaching Materials Exchange as a way for members to share syllabi, assignments, class activities and more. I will continue to look for ways to strengthen partnership in this area.
I welcome feedback and suggestions on strengthening the relationship between ACRL and AAA. I’ve also been working with ANSS to communicate and collaborate with other anthropology librarians about the issues, trends, and general information I gather through my work with AAA.
Juliann Couture, University of Colorado Boulder