Instant gratification: seeking scholarly literature outside the library: C-EBLIP Journal Club, August 24, 2017

By Jaclyn McLean, Electronic Resources Librarian
University of Saskatchewan

Caffrey Gardner, C., Gardner, G. J., & Gardner, G. J. (2017). Fast and Furious (at Publishers): The Motivations behind Crowdsourced Research Sharing. College & Research Libraries, 78(2). https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.78.2.16578

I expected that this article would strike a chord with my colleagues, and encourage a rousing discussion. Conversation was not limited to the article. We also shared ideas on:

  • the ethics of librarianship (what are they, are they clearly defined/shared in any real way)
  • our personal experiences with and awareness of article sharing and discovery through peer to peer (P2P) or social networks
  • the future of scholarly publishing
  • how we think libraries could do better

Of the six of us in the room, only 2 could not recall being asked to share an article with another person. The other 4 shared anecdotes and stories about this type of scholarly sharing, and the questions it raises about morality, or the ethics of librarianship. If the only reason not to share something is a moral imperative, then we’re in trouble. As librarians and technologically aware people, we know how to access things, and could, but often feel obligated to enforce the paywall. Is it time (finally) to move past the idea of the library, and of librarians, as access points and gatekeepers of information to one of playing a key role in research and advocacy, helping people assess information and learn more about scholarly publishing. Articles like this one could lead someone to rethink a liaison strategy, reconfirm one’s commitment to more permissive licensing of electronic resources, or lead to an evaluation of Interlibrary Loan (ILL) services.

Our discussion raised some very interesting questions/comments:

  • If someone can tweet out enough information using #icanhazpdf in 140 characters, why are ILL forms so blessedly complex? What can we do to raise awareness of desktop delivery services?
  • So publishers put up roadblocks to discovery in our proprietary systems. How can we raise awareness of tools like unpaywall, or the open access button? (want to learn more about these? Try this: Willi Hooper, M.D., (2017). Review of Unpaywall [Chrome & Firefox browser extension]. Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication, 5(1). DOI: http://doi.org/10.7710/2162-3309.2190)
  • Academics aren’t paid by publishers to create content, they are paid by universities and colleges that are often publicly funded, right? So why should they feel conflicted about sharing the results of their hard labour?
  • Open access articles seem to benefit from higher citation rates. Why wouldn’t someone want to share their work in a P2P network to raise more awareness? (learn more about the open access citation advantage: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159614 )
  • It is easier to play into the traditional publishing model and then subvert it than to engage and learn about/try to publish OA or amend an author agreement; easier to share P2P than to ILL; why should we expect anyone NOT to take the path of least resistance?
    • Is it really about getting someone the content they need, or is it about teaching someone how academic publishing and scholarly sharing work? (to use an outdated metaphor, do we give them fish or teach them to fish?) Can we make the shift from being a “get it for me library” to being a “teaching library”?
  • Can we as librarians get out from under the perception of us as a service profession, downloading items from a citation list for someone, shelving and checking out books, and the customer is always right mentality?
  • Why is it, in a time when we have students and faculty who can online shop, search hashtags on Instagram, and create online communities to share research, that we still can’t get them to use the library when the skills required are the same? Why????
  • We need to remember that, for the most part, for the publishers sharing research is not a moral imperative: it’s all about the bottom line & profit

In short, this article stimulated a lot of debate. I’d recommend you give it a read if you’re interested in any of the questions we discussed. And then read this:

Morrison, L., Stephenson, C., & Yates, E. (2017). Walking the Plank: How Scholarly Piracy Affects Publishers, Libraries and Their Users. In ACRL 2017 Conference Proceedings (pp. 740–747). Baltimore, MD. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/conferences/confsandpreconfs/2017/WalkingthePlank.pdf

And if you’ve got any answers, I’d sure like to hear them. The more I read on P2P networks, sharing and accessing scholarly literature outside of the library, open access, institutional repositories, and other related topics, the more I realize I don’t know, and need to learn.

*It’s certainly a hot topic (and has been for a while). Before I could even submit this post, the Scholarly Kitchen offered their take on SciHub et al. ()
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This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

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