24 October 2016

Thoughts on the CAUL Negotiation and Influencing Skills Workshop

Along with a couple of other colleagues, I recently completed a Negotiation and Influencing Skills Workshop. This two-day course is organised ​annually by the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) and facilitated by Steve Lancken from Negocio Resolutions.

The philosophy of the course is that it is possible to build positive relationships with those we negotiate with and to expand the value that both sides can receive out of those relationships. This is quite different from the more traditional view of negotiation as a combative exercise in which one party wins and the other loses.

Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/meeting-relationship-business-1020145/. CC0 Public domain. 

The course encourages participants to adopt the Harvard Model of Negotiation or "principled negotiation". Some of the key aspects to this model include:
  • focusing on each party's interests (which can be met in lots of ways) not on positions
  • using objective criteria / standards to inform the discussions
  • taking a creative approach and brainstorming options without criticism or commitment
  • separating people from the problem (i.e. always aiming to maintain or improve a relationship, even during difficult negotiations)
  • having a good understanding of your alternatives if the negotiation can't come to a successful conclusion. 

Part of the course was identifying our own negotiating styles (without being too judgmental of our self-perceived shortcomings!) and being mindful of the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches. There was also a strong focus on asking open questions and developing good listening skills. Throughout the course, the importance of spending time preparing for a negotiation was emphasised, and there were lots of good tips about dealing with difficult people or situations.

The willingness of participants to share real-life examples was a critical part of the learning. Steve Lancken has a good understanding of the library sector and all participants had shared concerns and some common experiences, by virtue of being from higher education and from libraries. This sector-specific focus made the course even more effective in my opinion.

I approached this two-day workshop with some trepidation, particularly since I knew it involved role plays (not a favourite thing for introverts!) However it ended up being one of the best training courses I had ever been on. I have already been able to practice some of what I learned in recent chats with vendors of some of our library systems. I have felt a lot more confident and in control of the situation than before I did the training, and the outcomes of those discussions have been extremely positive.

The recommended text for the course is available to buy or to borrow from a number of Australian libraries:

Fisher, R., 1922-2012, Ury, W., & Patton, B. (2012). Getting to yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in (Updated and revised, Third ed.). London: Random House Business Books.

Highly recommended!

12 August 2016

Notes from Speak Up! Presenting at Conferences for the First Time

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the Brisbane panel for the joint ALIA/NLS8 event Speak Up! Presenting at Conferences for the First Time. I thought it would be useful to share some notes.

What makes a good proposal/presentation idea

It’s essential to have a clear idea of who you think the audience is for the presentation is and what they will take away from it. The takeaway could be new information, or a change of attitude, but in the best thing is when your presentation encourages audience members to take some practical action in their own work or professional practice.

Coming up with ideas

Ideas some to me in two main ways.
  • Something has been done in my workplace or professional practice that other people may find useful. Sometimes this can be something good, but often sharing experiences of something that has not gone well can be even more useful. Another panellist Fiona Emberton made the good point that being critical is OK but you should always protect your organisation and turn ‘fails’ into positives by focusing on the learnings.
  • Something that I have read or seen elsewhere has provoked a reaction of some kind in me. Usually the emotion that is aroused in me is curiosity, but sometimes it can be disbelief or anger that will drive me to action!

Collaboration and co-presenting

Collaboration is really rewarding. I personally think it works best when the collaborators aren’t too similar but instead bring something very different to the table. For example, the eResearch Australasia conference seeks to include Point-Counterpoint sessions, where two presenters offer competing perspectives on the same topic, almost like a debate.

People sometimes falsely assume that collaborating will be easier because the same amount of work will be shared out, but actually a successful collaboration requires more effort than working on your own. You not only have to get your own part right, but you need to work together to make sure that the whole thing is coherent. And while it can be tempting to think that you will be less nervous if you have a buddy, the opposite can be true - collaborators can fuel each others’ nerves rather than calm them!

The warning signs for a trainwreck proposal

My personal top three:
  • The proposer hasn’t followed the submission guidelines.
  • The topic is way too large for the requested timeslot.
  • The topic has already been well-covered at previous conferences (unless you are explicitly providing a new perspective, or extending/updating the previous work in some way).

Preparing the presentation

For work-related presentations, I have to use a branded Powerpoint template. Otherwise I use Google Slides which I find very clean and simple. I often find it useful to present from a PDF version - there seems to be less chance of the formatting go bung.

I think a lot about my introduction & conclusion and usually write those out in full because people will remember them the most. I usually have a rough script for the rest but I try to know the content well enough to just glance at my notes if I need to on the day.

The most important thing I do about a week before the conference is to do a full run-through out loud several times with a stopwatch. Despite my best efforts to keep it tight, I usually find that my presentation is 30-50% longer than I thought it was. Doing this a week before means I have time to reduce the content. It can be difficult to get rid of information you think is important but you need to be really ruthless and learn to kill your babies. There is nothing worse for you or the audience than getting the 5-minute warning card when you have 15 minutes of content left!

Feeling nervous

I still feel nervous every time I present. I often have presentation-related dreams or nightmares in the week beforehand and feel quite nauseous on the day. Although I don’t think I will ever not be nervous, the more I have presented the better able I am to regulate those emotions. I can observe how I am feeling with a bit more detachment and know that after the first minute or two I will usually feel better.

At the Brisbane event, the other panellists emphasised that a bit of nerves can be a good thing. Adrenalin can spur you on to deliver a great talk!

On the day

I try to get a good night’s sleep and stick to my normal morning routine. I try not to drink extra coffee as that just adds to the jitters! I arrive at the venue early and if possible I go through the following steps:
  • stand where I’ll be presenting and work out the layout of the room
  • make sure I know how the microphone works
  • quickly skip through my slides to make sure they are working as expected.
Introducing myself to the chair and other speakers helps me feel a bit more at ease. I always wear something that I feel comfortable in and that is suitable for having a lapel mike attached to it. I also often wear my lucky shoes and/or a ring that my partner gave me that has a computer key with the German word for Help on it!

Breathing is really important. Take a few deep breaths before you get started and don’t forget to pause at logical breaks. Sometimes I even write myself a reminder in my notes to stop and have a small rest.
I find it useful to have the stopwatch running on my phone and to have rough timings written in my notes so that I can check at different points whether I need to speed up or slow down or am on track.

Keeping an audience engaged

If it’s possible to introduce an element of interactivity, that is always helpful. This doesn’t need to be complex - a simple poll where people have to raise their hand in response to a question can be really effective.

Storytelling approaches are useful if they are suitable for your content.

You can also build in opportunities, especially at the end, for self-reflection. Ask a question or provide a challenge for people to take away.

Leave enough time for plenty of questions. No-one will be bothered if you go under-time if that means more time for questions! If someone you know will be in the audience, ask them if they are prepared to hit you with a Dorothy Dixer. Asking the first question is also a good thing to do if you are the chair and everyone is being quiet - you can get the ball rolling.

Handling tricky questions

Take a deep breath. Repeat the question back to the person to check that you have it right - this is a good practice anyway for live streaming and recording, as often the questions can’t be well heard by those not in the room.

If you don’t have a good answer, don’t waffle. You can throw it out to the crowd: “That’s a great question. I don’t have a response to that myself right now but I am wondering if anyone else in the audience might like to comment?” It is also OK to say that you don’t know but you would be interested in following up after the presentation.

After your presentation

Stick around in the room for a few minutes at the end in case anyone wants to approach you.

Make sure you are available during the next break so that people can talk to you over tea or coffee.

Share your slides on the web - I use Speakerdeck. Tweet the link to your slides and if you have a blog, embed your slides there along with a search engine friendly summary.

Finally, have a think about whether you can turn your presentation into a newsletter or journal article so that you can get your work out to an even broader audience.

The NLS8 idea I’d like to see

NLS8 could provide a space to open up a really important conversation about volunteering - the good, the bad and the ugly.

A huge number of Australians volunteer every year with organisations whose values they support. For new librarians struggling to get that first foot in the door, it can be a great way to get some experience when paid options aren’t readily available but I’m not sure that all organisations are meeting best practice guidelines. It would be good if new librarians going down the volunteering path knew how to set up their volunteering situation so that it was mutually beneficial and not exploitative.

30 June 2016

Connecting with new librarians

Well, there is five minutes of #blogjune left and this is my fifth post for the month - I knew there was no way I could commit to a post a day and was aiming for a post a week, so I feel like I achieved a goal of sorts! I have really enjoyed writing some posts, engaging on Twitter and checking out and commenting on other people's blogs too.

It's been a day for me of connecting with new librarians, which is always a treat. The 2016 QULOC Graduate Librarian, Eleanor Colla, finished today after spending three months at Griffith University; prior to this she spent January to March at the University of Queensland and is moving on to further stints at the University of Southern Queensland (July to September) and Queensland University of Technology (October to December). The QULOC Graduate Library Program offers a new graduate a year-long paid contract working across a number of uni libraries in Queensland (and sometimes NT and northern NSW). If you are a student or a new grad, it is worth checking out this scheme as it offers a lot of different experiences and great networking opportunities.

It's always a breath of fresh air having a new graduate to talk to, and so when a call came out for session proposals for the New Librarians Symposium 8 in 2017, I started thinking about attending. Although at forty-four with fifteen years in the profession I am far from a new librarian (is it just me, or is the term 'mid-career' really depressing, like one foot in the grave?), I still feel like a new librarian most days; perhaps because I have changed jobs regularly and am always learning new things.

I gave a talk on building a career in project-focused librarianship at NLS6 in Brisbane in 2013 and I found it to be a well organised and energising event, up there with the best library conferences I have ever attended. So I rang Amy Walduck today, who is one of the NLS co-convenors (and our local Queensland ALIA manager) and as a result of that conversation I think I will try to pull together both a panel session and another talk focused on technical skills and careers - stay tuned!

25 June 2016

Making connections at an alumni event

On Thursday night, I attended the first ever event held in Brisbane for alumni of Victoria University of Wellington.

I was invited to attend by someone from the VUW engagement team who contacted me on LinkedIn. I must admit my initial thought was that I definitely wouldn't attend. I knew I would be a bit tired having come back from holidays a couple of days before and the idea of standing around talking to a bunch of people that I didn't know and probably wouldn't have anything in common with really wasn't that appealing!

Anyway, I did eventually talk myself into attending. Since I moved back to Brisbane four years ago it's been hard to meet people and make new friends and on reflection I knew that I would have at least one thing in common with everyone - a connection to VUW and to NZ!

View from Victoria University of Wellington
Credit: View from Victoria University of Wellington by Allison Brown. https://flic.kr/p/oQDbRS. Licence: CC-BY-NC 2.0.

The evening involved a talk from Professor Frazer Allan, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Engagement), who updated us on how VUW was travelling in terms of strategic direction, capital works, university rankings and other things. He encouraged us to stay in touch with VUW and mentioned a number of ways that graduates could help, including by providing advice and mentorship to other VUW grads new to Brisbane, through philanthropy, and for those with university-age children considering sending them to NZ to study (where Australian students can still study at local fee rates - as I did back in 2001). There was also a guest speaker, Lance Weller, a VUW alumnus who had an interesting history in business and philanthropy on both sides of the Tasman, including being involved in establishing the Angel Flight NZ charity that provides air transport for rural people to attend distant medical appointments without the stress of horrible travel times and financial concerns.

The evening started and ended with drinks and networking. I met and talked to quite a few people, and guess what? I easily found something personal or professional in common with all of them other than the obvious VUW factor. They included:
  • Someone who who had studied history and philosophy at VUW in the 1950s before becoming a medical librarian at Otago and remaining a health sciences librarian for the rest of his career. Connection: fellow librarian! We talked about his experiences in the early days of library automation - so interesting for me given how technology-focused my role is now. 
  • Someone who worked in academic programs and student services at UQ. Connection: I did my first undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at UQ and worked there for a while too. 
  • Someone who had graduated in commerce and worked for Suncorp Bank. Connection: my brother works as a business analyst for Suncorp and she had come across him while working on some technology projects. Something I learned that I didn't know: she told me about the Suncorp innovation lab that she had been visiting that day, which sounded like a really interesting way of exposing clients to new technologies. This prompted me to do a bit of digging since we are talking at my workplace about methods for encouraging innovation. Check out this YouTube video about the Suncorp Group Innovation Days - how does this compare with your organisation's approach to doing new things? 
  • Someone who worked as a statistician on the Australian Longitudinal Women's Health Study. Connection: I had heard about this research project during my previous work in research data management. We talked about some of the challenges (storage, ethics) and he mentioned that the project was increasingly trying to open up its datasets to other researchers. We had another connection in that he had studied mathematics at VUW and I had done some work in that department when I was first getting involved in e-research support. 
  • Someone who only recently graduated in IT and was working as a web developer. Connection: we discovered that he works for the company that provides the web content management system for my place of work and that I had been considering approaching for a quote about some web usability and strategy consulting. 
Sadly I didn't meet my new best friend, but I had a great night and would definitely attend similar events in future. It was good to get out of my narrow library and higher education headspace and meet some people of all different ages from a range of industries and life backgrounds. 

13 June 2016

Why my professional development plan for 2016 is all about IT not libraries

Impostor syndrome featured in a few people's #blogjune posts in 2015. I wrote about some confidence issues I was experiencing as a librarian working in a university where IT services and the library are fully converged. Convergence is not a new thing in universities, but there is not that much written about whether this kind of environment could or should influence the skills and knowledge that people in library technology teams should seek to develop.

In my experience so far, success in a converged environment requires me and other members of my team to become (even more) hybrid professionals, able to wear library and IT hats at the same time or to switch between these as we need to. My professional education as a librarian, and probably more importantly the values of the library profession, do inform all the work that I do but I need to be credible and competent in forums where most if not all of the other participants will be IT professionals. Something that I have been pondering lately is what it would mean to fully embrace being an IT professional as well as a librarian. While most librarians I know are avid users of and advocates for technology in the context of our industry, that doesn't necessarily make us IT professionals. IT professionals have their own qualifications, career pathways, specialisations, professional organisations and values, and these are sometimes not well understood or respected by librarians.

This year professional development (PD) is emerging as the unofficial #blogjune theme. I don't have an approach to my professional development plan that is as comprehensive or as structured as Alisa Howlett's approach (seriously impressive!), but I do take a lot of time to prepare for my annual performance plan discussions with my director. This year, as part of that discussion, I flagged my intention to focus on the IT aspects of my role and came up with three activities:

1. Participation in Women in Technology (WIT)

One of my PD goals for the year was to find an IT community of practice that would enable me to do some networking with people other than librarians.

Screenshot of the Women in Technology website
I picked Women in Technology for a few reasons. Some librarians in my network are members. My university is involved in promoting WIT internally, since WIT's focus is not just on IT but also on life sciences. And as a feminist, WIT's vision to "advance, connect and empower women in technology and life sciences" is one that I can whole-heartedly get behind. So far I have signed up to receive email newsletters and joined the WIT LinkedIn group. I haven't yet gone to any events but I hope I will get to at least one later this year and will make a point of meeting and talking to at least one person that I don't know.

2. Enterprise Architecture

An IT colleague that worked with me on a project mentioned that he thought it could be useful for me to investigate getting some training in enterprise architecture, specifically in the TOGAF framework. In TOGAF the purpose of enterprise architecture is described as "to optimize across the enterprise the often fragmented legacy of processes (both manual and automated) into an integrated environment that is responsive to change and supportive of the delivery of the business strategy". There is a lot of crossover between what enterprise architects and what information managers are trying to achieve in an organisation like mine.

A training course and certification would be a huge investment both financially and in terms of time, but fortunately there are some good free PD options available. The first of these is a free online four-week course, Introduction to Enterprise Architecture. This is offered under the Open Universities Australia Open@Study branding, is presented by a well-known industry practitioner, and is really highly rated by students. One of the architects at my work had done this course and also recommended it to others.  He also pointed me in the direction of an overview video on YouTube provided by the same trainer.

My colleague noted that the Open2Study module is based around a formal course structure and doesn't go into the more practical aspects of application, while the YouTube video covers practical application as well. So I am planning to start with the video and then move on to the online module later in the year if I feel like I need that extra level of detail.

3. Service management

I'm currently undertaking some in-house training that will lead to a certification. On Thursday this week I will sit an exam (my first since about 1990 - eek!) for the ITIL Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management. ITIL was originally created by the UK government's Office of Government Commerce to help implement an efficient framework for IT Service Management (ITSM). ITIL has changed since its introduction in the 1980s and now offers a more generic lifecycle approach to service management covering strategy, design, transition (change management), operations, and continuous improvement.

I am finding some of the jargon in ITIL a little alienating but the core concepts are very applicable to my work as the manager of a library technologies team. Although both are a bit out of date, this 2007 blog post and 2008 journal article are good place to start if you want to understand more about how ITIL service management concepts can be applied in libraries.

06 June 2016

Remembering my MLIS class of 2001

In 2001 I moved to New Zealand from Scotland and started my Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) at Victoria University of Wellington. I'd decided after working in a university archive that I'd found my vocation and had been looking into moving back to my hometown Brisbane to do postgrad study at QUT. Wellington came up as an option later, after I'd met my then partner (who was into ice climbing and so needless to say did not really think Queensland would be ideal).

I quickly made friends with a small group of wonderful fellow students. Most of us were career changers in our late twenties / early thirties who were trying with some degree of success to complete the qualification as quickly as possible through full-time face-to-face study. We studied hard and socialised together a lot. A regular big night out involved an 80s music club night called Atomic (coincidentally run by another librarian that I would work with later at the National Library of New Zealand).

It was a pretty intense year but we all made it out the other end and embarked on our various career pathways as information professionals.

Sally was already working in corporate libraries while she was studying. She moved to London and has continued working at high-powered finance and management consulting companies in research and knowledge management roles. I saw her in London a few years ago. We don't really keep up with each other's day-to-day news but we are connected via Goodreads and have very similar taste in books. It's a slender thread stretched by time and distance, but it's still there.

Fiona livened up the library tours we did during the course by asking staff "So how's your job satisfaction?" I can't remember any of the exact answers but they were surprisingly candid! Fiona's moved several times to support her partner in her career as a journalist and they and their two boys recently moved from Auckland to Melbourne. Fiona started work in records management in a Melbourne hospital a couple of months ago, which she really loves. I saw them about six months ago and hope to see more of them now they are on this side of the Tasman.

John went on to work in the library at VUW for a few years and then went to the NZ Institute for Chartered Accountants, where he has moved through library management into a range of other managerial roles. I missed seeing John and his family last time I was in Wellington as they were away for a holiday, but I know I'll see them there sometime for a brunch at one of the cafes along Cuba St.

Tash, I have lost touch with. She got pregnant towards the end of the course and moved back to Auckland. I hope that she is doing OK.

Sadly, two of our classmates have died, both suddenly and both far too young.

Karina was the youngest in our class (straight out of her undergraduate degree, I think) but knew exactly what she wanted to do with her qualification. She wanted to be an archivist and in her short career and life achieved so much not just in NZ but in the entire Pacific region. She died in May 2013. Her friends and family still post to her Facebook page, particularly around her birthday and the anniversary of the day that she died.  I have no doubt that of the class of 2001, she would have been the shining star in the years to come.

Brendan collapsed and died at the gym in October 2010. By that time he was a well-respected member of NZ's government agency recordkeeping community. He was also a pedantic bastard so I can imagine how he would react to finding that the link to his obituary on the ARANZ website is now a 404. (Because why on earth would you expect a professional organisation for archivists to be able to appropriately archive their own content? And in a nice touch, ARANZ have also set up a robots.txt blocker on their own website to ensure that other agencies like the Internet Archive can't preserve their content either. Sigh.)

Long after others had left Wellington or were staying home with their kids, Brendan remained my stalwart dancing buddy for Atomic. I suggested a couple of songs for his funeral. Nena's 99 Luftballons, to which Brendan knew all the words in German, made an appearance as did The Smiths' There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.

I wanted to write this post because somehow it's been fifteen years since 2001 and because I'm grateful to have found the friends I did in that year. The MLIS was a springboard from which we have bounced in different directions, but I'll never forget them. 

01 June 2016

My first Twitter chat

I've been on Twitter for a few years (not so much of late), but Tuesday night was the first time I've participated in a live Twitter chat. It happened under the auspices of the International Librarians Network (though you didn't need to be involved in the ILN to participate) and some of the staff from the QUT Information Studies Group were facilitating and sparking conversations. The topic was professional development (PD) for librarians.

I really appreciated the chat guidelines provided on the ILN website. There was some useful advice there about tools that you could use. I ended up just adding a column to my usual desktop client (Tweetdeck) but I may try one of these next time. The organisers suggested letting your followers know that you would be participating in a chat so that they could choose to mute the hashtag if they didn't want to be bombarded. This was a great piece of Twitter etiquette (Twitterquette?) and not something I would have thought to do myself.

The organisers provided the questions beforehand, so it was possible to think a bit about the topic before the heat of the moment. Even so, on the night the tweets were flying so thick and fast it was hard to keep up! (Not even my 60wpm touch typing was enough. Though I still give thanks to my Mum for forcing me to learn typing in the 80s - on a typewriter! - it is a good life skill.) I was grateful to be able to go back over the Storify for the event the next day to see everything in context and to follow some of the participants.

Given that the conversation covered free ways to develop yourself and the importance of networking, the chat was actually a good example of the kinds of things that are readily available to us all as PD options, regardless of employment status and availability of funding. I saw some old friends, made some new ones, and thoroughly enjoyed spending an hour on a Tuesday evening with fellow librarians. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for further Twitter chats on topics that I'm interested in and would recommend joining in if you haven't tried it.

21 March 2016

#fundTrove letter to my MP and the Opposition Leader

The #fundTrove campaign has gone up a notch today:

So I finally decided to get off my bum and write to my local MP (Labor's Graham Perrett in Moreton) and to Bill Shorten. Tim Sherratt is gathering statements from peak bodies, sample letters, and a list of things that we as individuals can do - thanks Tim! These are a great help if you want to write your own letter (which I would strongly urge you to do). My letter is below.


Dear Mr Shorten and Mr Perrett

I am calling on you to reject the proposed funding cuts to the National Library of Australia, to stop the detrimental impact it will have on the NLA’s Trove service.

Since these cuts were announced, there has been a huge groundswell of support from thousands of individuals and from a wide range of organisations. The growing list of national bodies expressing their dismay at this decision include the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the Australian Society of Archivists (ASA), the Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD), the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), the Federation of Australian Historical Societies (FAHS), the Australian Academy of the Humanities,the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and the Australian Historical Association Statement.

I work in the university sector. Many universities provide information to Trove about research publications, including journal articles, books, conference papers and PhD theses. Trove is an important access point, visited more than 25 million times per year, where anyone can easily discover Australian research across all subject areas. 

Under Australian Research Council policy and National Health and Medical Research Council policy researchers must make versions of their work freely accessible to anyone with an interest in that research. The rationale is that the Australian Government makes a major investment in research and that to maximise the benefits from that investment, publications resulting from research must be disseminated as broadly as possible to allow access by other researchers and the wider community. 

To achieve this, researchers deposit their open access versions in institutional repositories, which are managed by university libraries. Through a process called harvesting, universities provide Trove with information about these publications. Exposure through Trove means access to a wider audience for the research, enhancing the government’s investment; by capturing the links between publications and grants through university contributions, Trove also provides a mechanism for the ARC and NHMRC to monitor compliance with these policies.

Trove also helps university research to be more easily adopted by industry and professional groups. One such group is policy professionals. A 2014 report from the Swinburne Institute for Social Research found that research that is not published commercially, including reports, conference papers and theses, “is a key part of the evidence produced and used for public policy and practice… However, finding and accessing policy information is a time-consuming task made harder by poor production and management of resources and a lack of large-scale collection services”. The authors of this report argue that searchability via Trove is an important step in efficiently and cost-effectively helping policy professionals to find the information that they need.

The proposal to cease aggregating unique content from content partners (unless fully funded to do so) will damage Trove. The comprehensive nature of the contributions from Trove’s content partners makes it the world-leading resource it is today: as a gateway to aggregated content, regular updates from current contributors and the ability to bring on new partners are paramount.

New contributing institutions will be unable to add content to Trove without paying. This will be a major obstacle to exposing new collections. The NLA has also informed its content partners that they will require payment should any changes to our institutional processes and systems impact existing harvesting arrangements.

This effectively means that universities who are already content partners are now restricted in their ability to improve their underlying software and systems and to send new types of content. At my own institution we were already part-way through redeveloping our institutional repository at the time Trove cuts were announced. We are now faced with uncertainty about our ability to contribute valuable research content to Trove and to meet our obligations to the ARC and NHMRC; we are likely to need to find additional internal funding to ensure our data can continue to be harvested successfully.

The development of Trove as a platform has already proven to be of enormous value to organisations that want to maximise the investment in research and in cultural collections by exposing their unique content to the massive global audience that Trove has garnered. I urge the Australian Labor Party to commit in your election agenda to funding the National Library to continue to maintain and enhance Trove.

12 March 2016

A response to ALIA's consultation on journal publishing

The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is consulting members and other interested parties about the future of its journals.

I would encourage all those with an interest in LIS publishing, particularly if you are an ALIA member, to consider providing feedback. This needs to be emailed to ALIA before next Wednesday 16 March.

The text of my emailed response is below.


Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on your discussion paper relating to the future of ALIA journal publishing.

I support some of the directions set out in the paper, including merging the two journals and continuing the Australian Library Journal’s practice of publishing some practitioner-oriented work without a full peer review process.

My comments here largely relate to ALIA’s approach to open access and the proposal to continue publishing the journal in a print format.

Approach to open access

I am an ALIA member whose primary role is as a practitioner. I engage with professional journals as both a reader and an author. 

As an organisation that in 2015 ran a high profile campaign for “a fair, open, democratic society where information belongs to everyone,” ALIA should demonstrate a commitment to open access to scholarly literature. ALIA can do this by adopting a journal publishing model that:
  • is free for authors to submit their work
  • is free for readers to access journal articles, including the version of record
  • promotes the use of Creative Commons licences, to ensure that re-use is maximised.
The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists more than sixty journals worldwide that meet these criteria, including well-respected publications like the Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication and the International Journal of Digital Curation. I would like to see the new Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association in this list. 

I strive to take an evidence-based approach to my work. I use the professional literature to identify new services and improvements to old services that could be implemented at my place of work. I refer regularly to research and practitioner case studies when producing documents such as business cases, project proposals and service reviews. I am lucky to work in an academic institution that provides access to paywalled journals (including ALJ and AARL) but this is not the case for many practitioners with an interest in the kinds of topics covered in the journals. While versions of some content may be available via an institutional repository or academic sharing network, this is by no means guaranteed.

The open access policies of publishers are an important factor to me in deciding where to publish work. I have been invited to contribute to ALJ in the past and have declined. I am unlikely to publish in an ALIA journal when open access outlets are available that offer quicker turnaround times and greater reach, and that sit more comfortably with my professional values and interests.

ALIA’s current approach to journal publishing tacitly supports a broken business model that is already unsustainable for many of ALIA’s institutional member libraries. Taylor & Francis take a more positive approach to open access than many publishers, however ALIA should still explore alternatives that better reflect the values that underpin our profession. 

This might also uncover some interesting opportunities in areas such as collaboration and professional development. Some of ALIA’s academic library members offer journal publishing services to the high standards required for journals to be included in national research quality assessments. Has ALIA explored this kind of partnership? The offerings of international open access publishers including the not-for-profit Open Library of Humanities and commercial Ubiquity Press could also be explored. 

Open access publishing might also attract a different set of volunteers than currently contribute to ALIA activities. The current model restricts participation to a few roles that require a high level of expertise (editor, editorial board member, peer reviewer). There are many new and established library and information professionals interested in improving their employability and gaining relevant transferable skills in writing, editing, and publishing. A more open publishing model could benefit members by providing internship opportunities and an additional way to earn points in the PD scheme alongside other association contributions like committee work. 

Publishing in print format

The consultation paper indicates an intention to publish a print and online journal, supplemented with further online content. I do not agree with this approach and think ALIA should be transitioning away from print as soon as possible. 

The results of ALIA’s member surveys seem to have disappeared in the latest website refresh so it is difficult as a member to assess the value placed on these journals by the membership as a whole. It is also not clear whether any consultation about format preferences has taken place, and if so, if the costs and benefits of different formats have been communicated to members as part of that consultation.

There are cases of smaller organisations losing membership and advertising dollars as a result of poorly-communicated transitions to e-only, and I understand that there may be concerns about this. However, these risks need to be considered in the context of the costs of a hybrid model. These are include:
  • the direct additional costs relating to printing and distribution, which will only increase per unit as more institutional subscribers move to e-preferred or e-only policies for journal acquisition, and
  • opportunity costs - maintaining a print journal will consume resources that could otherwise be used to extend or enhance a single online journal. 
Electronic journals also offer a richer environment for the presentation of work. This is especially the case for those that take advantage of web standards rather than attempting to replicate the print environment with PDFs as their primary format. Better mechanisms for citation, live links to cited works and other resources, and the inclusion of supplementary content not suitable for print (e.g. multimedia and datasets) are just some of the benefits.

These journals also open up a space for conversations between authors and readers that go well beyond the ability to send a letter to the editor. Enabling readers to easily share content via social media is also important in a world where the majority of professional networking takes place online and where engagement with a broader audience outside of academia is vital to our profession.

Thank you again for the chance to provide feedback. I look forward to hearing more about the results of the consultation.