A Successful Outreach – From Resistance to a Conversation About Open Access

By: Leslie Engelson, faculty librarian at Murray State University

Do you want to start a conversation with the faculty at your college or university about open access (OA) publishing?

Leslie Engelson_2Perhaps you can benefit from the experience I and four other faculty librarians (Elizabeth Price, Candace Vance, Rebecca Richardson, and Jeff Henry) had in our efforts to educate the faculty at Murray State University (MSU) about OA publishing.

Most faculty at MSU are tenured or tenure-track, and scholarly, research, and creative activities are a part of the tenuring process; however, the emphasis for many faculty is on their teaching effectiveness.

Our mission does not include aspirations to a research level institution and, for this reason, the need to address OA publishing has come late to the university.

After receiving encouragement, support, and suggestions from the Director of Public Services, our Dean, the Associate Provost of Graduate Education, as well as the Deans of each College, we launched our OA outreach with a survey to assess the knowledge and opinions of faculty in regard to OA publishing.

Common myths and misunderstandings about Open Access

That survey confirmed what we had surmised: that faculty at MSU often know very little about OA or, what they do know is based on the common myths and misunderstandings that circulate. Additionally, many faculty who took the survey registered a reluctance to publish in OA journals.

Educate the faculty about OA publishing

Based on the results of the survey, we decided to focus our outreach efforts on programs that would educate the faculty about OA publishing. By providing programs aimed at dispelling the misconceptions related to OA publishing, we thought we would be able to develop a campus-wide OA policy, create a climate that would support the implementation of an institutional repository, and establish a method for funding article publishing charges.

Unfortunately, while some faculty were interested, most of our initial efforts were met with responses that ranged from disinterest to emphatic resistance. Attendance at our programs was lackluster at best; however, our efforts sparked conversations with faculty who were generally unaware of the various opportunities and benefits that open access scholarly communication provides.

Focus your outreach efforts on the faculty’s concerns

We found when we focus programming on the more compelling concerns of faculty such as authors’ rights or evaluating journals, it is more successful. Even when attendance at programming is minimal, we take the opportunity to listen to the faculty so that we understand what their concerns are and focus our outreach efforts in that direction.

Support for faculty pursuing OA publishing opportunities

Administration provided funding for a new scholarly communications librarian position and an institutional repository, and established an endowment fund to provide support for article publishing costs. These advancements further the OA effort and demonstrate administrative support for faculty pursuing OA publishing opportunities.

Make a conversation rather than education

Thankfully, in spite of our naivete and arrogance, a growing conversation about OA publishing is gaining ground across campus.

After reflecting on our efforts, we now see that when we speak with faculty one-on-one, answering questions or responding to concerns about OA, they are more engaged and we have a better opportunity to address their misunderstandings or apprehensions.

A direct and personal result for us as librarians is that we learned that successful outreach efforts involve conversations where librarians do more listening than talking.

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