Chris Bourg on the Compelling Vision for an Open Digital Commons

Chris Bourg, by L. Barry Hetherington, available under a CC-BY license

MIT Libraries Director Chris Bourg is one of the most salient voices in the library community for open access, diversity and inclusion, ethics in scholarly publishing, and social justice. As a keynote speaker for this year’s CC Global Summit, she’ll be discussing the nuances of the Open movement as an advocate for the digital commons and director of a major open access initiative.

Chris’s tweets and blog are must-follows – her dog, Jiffy, is an adorable and frequent guest star. In this interview, she discusses tech optimism, storytelling, diversity, and the fallacy of neutrality. Join Chris and more than 400 open advocates at the CC Global Summit in Toronto from April 13-15.

As an open movement, it’s become difficult to live our values as the web’s content Commons have become increasingly enclosed and the halcyon days of internet utopianism seem long over. As a prominent figure in the movement and a crusader for open, how can we do better? What are tangible and intangible steps we can take as a movement to move the needle? How can libraries play a role? I think that generally speaking, I’m an optimist, but not a tech utopian. So I think we keep focusing on the ultimate goal and reasons for promoting an open digital commons. There are compelling stories to be told about the harms of information scarcity and knowledge monopolies, and there are equally compelling stories about ways in which open access to knowledge and culture helps us solve big (and small) challenges across the globe. We have to unearth and tell those stories, and bring more people and communities in to the cause. In some ways, the increasing commercialization of not just scholarship, but of our own personal, social, and behavioral data may be the wake-up call that leads to the next wave of organizing around creating a truly open, non-commercial, digital commons. I think libraries can play a role by acting as the trusted facilitators of information creation, exchange, and preservation that we have always been. A digital commons that combines the values of openness and sharing with the values of privacy and informed choice sounds an awful lot like a library to me – or at least the kind of network of libraries that many of us aspire to create and maintain.

In your position as Director of MIT Libraries, you are an outspoken advocate for open access and knowledge resources. The question of why libraries need to stand up for open access has been answered in a variety of places, but why are the MIT libraries central to this fight? A big part of what drew me to this job at MIT is the fact that MIT, and the MIT libraries in particular, combine a strong cultural commitment to openness with an equally strong commitment to building the infrastructure needed to openly share knowledge resources. MIT has led before in making the fruits of its research and teaching open to the world; with Harvard in 2008 and 2009 on passing Faculty Open Access Policies, and before by launching Open CourseWare in 2000, with the mission of sharing all of MIT’s course content online, for free. When the MIT Faculty passed the OA policy in 2009, they turned to the libraries to implement the policy. The libraries at MIT have long been seen as a key player in facilitating the dissemination of MIT research to the world, and frankly, we’ve been pretty good at it. Nearly 50% of MIT faculty journal articles written since 2009 are openly available to the world – that’s nearly 27,000 articles, downloaded nearly 9.5 million times.

We are in a great position in the MIT libraries to be able to partner with leading scholars across the Institute, in Engineering, Sciences, Business, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Architecture and Planning, to strategize on what’s next for open access. Through the work of the recently launched Ad hoc Task force on Open Access to MIT’s Research, which I am co-chairing with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor and founding director of Creative Commons, Hal Abelson, we are basically asking what’s next? How can we push the needle further, and how can MIT continue to lead? Creating a more open scholarly record will require changes at the technological, legal/regulatory, political, and social levels; so our task force has experts from all those perspectives represented. We are also reaching out to experts across the globe to inform our recommendations.

We talk a lot in libraryland about whether the open access movement and/or institutional repositories have been successful, but/and I think what MIT has been able to do in getting nearly 50% of the journal articles of our faculty in our open repository is a compelling success story. And that success story is an MIT Libraries story, so I feel some obligation to build on that success and to leverage it for the broader community of libraries and other organizations who share the goal of opening up our cultural and scholarly heritage to a global audience.

In his ALA talk this year, Junot Diaz pulled no punches when it came to the issues of diversity in libraries. “I wish that libraries would finally have a reckoning and know that [staffs that are] 88% white means 5000% percent agony for people of color, no matter how liberal and enlightened you think you are,” he said. You cited this quote in a recent talk as well. In your opinion, how can we do better as a movement for free and open knowledge? As librarians, researchers, scientists, and artists? How can we, in his words, “decolonize libraries,” or in the parlance of this conference, “decolonize open?” I think we always have to ask who and what is missing, and continue to work to not just be more inclusive, but also to decenter white, western knowledge; and center the knowledge of marginalized communities.

But/and, instead of doing it ourselves we need to look to the people who are doing this work in and with those communities. Two examples I love are the work being done by Anasuya Sengupta and her colleagues at whoseknowledge.org, and P. Sanaith’s work creating and maintaining the People’s Archive of Rural India.

Decolonizing scholarship and decolonizing the web will require radical collaboration across many social, geographical, and political divides; and will have to be based on mutual exchanges of knowledge and skills. All of that requires trust, which is something that takes time to build and is based on relationships and authentic human connection. So if we want to decolonize open, then maybe we need to decolonize our social networks first.

One of the longest running and most frustrating conversations within libraries is whether they are “neutral.” (As you write, you are strongly on the “hell no” side.) Can you speak to the politics of neutrality within the open movement, and particularly as it regards seemingly “neutral” actors like CC licenses and libraries? How does the conversation about “neutrality” relate to issues of diversity and inclusion within the free knowledge movement? I don’t think of CC licenses or libraries as neutral. They are both predicated on the idea that people ought to have the ability to freely create, share, and access knowledge and cultural materials. That’s actually a pretty radical idea. Even if CC licenses and libraries can be and are used to provide access to a huge range of ideas and viewpoints, that doesn’t make them neutral. One of the arguments I make is that you can’t be neutral if one side argues that certain ideas should not be available in libraries (whether those ideas are contained in books representing LGBTQ families, or in gatherings of neo-Nazis) and another side argues that you have to include all ideas and viewpoints. You can’t satisfy both sides – you can’t keep the LGBTQ book and not keep the LGBTQ book at the same time. I may start calling this the Schrodinger’s Library argument against neutrality.

The fact that libraryland continues to have these debates about neutrality is really frustrating, and is very much related to issues of diversity and inclusion. So many of the library debates about neutrality are theoretical and academic and detached, and I think that reflects the stark lack of diversity in our profession. Too often the argument that it is a moral imperative for libraries to represent all sides of an issue, and to serve all patrons regardless of beliefs, come from a position of privilege and relative safety. For marginalized folks, it can feel like these debates about neutrality are really debates about whether we have to honor and engage with people who deny our very humanity and seek our destruction. Many of us would argue that allowing those who deny the humanity and basic dignity of others to coopt the legitimacy of our libraries and our profession to spread their hatred and intimidation is not in any way a neutral choice.

What is the need for Creative Commons today and why are you coming to keynote the Summit? What I love about Creative Commons and the CC community is that it is driven by a compelling vision of an open digital commons, and that it provides the tools for people across the globe to choose how they want to participate in that commons. That combination of an abiding belief that openly accessible culture and knowledge are good for society, with a commitment to honoring individual choice is powerful; and it resonates with what I think is needed to advance the perpetual project of decolonizing and opening up the internet.

The post Chris Bourg on the Compelling Vision for an Open Digital Commons appeared first on Creative Commons.

The Quiet Revolution | University of Delaware Research | Trevor A. Dawes, the May Morris Librarian and vice provost for libraries and museums at the University of Delaware

“Trevor A. Dawes learned how libraries can change people’s lives when he was a college student. Now, he’s leading the charge to make the UD Library, Museums and Press an even greater force for good.  

Q. What led you to a career at the library? A. I never considered librarianship as a profession until I got a job working in the library as a work-study student at Columbia University. I had great mentors there who recognized my passion. James Neal, president of the American Library Association, is one of those mentors I still have today. David Roselle, president emeritus of UD and a former member of the OCLC board, also has been a great friend and supporter….”

Trends, challenges and opportunities for LIS education: an interview with Carol Tenopir | Library Connect

“[Q] How will open science influence LIS education?

 
[A] LIS education needs to address how open science issues, including open access and open data, affect scholarship, scholars and, ultimately, science and society. For example, there is the human side that involves helping researchers learn about and participate in the process, while recognizing their concerns. Librarians also need the technical skills to provide metadata services, manage institutional repositories and assist with research data management to further the open science practices at their institutions. Researchers are faced with funding and governmental regulations requiring deposition of data and articles in repositories. Information science professionals can help this happen by providing either repositories or links to repositories and helping researchers with the processes needed to deposit. Preservation is an important part of this as well. And the need for education about high-quality sources never goes away.”

 

A commitment to openness | Research Information

“I started life at Jisc as a programme manager, on a project that was jointly funded by the National Science Foundation in the US and Jisc. This was a fairly forward thinking project in digital libraries and from this, we began working on how to make sure researchers had maximum access to information and collections, and how we could do that collaboratively, building on expertise on both sides of the Atlantic.

At this, I managed the pilot site licence initiative, which in essence is what became Jisc Collections as it is today; it was about ensuring ongoing access as the world of journal archives became digital. The subsequent model licence, designed to provide a smooth transition from analogue, was, I think, a  world first, and the clauses added are aligned to the aspirations of the open access movement – as the world became born digital, open access was a logical next step. There were some real thought leaders in the sector at that time who made it their mission to ensure as many people as possible could have access to that publicly funded research, as a point of principle….”

Parallel universes: open access and open source [LWN.net]

“The parallels between this movement – what has come to be known as ?open access? ? and open source are striking. For both, the ultimate wellspring is the Internet, and the new economics of sharing that it enabled. Just as the early code for the Internet was a kind of proto-open source, so the early documentation ? the RFCs ? offered an example of proto-open access. And for both their practitioners, it is recognition ? not recompense ? that drives them to participate….”

Library celebrates C. Judson King’s new open access book on the University of California | UC Berkeley Library News

“The book is close to King’s heart for many reasons. During his time as UC provost, King helped launch both the California Digital Library, one of the world’s largest online libraries, and eScholarship, the University of California’s open access, electronic repository for publications by UC authors. King is passionate about the power of open access materials to strengthen scholarship and has made his book freely available online through eScholarship. The goal, King said, is to allow administrators in developing countries interested in building a university to access his book free of restraints….

King has experienced the role of open access publishing in spreading scientific knowledge firsthand. In 1980, King published a second edition of a seminal chemical engineering textbook he’d written on separation processes — operations that pull apart two or more chemicals in a mixture, like in the purification of seawater. After the book went out of print, King put it on eScholarship. Today, the book racks up 100 to 150 downloads per month on the digital platform, King said — which is equivalent to what it sold when it was brand-new. That highlighted for King the potential of open access publishing to help countless researchers around the world….”

 

EU research chief’s next act: changing the future of academic publishing | Science|Business

Robert-Jan Smits, one of Europe’s most powerful figures in research, has been appointed as a special envoy on open science at the European Commission, to help push efforts to make all publicly funded research in Europe freely available by 2020.

MyScienceWork, a scientific platform in open access – Paris Innovation Review

“The MyScienceWork scientific platform was launched in 2012 by Virginie Simon and Tristan Davaille with the aim of making scientific knowledge accessible to the largest possible public. A part of the open access movement, it now provides access to 70 million multidisciplinary scientific articles and 12 million patents. The main activity of this start-up, which has offices in Paris, Luxembourg and San Francisco, consists of the analysis of scientific data, which it undertakes both for educational and research institutions and for businesses….”

Old Lions Department: Cultural Historian Robert Darnton at 78 | History News Network

“Darnton’s main ambition [as Harvard University Librarian] was to open up the library to the rest of the world and share its intellectual wealth….Several projects started being developed: the digitization of all of Harvard’s collections that concerned North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth century (an enormous amount, 500,000 documents). “It’s gigantic!” Darnton exclaimed.

 

A digital repository was also created – it was called DASH – which contains the scholarship of Harvard professors and is completely free and available to the public. “It’s a way of democratizing access to knowledge and you can do it from a place that has critical leverage like Harvard.”

 

The next step was the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which began when Darnton invited a group of foundation heads, the heads of libraries, and computer scientists to come to a meeting at Harvard in October 2010 in order to discuss an idea. “Namely, shouldn’t we try to link up all the research libraries in the United States in a digital system that would make their resources available to all the citizens of the United States and the rest of the world?”

In April 2013, the DPLA opened its digital doors, and since then, its exponential growth has produced 18 million objects (books and other things) available free of charge to everyone….”