by Lauren B. Collister and Jackie Smith, University of Pittsburgh
For Open Access Week 2017, the University Library System at the University of Pittsburgh took a new approach for scheduling events built on outreach work done in prior years. The library, instead of hosting an event for OA Week all on our own, partnered with several departments to co-sponsor a talk of broad interest that wove in Open Access as a theme. That event sparked a number of other related events throughout the year, help Open Access reach a different audience, and led to new proposed partnerships for 2018.
Building an Advocacy Base:
The event was possible because we had spent several years building connections on campus. Through past Open Access Week events, our library’s e-journal publishing program, as well as outreach on our campus, the library developed a network of Open Access advocates and supporters. One of those Open Access advocates is Jackie Smith, a professor in the Sociology Department and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of World-Systems Research. Jackie had successfully advocated with the American Sociological Association to keep her journal Open, and had been one of our most outspoken voices on campus for the free access to research. She participated in past OA Week events, and in 2017, had an idea for one of her own related to the work that she was doing and the activism of graduate students in her department.
Creating the Event:
Inspired by Jackie’s idea to approach Open from the viewpoint of activism, rather than focus the event on Open Access, the library decided to take the approach of weaving Open Access into a broader discussion about internet freedom and activism for an open internet. Jackie invited Alfredo Lopez, co-founder of May First/People Link, to be the keynote speaker. Three departments at Pitt contributed to an honorarium and facilities and logistics for the event, while the library covered travel expenses. This sharing of resources created buy-in from the many participating departments, which increased the reach for advertising the event to new and different audiences.
With Jackie’s help, we asked Alfredo to give us a background on the topic of internet freedom, and we came up with the event Corporate Power, Surveillance, and the Future of Open Access. Based on Alfredo’s interests in surveillance and the impact of corporations on the Internet, we asked another outspoken Open Access advocate in our School of Computing and Information, Sheila Corrall, to contribute remarks about how the publishing companies were buying up the tools and resources used by scholars to create and share knowledge. By tying in the hot topic of net neutrality in the United States with a troubling trend in scholarly creation and publication, we were able to make ties between the two areas and introduce audience members to a broader application of the issues that they studied and its impact on the very work that they were doing in their academic lives. By bringing the Open Access conversation to the scholars, relating it to a topic that they cared deeply about, we built bridges and connections.
The Impact of the Event:
After Open Access Week, the discussion continued. Community members working to promote inclusion and social justice have continued to meet to find ways to help more residents learn about the importance of working to protect access to the internet and to information. Events have included Building a Just Communications System for Pittsburgh and Forged for All? Amazon HQ2, Human Rights, and the Future of Pittsburgh. There is also discussion among several faculty members about how to provide more OA resources for both scholars and for the larger public. This network of faculty and community residents is helping initiate plans for a panel or event for the 2018 OA week on internet access as a human right. This event will be linked to a broader series of events tied with the recognition of the 80th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights he discussion continued.
The model of partnering with a department to discuss Open Access has also garnered interest, as other departments on campus contacted the library to co-sponsor events for 2018. We plan to continue our model of partnering with departments, scholars, and centers at the University to bring more conversations to more scholarly places. However, we would not be in a position to do this work without a strong history of advocacy and work in our library and with our colleagues. We hope that this model will help others who are wondering about next steps for their Open Access Week planning and how they can take the conversations to another level.
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