What does a digital scholarship librarian do anyway?

Posted on
June 4, 2018

When people meet me, they often ask what I do, and when I give them my title, Digital Scholarship Librarian, they are just as unclear on my job duties as before they asked. Then, I flesh out the role a bit more. Essentially, I work to promote and support scholarship which goes on around campus. This can entail several types of activities, including working to build and shape our institutional repository, creating resources and trainings around intellectual property issues (ever heard of "fair use"?), getting the word out about and supporting Open Education Resources (OER) and assisting university staff with their publication questions and more.

The majority of my efforts entail getting the word out about the university's institutional repository, W&M ScholarWorks, which is one of the most discoverable places for posting faculty and staff research, including articles, book chapters and educational resources. It's also the place for archiving W&M theses and dissertations. 

W&M ScholarWorks is optimized to promote university scholarship so that it comes up in the first pages of Google, Google Scholar and even foreign Google domains so if someone is Googling you, your publication topic or title, there's a good chance they will easily find it. We in the library also take steps to back up and preserve the information in the repository, so unlike those other sites like ResearchGate and Academia.edu, W&M libraries guarantees the permanence of your scholarship posted in the repository. Aside from marketing (can't you tell I do a lot of that?), I also spend a fair amount of time actually posting the content in the repository,  indexing it and attaching metadata to the documents.

One of the central aims for the repository is to make research as discoverable as possible in order to contribute to global discourse on scholarship and knowledge, so part of my role is increasing awareness of the importance of open access scholarship. W&M ScholarWorks achieves this not only due to the reasons I already mentioned, but also because it is open access, meaning that while the content is copyrighted, it is freely available for (licensed for) others to use. We always check on copyright permissions before posting, and for those instances where the final version of a publication isn't permissible to post, we can nearly always post an earlier ("pre print" or "post print") version, thus increasing access to research which otherwise may only be available behind a paywall. Once (if) you leave the university, you will appreciate having had access to so many library subscriptions! On the flip side, if you are submitting your content for publication, always try to keep your rights to it. (See our guide on author's rights.) 

Open Education Resources (OER) has become a hot topic with federal funding having been recently approved for them, and there is also a Virginia state bill which was passed to fund statewide efforts. W&M Libraries cares about OER because they can be used in place of expensive textbooks, saving our students money. At W&M, students on average spend $1400 annually on textbooks and ancillary materials. That can make or break some students' ability to afford school and graduate. Again, my role here is to educate on OER

Copyright is extremely clear, right? Nope!! I get questions for example when faculty want to post book chapters or digitize films, etc and put them on e-reserves. Students also request a lot of support in this area, particularly regarding their theses or dissertations. For example, some students have questions on whether they can add images of art works by other authors to their dissertation, or how to attribute passages to another author. A related area is about embargoes, which are stated time periods under which their thesis or dissertation will be controlled so that it's not downloadable from the repository. Keep me in mind as you consider your theses and/or dissertation topics. I'll be glad to talk with you about your options.

In the realm of author services, I serve in all of the aforementioned roles and am also available to help identify journals and publishers which are a good fit for faculty manuscripts, or to help with author agreements, where I'll work to support your retention of your author rights. I'm also on hand to discuss journal publishing, which can be accomplished via W&M ScholarWorks. Hope this helps you to understand a bit more about the role of W&M's Digital Scholarship Librarian. Please get in touch if you want to talk more about any of these topics!