Bottoms-up for bottom-up

May 18th, 2009 by John

I don’t know whether colleagues in the US talk about effective change requiring initiatives which are both top-down and bottom-up, but it’s a pairing we often approve in the UK. It has perhaps been nowhere more evident as a strategy than in the development of repositories in recent years. The top-down work looks for mandates and policies and national declarations to make the behaviour change in the academic community that will liberate research and release journal budgets from being interminably mortgaged to large commercial publishers. But the bottom-up work is often more interesting.

And so we send congratulations to RLG Partner Brigham Young University’s University Librarian for the Harold B. Lee Library, Randy J. Olsen, who has just been awarded the inaugural Howard Goldstein Award to Advance Scholarly Communication. This award has been sponsored by SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Access Resource Coalition, and Open Access life sciences publisher BioOne. The SPARC news release says:

From his vantage point, Randy Olsen is in the perfect position to view the university library as a focal point for scholarly communication, capable of providing resources to support the entire process from creation to dissemination. As he explored the myriad publishing efforts taking place on his own campus, Olsen became aware of the challenges facing several publications based at BYU—either owned by university departments or handled by BYU faculty. He recognized that many were wrestling with the administrative burdens of peer review, and looking for cost-effective ways to publish current issues electronically, as well as to make their legacy content available online.

A pragmatist, Olsen initiated a series of concrete steps that have since provided sustainable models for a growing number of important campus publications. These solutions have likewise served as a direction for others to follow. It was Olsen’s idea, for example, to hire Jeff Belliston as the Scholarly Communications Librarian to identify and provide publication services and programs. In 2006, Olsen encouraged Belliston to develop an institutional repository that now hosts the legacy issues for 12 publications, with several more to come. In 2007, Olsen became aware of several campus journals in danger of extinction as print-only publications. Careful review of each journal’s situation resulted in a variety of solutions that range from a library-sponsored investment in the development of Open Journal Systems software for peer-review and content management, to customized varieties of Open Access publication.

Using library repositories within campus publishing efforts is on the one hand a seemingly obvious solution in which a workflow need is answered by a support service, and on the other, one which is really quite difficult to make happen, as I know from experience. So, raise a glass – of fruit juice! – to BYU (I still remember the clear-headed conference I attended there some years ago). Crucial as the top-down initiatives are, bottom-up efforts make more inspiring examples.

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