Publishing with Libraries

| April 2, 2011

Last week I attended the annual Association of College & Research Libraries conference in Philadelphia. Julia and I presented a poster on Pressible, and how our library is using it to expand the publishing possibilities available to our community.

Fig. 1: a flattering tweet about our poster session

I attended panel and paper sessions on “embedded librarianship, “building lean and mean web project teams,” and “connecting to the campus through creativity.” And Julia and I went to the great keynote on “declaring interdependence” by Raj Patel, the author of several books about food, economics, and democracy. Overall, it was a great day to think about libraries, information, and related educational issues.

I came away from the conference with a lot of different ideas. Instead of trying to make sense of it all (from project ideas to criticism), I’m just going to list a few:

  • Co-blogging. Librarians can support student writing projects by helping to host, edit, and collaborate around public blogging.
  • Augmenting reality. It would be cool to have an augmented reality mobile app for “seeing” alternative social perspectives. This app could make new kinds of choices possible by making them visible (e.g., choosing where to eat, shop, and hang out). But how could the data be generated, and by whom?
  • Reader advocacy. How can books better, and more directly, promote social action?
  • Cultivate a constituency. To strengthen democracy, all educational institutions need to cultivate student activism and civic-mindedness.
  • Pressible TV. What if made a short video of the daily headlines on Pressible? Could it better serve an audience that wants to read less but still be up to date about the community? If we had this stream of content, what else could we do with it (besides featuring it on the network site)?

Looking back at my notes, I see the theme of scholarly publishing emerging. Most of the sessions I attended touched on opportunities and problems around publishing—from the perspective of either a librarian, student, or scholar. I think these ideas stand out to me because there are so many opportunities around publishing at colleges and universities, not only “scholarly” publishing per se, but “educational” publishing more broadly.

The theme of our Pressible poster reflects this: our idea of “small ‘p’ publishing” is about creating new opportunities for students, researchers, teachers, and professionals to learn from and with each other. New technology and a lot of old-fashioned hard work is making it possible. And now that it’s possible, and on the rise, it only remains to be seen if these new avenues of publishing can have a positive impact on learning, and even a transformative impact on the education sector.

Overall, Thursday’s program was a very interesting and dense (sadly it was the only day I was able to attend the conference). I was appreciative of the conference organizers who clearly follow the “less is more” maxim when scheduling paper and panel sessions—the sessions I went to were attended by hundreds of seemingly attentive, inquisitive conference-goers. This alone left me with a positive feeling about the future of libraries.

Lastly, some quotes from Raj:

  • On the Dustbowl: “It isn’t an example of the ‘tragedy of the commons‘ because people were forced to enact the counterproductive behavior.”
  • On democracy: “Apparently the voting public thought Obama would be the pizza delivery dude of change.”
  • On hedge fund managers: “Luck [of class, education, and ability] isn’t the thing that should entitle you to that kind of money.”

Hey, I’ll be the first to admit, these were not ideas I expected to come from a library-related conference.