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Scholarly Communication Toolkit: Scholarly Communication Overview

Welcome to the ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit

The ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit was initially launched in 2005 by the ACRL Research and Scholarly Environment Committee (formerly the Scholarly Communication Committee) to support advocacy efforts designed to transform the scholarly communication landscape.

The toolkit is an educational resource primarily directed to librarians to assist them with:

  1. integrating a scholarly communication perspective into library operations and programs and
  2. preparing presentations on scholarly communication issues for administrators, faculty, staff, students, or other librarians.

The Toolkit includes short overview essays on key scholarly communication issues and highly selective lists of other sources of information on these topics, and copies of presentations, handouts, and similar material including materials from the ACRL Workshop “Scholarly Communication: From Understanding to Engagement.

All materials that are prepared for and directly part of the toolkit are made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike (CC-BY-NC-SA) license.


In 2016, ACRL conducted a major update of the Toolkit and migrated it to ACRL LibGuides. The Toolkit will continue to be updated and maintained by members of the Research and Scholarly Environment Committee's Toolkit Editing Team.

What is Scholarly Communication?

In 2003, ACRL defined scholarly communication as "the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. The system includes both formal means of communication, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, and informal channels, such as electronic listservs." Scholarly communication is frequently defined or depicted as a lifecycle documenting the steps involved in the creation, publication, dissemination and discovery of a piece of scholarly research. 

scholarly communications lifecycle

There are several actors or stakeholders present at the various stages in this lifecycle, including researchers, funders, peer reviewers, publishers, and, of course, libraries. Historically, the role of libraries in the scholarly communication lifecycle was confined to information consumer -- they collected and organized scholarly resources for discovery and use by others. However, technological innovation in production and dissemination of scholarship, challenges to traditional publishing practices concerning business models and intellectual property management, and efforts to increase access to scholarship have presented opportunities for libraries to leverage their services and expertise to advocate for and bring about positive change.

The ways in which libraries have innovated their services and programs and tapped into their collective expertise to become less of a mere consumer of scholarly resources and instead a prominent actor and information producer in the scholarly communication lifecycle include:

  • adoption of collection development policies and reprioritization of collection development budgets to strategically support open scholarship and positively respond to economic challenges of traditional scholarly publishing
  • development of tools or schema to assist in the evaluation of both subscription and open access journals
  • assistance to researchers with maximizing the impact of their research by supporting systems of researcher identification and promoting the use of altmetrics
  • development and hosting of local publishing platforms
  • utilization of the right of fair use, and advocating others to do the same, in order to promote preservation, access, use and discovery of materials in research and instruction
  • education of authors on their intellectual property rights and assisting with the interpretation and amendment of publication contracts
  • advocacy for open access to scholarship
  • facilitation of compliance with funder public access mandates
  • development and management of institutional repositories for the purpose of collecting, showcasing and maximizing discovery of institutional research output 

In this Toolkit, users will find information and resources to assist them in developing programs or enhancing current offerings aimed at these and other endeavors at their own libraries. Academic libraries are strategically positioned on account of existing relationships with publishers, faculty, researchers, authors, students, and administrators to be not only a resource but also a leader and change agent in the scholarly communication lifecycle, and we hope that content provided here assists libraries in achieving their strategic and programmatic goals.

How to Use the Toolkit

The Toolkit was designed to provide its users with a basic understanding of scholarly communication issues in the context of their impact upon libraries. For every issue covered here, users will find a brief introduction to the issue along with links to additional resources that have been curated and reviewed for relevancy, currency, and accuracy. Users will also find various tools, presentations, handouts and other takeaways that they can utilize as they develop their own local resources. Users are also welcome to use portions of this Toolkit LibGuide to populate their own local LibGuides.

Reuse of all materials is subject to: 

Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Contribute to the Toolkit

We encourage contributions to the Toolkit from its users and the academic library community. If you have a tool or resource that is valuable for advocacy and to the discourse of scholarly communication, please share it. This may include a paper, presentation, handout, video, or other type of useful material.

Email your contributions to the Scholarly Communication Toolkit Editing Team. Creators will retain copyright to all materials accepted. We ask you to explicitly allow others to copy, distribute, or modify materials for local use or educational purposes with attribution by selecting a Creative Commons license for your contribution.

Opportunities to Further Engage in Scholarly Communication

There are several opportunities for librarians to further engage in and learn about scholarly communication:

Further recommended reading on scholarly communication and academic libraries:

  • Ten Things You Should Know About Scholarly Communication - ACRL 2013  (PDF Handout)
  • Common Ground at the Nexus of Information Literacy and Scholarly Communication - ed. by Stephanie Davis-Kahl and Merinda Kaye Hensley, ACRL 2013 (ALA Store) (open access edition)
  • Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy: Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment - ACRL 2013 (white paper)
  • Library Scholarly Communication Programs: Legal and Ethical Considerations - Isaac Gilman (book)
  • Organization of Scholarly Communication Services - ARL SPEC Kit, November 2012 (open access edition)
  • In the Open (blog)