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ACRL/EBSS Scholarly Communication Committee

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.