Towards an Open Information Commons

David Lewis, Dean of the Library at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), recently challenged the library community to ask ourselves what we are doing to create a shared scholarly commons that is open to the world. For Lewis, such a commons consists of open source infrastructure for publishing, archiving, and reading; and a range of publishing options for scholars to share their work through repositories, journals, and open access books.

How is Middlebury contributing to the building of an open scholarly commons? In many ways, including:

  1. The creation of a Digital Collections at Middlebury, our new open-source repository that will house digitized works from our archives, student theses, scientific datasets, and faculty open access articles.
  2. We recently signed an agreement with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to serve as the Vermont hub for the project.  This will let us and our partners (such as the Vermont Department of Libraries) to provide data to DPLA that in turn will increase the visibility of our unique materials.
  3. We have been working with the Internet Archive to publish our unique archival materials, which has resulted in a spike in usage of these materials.
  4. We’ve also recently implemented a tool called ArchiveSpace which provides greater access to our print-based archival holdings through finding aids made searchable via a range of different search engines.
  5. Our faculty passed an Open Access policy in the spring of 2016 that will allow us to archive and openly publish copies of their articles.
  6. We are one of the founding college libraries of Lever Press, a consortial open access publisher focusing on “digital-first” online scholarly monographs.
  7. We have established funds to help faculty cover “article processing charges.” These are fees charged by for-profit publishers in order to allow articles published in closed (i.e. subscription-only) journals available on the open web.

Also, as part of the Envisioning Middlebury process, the College has established critical digital fluency as one of its key strategic directions. While there remains much work to be done to develop a common understanding of what we mean by this term, I like to think that our work in the area of re-thinking our relationship to the current system of scholarly communication, and in particular, our efforts to contribute to the building of an open scholarly commons, is one specific way that we can as a community influence the manner in which scholarship and digitized historical artifacts are created, shared, and used.

In this new year, we hope to continue these efforts, and expand them into new conversations about textbooks and open educational resources.  If you have thoughts or comments about these, or any other, library activities, please don’t hesitate to contact us or leave us a comment!