Stay out of the shadows

Over the past few months I’ve been contemplating starting a new blog and was oddly provided the right motivation by declining to have a conference paper published. Proper etiquette dictates that I should properly introduce myself first. I am currently the eServices Coordinator at a single branch public library in Western Australia and over the span of my 11 year career I’ve managed to pick up several skill sets including server administration, simple programming, graphic design and anything else that takes my fancy. I tend to be an early adopter and have a terrible habit of pulling things (hardware/software) apart to see how it works (this does not always work out for the best!). Needless to say I’m always learning and open to new things which is why I enjoy working in libraries and see a bright future ahead for them.

Recently, I presented a paper at the ALIA National Library & Information Technicians’ Symposium 2013 entitled Why Do We Need One of Those? The role of the public library in creating and promoting makerspaces. This was the first library paper I have ever written and was quite excited to have it accepted and to present it at the symposium. Since writing this paper I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to speak at several other conferences about 3D printing and makerspaces in general, offering practical advice for other libraries looking to invest in this new technology.

Then something interesting happened, I received an email from the editor of the Australian Library Journal asking to publish my conference paper. At first I was ecstatic, not only have I managed to write and present a paper at a conference but now they want to publish it in a journal. Career wise this could only be good for me but I had a sudden thought at the back of my mind, ALJ isn’t an open access journal. Watching things unfold in the academic world in regards to the open access debate I’ve taken up the same position as some of my most respected colleagues such as Jason Griffey and Hugh Rundle who decline to publish in closed journals. These are strong ethical decisions that hopefully will benefit the wider library community by allowing everyone access to information rather than have it sit behind paywalls and the like.

The dilemma I now faced was to accept the request to publish and get my name out  in the library world or decline on ethical grounds and attempt to publish the paper elsewhere. As a good friend and colleague pointed out to me ‘it’s all very well for already published and respected people to decline on these grounds but you’re just starting out’. And while I see their point I feel that it’s even more important that people writing their first articles and establishing themselves in the library community are the ones to take an ethical stance. These closed journals will still have material if they take in inexperienced and new authors who (like myself) would jump at the chance to be published. By refusing to allow my paper to be published, hopefully I’m sending the message that the library community feels strongly about this issue and our commitment to the freedom of information will override any desire to make a name for ourselves.

What finally helped me make this decision was while researching ALJ’s open access stance I came across an article published recently in ALJ that I was interested in reading, however it sat behind a paywall. A quick tweet to one of the authors and I managed to procure a copy but the fact remains, I was blocked from accessing an article on the same journal I was contemplating being published in. Without much hesitation, I sent a polite letter to the editor and will now look at publishing it in one of the true open access library journals available.

In the end though, it did give me enough of a push to clean out some old web space, install a fresh version of WordPress and start this blog so it’s not a bad end but a good beginning I feel. I have several blog posts waiting on 3D printers, Raspberry Pi’s and a few other gadgets I’ve implemented in a library setting which will be up in the next few weeks. I’d also like to hear from anyone who’s been in a similar situation or perhaps is contemplating the same thing at the moment and has a different view.