Ph.D./MLIP Candidate Profile: Tyler Walters, Virginia Tech University Dean of Libraries
posted December 2, 2013 5:00 AM
"To advance research, a culture shift needs to happen. It may take a generation to change, but we need to start somewhere now." - Virginia Tech University Dean of Libraries Tyler Walters
"The publishing ecosystem is broken," said Virginia Tech University Libraries Dean and Simmons GSLIS Ph.D./MLIP candidate Tyler Walters, who oversees 182 employees in the university's main library and four branch libraries, and provides services to the institution's extended locations in Switzerland, Dominican Republic, Senegal, Egypt, and India. The "university as a publisher" of scholarly content is an emerging solution to deal with the cost and other issues associated with today's traditional publishing. Through his research and leading by example, Walters shows academic libraries how they can help universities realize their publishing potential and become partners in the process. Bringing more than 25 years of archive and academic library leadership experience to the dialogue about evolving library services, Walters' award-winning paper "The Future Role of Publishing in University Libraries" proposes that libraries supplement their information management and preservation services with content production.
Although the information landscape continues to make an increasing amount of free content accessible to the public, problems persist. Exorbitant publisher subscription fees, lengthy peer-review processes that can make research results outdated, and growing evidence revealing that open access articles are cited more often than paid subscription serials, are among the reasons to consider producing and disseminating scholarly work in several ways. Meaningful content can also be found beyond peer-reviewed research journals and books in blogs, virtual communities, and social media networks.
Walters believes positioning the "university library as a publisher" is a possible solution to today's research issues. Although changing perceptions about how libraries do more than house information remain a challenge, academic libraries are ideally equipped to handle content collection, management, storage, and preservation needs. Walters has successfully demonstrated that university libraries can be effective partners in the content-generating process. When Walters was the Associate Dean at the Georgia Institute of Technology Library and Information Center, he developed and managed the SMARTech institutional repository (IR), which became the sixth largest IR in the United States and was rated the 22nd largest IR worldwide in 2010. SMARTech added ePublishing services to help faculty access, manage, and broadcast lectures, conference proceedings, and other scholarly work. "We need to inform our patrons that we can provide consulting, produce journal and conference proceedings, as well as offer social media instruction. Academic libraries are evolving from content providers into consultants engagement developers," said Walters.
"To advance research, a culture shift needs to happen. OpenDOAR, which is a website that enables searching across open access IRs worldwide, reflects the opportunities available for scholars to share research and advance several disciplines. National legislation and institutional policies are needed to implement the change. It may take a generation to change, but we need to start somewhere now," said Walters. "As information managers, we can add value by helping researchers format, organize, and preserve information for easy dissemination and retrieval."
Walters recommends that academic libraries establish publishing cooperatives to consolidate their combined resources, skills, and talent "as no one can do all of it alone." The libraries at universities such as Purdue, Columbia,
Michigan, Utah, and California are models of how libraries can organize publishing services and produce print and e-journals, technical papers, print and e-books, and conference proceedings. Also, the California Digital Library's eScholarship repository service is an example of library-based publishing, according to Walters. As a funding, educational, and mentoring resource, the brand new Library Publishing Coalition is dedicated to creating and sharing best practices for the library publishing field. Grants may be available for libraries working together as granting agencies are likely to contribute to efforts that will have a widespread impact.
How to create and sustain library publishing initiatives raises financial questions about how to support such a service. "The easiest money we have is in our existing budget. We need to prioritize goals, outsource, and re-allocate resources to shift in new directions. We can't expect to receive budget increases to accommodate new initiatives," said Walters. Moving toward the "university library as publisher" model may also reduce costs. "We are currently faced with a publishing monopoly. By increasing the number of publishing options, we are helping to create a mixed economy, which can decrease prices." Walters believes that "the focus on cost is the wrong paradigm" and universities need to move in a non-profit direction of publishing since established publishers have had time to refine costs. "We need to redefine our goals by working toward the greater good of increasing the exchange of information and improving collaboration. By doing so, we can move research communication forward more efficiently than we are doing today," says Walters.
To satisfy the need for new skills, Walters believes LIS students and librarians should pursue education in metadata, digitization, digital curation, repository management, and service and business models, to help libraries realize their publishing potential. He believes the publishing model is translatable to public libraries, as libraries move from providing content consumption to content creation services.
However, creating credibility for university-sponsored publications is a work in progress. "To gain tenure and prestige, faculty need to publish in a recognized top-tier peer-reviewed publication," said Walters. The explosion of social media conversations, data sets, blogs, grey literature, mainstream media, among other content resources, is generating knowledge that can be shared to advance various disciplines. New tools, such as altmetrics and Eigenfactor, are redefining why and how we measure the impact of information that goes beyond the number of citations received and the reputation of the publication that publishes the research.
In his tentatively titled dissertation, "The Future of Knowledge Creation and Production in University Research Programs and Their Effect on University Libraries," Walters is exploring the types of leadership needed to seize opportunities and overcome resistance to change in an academic landscape that is moving toward globalization in research programs. As a self-taught academic library leader who has been involved in high-profile projects, such as the Library of Congress's MetaArchive Cooperative, Walters decided to attend the Simmons GSLIS Ph.D./MLIP program to learn about "what leadership is and what it needs to be" in today's changing library environment. As a result of the program, Walters altered his library's approach to strategic planning to address collection, technology, staff, and budget issues in new ways. He hopes to use his Simmons GSLIS education to help libraries evolve in form and function to meet today's information users' and producers' needs.
By Dean's Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer