Supporting Scholarly Communication (Part 1)

This is part 1 of a two part post about the ways in which a Liaison Librarian can help support scholarly communication.

Recently I was invited to interview for an academic librarian job and I was asked to give a job talk on the ways in which a liaison librarian can support scholarly communication at every step of its life-cycle. Not one to let hard work only be used once, I thought all of you wonderful Hack Library School readers would be a perfect second audience for what I found.

First things first, let’s talk about the steps of the scholarly communication lifecycle. There are many different models of what they could be, but in the end I decided to go with the five as outlined in the ACRL’s Scholarly Communication Toolkit: Research, Data Collection, & Analysis, Authoring, Peer Review, Publication, Discovery & Dissemination. Now that we have those life-cycle steps, let us use them to frame the rest of this post.

(Fair warning the interview was for a liaison position in the STEM fields and therefore what follows will be focused in that direction, but a lot of it should be applicable in other fields)

Research, Data Collection, & Analysis

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, it is very important to maintain a collection which supports the research in the department with whom you liaise. This includes journal and database subscriptions, monograph purchases, and even historical content for subjects which require it. The collection though will never cover everything so it would also be useful to know about the pre-print servers used by researchers in the subject you are supporting, such as The arXiv, as well as informing your users about helpful browser plugins like Unpaywall, OAButton, and Lazy Scholar which can help surface free version of articles. It is also important to keep on top of what information sources there are outside of standard scholarly outlets. This could be research blogs in mathematics, the critical theory Reddit, or the machine learning answers on StackOverflow.

Those are only about where researchers might get information though, a librarian could also help new researchers by creating research guides or with workshops on how to use important databases. They can also help create data management plans or, if your University if lucky enough to have one, connect them with the Research Data Services group. Finally librarians can help implement free tools such as the Open Science Framework which help facilitate collaboration and provides access control and data archiving.


Researchers have their research to do but their are many other aspects of authoring which can take away from their research time. One of the big ones is trying to understand copyright.An important role for a librarian is to help people understand their rights as authors of research. Both what rights they should expect and what rights they can request. One of those rights is pre-print publication. This is especially important in the sciences as it helps drastically cut the time from the conclusion of a research project to getting it in the hands of other researchers who can continue to push knowledge further. It can also establish primacy and has been shown to increase the number of citations.

Beyond rights another big area in which a librarian can support research authoring is in the realm of references. In particular a librarian can help verify reference lists. It is not an unknown problem for a bad citation to creep its way into a paper and a librarian can easily stop such a thing before it every gets to print. We can also help support the creation citable archives of data and software through services like GitHub, Figshare, or our own Institutional Repositories.

One last area of support for authors a librarian can provide is in the choosing of an outlet. In particular we can help point authors to relevant ethical or open access journals in an author’s research area or steer them away from predatory journal and conferences. Resources such as the Free Journal Network, Directory of Open Access Journals and Beall’s List are all great resources for this task.

Make sure to check back in a couple of weeks to learn about all of the different ways a librarian can support Peer Review, Publication, Discovery & Dissemination.

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