Assessing Scholarly Communication Services – An IMLS-funded Project


Published: May 20, 2020 by Dr. Lili Luo

I’m a member of a great project team that’s working to investigate the best practices of assessing academic libraries’ scholarly communication services , and make recommendations for better tracking academic libraries’ engagement in supporting research and scholarship on academic campuses. The project is funded by IMLS and led by wonderful librarians from Sacramento State University and San Jose State University.

My role in this grant project is to provide methodological expertise in data gathering and analysis. I have been closely involved in designing and implementing the data collection instruments to gather input from librarians and campus stakeholders that will inform the project goal. We used the Research Lifecycle from the University of Central Florida to frame our data collection instruments, and the data has truly opened my eyes to the wide variety of practices in scholarly communication programs and their role in the campus research enterprise. 

The Research Lifecycle Graph from the University of Central Florida

The impetus for this project stems from the increasing need to meaningfully assess the impact of the rapidly growing scholarly communications services provided by academic libraries at M1 Carnegie classified public institutions, as noted in the project description:

With new technologies and paradigms for creating and sharing work, scholars across all fields have seen changes in research output, dissemination and preservation of the scholarly record, emergent publishing models, and the measurement of scholarly impact. Libraries have broadly defined their efforts to address these concerns as ’scholarly communication’ services. While many libraries have invested in personnel, software, and other resources to grow these programs, quantifying the actual outcome or impact of these activities remains elusive, beyond output measures such as simple counts of consultations, workshop attendance, or by repository downloads or growth. ”

A big part of the project was to organize the National Forum of the Assessment of Scholarly Communications Programs. The forum was held online via Zoom on May 4th and 5th. Attendees of the forum included experts from library assessment and scholarly communication librarians, and they presented and led discussions on how existing assessment techniques can be implemented for scholarly communication services. Here’s a list of topics covered at the forum:

  • Mapping scholarly communication programs to library, campus and consortial strategic plans
  • Going beyond impact factor
  • Measuring library “embeddedness” in the institution
  • Integrating scholarly communication services in instruction & the campus curriculum
  • Celebrating faculty scholarship through marketing
  • Being purposeful with metrics and scholarly communication
  • Funding scholarly communication including grant funding, APCs, OA costs
  • Multifaced assessment for scholarly communication
  • Measuring the intangibles of scholarly communication such as word of mouth, success of outreach, engagement, and logging of anecdotal stories and evidence

The forum aimed to result in a report with recommendations for standards and a comprehensive set of best practices in assessing the range of services that comprise scholarly communication program. My participation in the National Forum was such an enriching experience. The abundant ideas generated at the Forum will not only contribute to the research and practice of academic libraries’ scholarly communication services, but also offer great insights for library and information science educators to refine their curriculum on scholarly communications services. When the final project report is ready, I will be sure to write another CIRI blog post about it. :-)


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