Main Sections

Section 1-4

Role of libraries and librarians in supporting goals of publicly engaged scholarship

University-based librarians have important roles to play in publicly engaged research. For scholars, libraries obviously offer crucial resources for conducting research, and some may also be able to provide resources to community organizations. Libraries can support public engagement efforts and facilitate connections between community organizations and scholars in many ways–for example, by hosting reading groups that bridge distinct communities (see Engaging the Age of Jane Austen); collaborating to create digital or material exhibits (see the SNCC Digital Gateway); consulting on issues of privacy and intellectual property; offering space, design assistance, and tools for digital projects, as well as flexible print publishing opportunities; and providing repositories for long-term access and preservation. Perhaps most important, as professionals focused on the broad circulation of knowledge, librarians can help scholars think through what it means to produce research in service to public, rather than solely disciplinary, aims. We explore these roles further in section 5.

However, there also exist challenges particular to publicly engaged scholarship that make publication more complex and indeed more important. For example, publicly engaged work is about process and methodology as much as it is about outcomes. What options exist for including all aspects of a project’s processes and methodologies, including failures and adjustments where applicable? Further, scholarly and public partners are collectively engaged in building the public humanities as a field of research and practice; how can all the voices involved in a project’s lifecycle be included in a project’s publication? And how can publicly engaged scholars effectively communicate these complex projects to their scholarly peers and beyond to a larger public?

As an MLIS student, you are likely to be introduced to concepts of public service, ethics, and the philosophy of librarianship (everything from collection development to the ways in which libraries can be crucial havens for unhoused people and families living in poverty). The collaborative aspect of librarianship embodies the same ideals that motivate values-based scholarly communication and the projects emerging from publicly engaged scholarship. Knowledge of publicly engaged scholarship, therefore, can be part of an MLIS student’s public service orientation.

Section 1 Summary: what have you learned?

  • Publicly engaged scholarship is conducted outside of the university, is highly collaborative, and has the potential to benefit all
  • Publishing engaged scholarship involves diverse partners, processes, and outputs and engages with broad audiences on issues of social concern
  • For MLIS students and professionals, the values-based nature of publicly engaged scholarship aligns with the ethics and ideals of collaborative librarianship

This OER was supported by a grant from the Scholarly Communication Notebook.

Last updated 2023-04-21.