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Section 5-2

Librarians and publishing values-based engaged scholarship

For engaged scholars and their partners, navigating the possible multiple formats and platforms for a project, developing metadata to support greater discoverability and preservation, and deciding whether and how to archive project outputs are major aspects of the complexity involved in publishing publicly engaged research. Librarians have the expertise, skills, and resources to provide creative, values-based solutions to these problems.

Some MLIS programs now offer coursework and joint programs that support publicly engaged scholarship (often in the form of the digital humanities), including those at Wayne State University, New York University, and Dominican University.

As the examples given in this OER make clear, librarians are actively involved and often take the lead in developing publicly engaged projects. In the following clips from SPARC‘s Knowledge Equity Discussion Series, panelists Dorothy Berry (Digital Curator, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture), Dr. Kirt von Daacke (Assistant Dean and Professor, Department of History, University of Virginia), and Dr. Shaundra Walker (Director of the Ina Dillard Russell Library, Georgia College & State University) join moderator Kanishka Sikri (PhD candidate, York University, and Research Associate, Knowledge Equity Lab) talk about the roots of libraries, archives, and academic institutions in slavery and anti-Black racism and how they can begin to overcome that history by working with local communities. (To hear the full discussion, see “Examining the Roots of Universities in Slavery and Anti Black Racism.” SPARC, 28 July 2022,

How is the university library rooted in slavery and anti-Black racism?

Nothing about us without us!

Everyone involved has value and expertise to share in the co-creation of projects.

Community engagement as slow, but valuable work – giving the community the opportunity to be heard.

Trust building and commitment helps spread the word about the project and support buy in.

As an MLIS student, you are most likely focused on a specific area of study, such as public or academic librarianship, or an informatics, digital curation, or archival studies track. Whether your goal is to become a librarian in a community, school, or academic institution or to make a career at a nonprofit or for-profit organization, you may be asked to consult on or participate in a scholarly project that may include community partners. Outside of the workplace, many librarians are active in their communities and engage in collaborative work, offering their organizational and research skills to others. Scholars and community partners engaged in these types of publicly engaged digital projects regularly need help with things like metadata management, the identification of appropriate digital tools and platforms, and research that librarians can guide and facilitate.

As a librarian, what can you do when you are approached by a scholar doing engaged work? Two major issues are identifying appropriate outlets, including publishing partners, and identifying the values that motivate the collaborators.

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

Last updated 2023-04-21.