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Information literacy as activism: standing up to the academic e-book industry - Rachel Bickley

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Information literacy as activism:
standing up to the academic e-book
industry
Rachel Bickley, London Metropolitan Universi...

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Purpose and aims of this session
• A brief introduction to/update on the #ebooksos campaign
• Discuss the impact of e-book...

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Who we are
Yohanna Anderson
Subject Librarian for the School of
Natural and Social Sciences at the
University of Glouceste...

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Information literacy as activism: standing up to the academic e-book industry - Rachel Bickley

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Presented at LILAC 2022

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Information literacy as activism: standing up to the academic e-book industry - Rachel Bickley

  1. 1. Information literacy as activism: standing up to the academic e-book industry Rachel Bickley, London Metropolitan University LILAC 2022
  2. 2. Purpose and aims of this session • A brief introduction to/update on the #ebooksos campaign • Discuss the impact of e-book availability and access issues on the information literacy of our students • Discuss how we used our own information literacy skills to raise awareness and seek to bring about change • Discuss the role of the information-literate librarian/information professional when faced with barriers to fair access to information and knowledge
  3. 3. Who we are Yohanna Anderson Subject Librarian for the School of Natural and Social Sciences at the University of Gloucestershire. Founder of #ebooksos and has led various campaigns including Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries, Voices for the Library, and a campaign to register students to vote in local and general elections. Rachel Bickley Liaison, Research and Digital Manager (previously Senior Academic Liaison Librarian) at London Metropolitan University, and #ebooksos activist. Was involved in developing the University’s Education for Social Justice Framework. Caroline Ball Academic Librarian for Business, Law and Social Sciences at the University of Derby, #ebooksos activist, awarded the Wikimedia of the Year award in 2020 and currently serves on the Wikimedia UK board of trustees.
  4. 4. What is #ebooksos? • The pandemic brought issues with e-book affordability, availability and access for university libraries sharply into focus as library sites were forced to close and students had to rely on online content • In Summer 2020, as it became apparent that these conditions were going to continue into the new academic year, three academic librarians (us!) put together an Open Letter calling on the UK Government to investigate the practices of the academic e-book publishing industry • The Open Letter was published on a Friday afternoon in September 2020 and attracted over 250 signatures by Sunday. Within one week it had over 1000 signatures. Today that figure stands at 4740 signatures. • The campaign was covered in the BBC, The Guardian, the Times Higher Education, WonkHE, and we even trended on Reddit! • In November 2020 the Education Select Committee told us that they “do not have the capacity to undertake this review” – but we didn’t stop there...
  5. 5. Next… • In November 2020 we made a submission to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and have met with and continued to supply evidence to them since • We continued to put pressure on the Universities Minister via MPs (although the Minister’s responses to their questions demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the issues!), and in May 2021 we met with a DfE advisor who wanted to know more about the issues with a view to preparing a briefing paper for the Universities Minister • October 2021: a joint statement on access to e-book and e-textbook content was released, representing the position of the library sector across a range of bodies, including SCONUL, JISC, CILIP, NAG, RLUK, APUC and SUPC as well as #ebookSOS (including encouragement to library directors to support our CMA submission)
  6. 6. A global issue • October 2020: the Library Association of Ireland releases a statement supporting goals of the campaign, and calling on the Irish government to launch a similar investigation • March 2021: the UCL e-books webinar featuring Yohanna attracts over 700 attendees from 14 different countries • May 2021: Yohanna is the keynote for the ABC 2021 Virtual Copyright Conference, Canada • Summer 2021: we begin to meet with Library Futures to discuss collaborative work • August 2021: IFLA offers their support to the campaign • November 2021: Yohanna speaks at the Charleston Library Conference (USA). • November 2021: Caroline and Rachel speak at an SLA webinar with attendees from various European conference Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels
  7. 7. How far the campaign has come… • “Even though the campaign initially started as a request for an inquiry into academic ebook publishing for UK universities, I think that as the campaign has progressed and developed, it’s become very apparent that this is just one aspect of the wider issue around fair and equitable access to information, not just in HE, but in general.” https://www.knowledgerights21.org/interview/a-bold-call-for-an- investigation-into-the-academic-ebook-publishing-industry/ • #ebooksos has fed into wider conversations such as Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) and the need for copyright reform
  8. 8. What #ebooksos is not •We are not an organisation/institution/body •We are not senior leaders in the field •We are not paid to do this! •We do not have the answers…but we are motivated by our belief that this is a necessary fight
  9. 9. So what does this have to do with information literacy? And what do you mean by information literacy as activism? Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels
  10. 10. Impact on the development of our students’ information literacy, because: • Reading lists dictated by what is available (not necessarily what the academics want their students to read) • Students having to “make do” without certain readings and use what they can access (even more so for some students with additional needs) • Packages/bundles supply books from one publisher • Academic freedom is impacted
  11. 11. But how information literate are we being in how we respond to the e-book issue? Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
  12. 12. Some definitions to consider… • “Information literacy is the ability to think critically and make balanced judgements about any information we find and use. It empowers us as citizens to develop informed views and to engage fully with society.” – CILIP Definition of Information Literacy 2018 • “Information professionals have a crucial role in advocating, supporting and enabling information literacy.” – CILIP Definition of Information Literacy 2018 • “Experts…understand that the individual is responsible for making deliberate and informed choices about when to comply with and when to contest current legal and socioeconomic practices concerning the value of information.” – from the “Information Has Value” frame of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education
  13. 13. Yet libraries are signing up to unsustainable models to try to address the crisis Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels
  14. 14. CILIP’s 7 ethical principles – do our policies align? Human rights, equalities and diversity, and the equitable treatment of users and colleagues The public benefit and the advancement of the wider good of our profession to society Preservation and continuity of access to knowledge Intellectual freedom, including freedom from censorship Impartiality and the avoidance of inappropriate bias The confidentiality of information provided by clients or users and the right of all individuals to privacy The development of information skills and information literacy
  15. 15. Questions that information-literate librarians should be asking of our collection development policies (even if you don’t do much collection development) Who are we spending our money with? Are we being transparent with our spending? Are we supporting all of our users? Is our money perpetuating systemic inequality? Are we acquiring short-term gains in exchange for long-term pain? Is the current market sustainable?
  16. 16. Seeing this information-literate behaviour in action… • Librarians all over the UK shared examples of high pricing, price rises and restrictive and changed licences from their own institutions in a spreadsheet (technically breaking the rules) which has been given as evidence to the CMA • We and others have spoken up on social media and in the press, potentially getting in trouble • Someone organised the crowd-sourcing of Open Access research methods resources that all could share with dissertation students struggling to access books during the pandemic • Telling students, lecturers and others about the issues • Information literacy as activism
  17. 17. “#ebooksos in one minute” video Explaining complex information in a straightforward and accessible way with our “#ebooksos in one minute” animated video
  18. 18. Transparency with our students and academics • Instead of simply saying “we can’t provide that” and “it’s not available” – telling students and academics why, and what we’re doing about it • Galvanising students and staff to sign the letter • Producing guidance for academics on how to approach publishing contracts to ensure that we can purchase their e- books – “Can my students read my books?” • Work going on in individual institutions to inform students and staff
  19. 19. So where has information literacy as activism got us? We successfully used our skills to bring attention, outside of librarianship, to one of the biggest issues facing HE today with the intention of instigating change. We used our knowledge to shine a harsh light on the situation we face, communicating this complex issue to those outside of our sector in a way which allowed them to understand how it was impacting teaching and learning in our institutions.
  20. 20. What next? More of the same! Our role as librarians/information professionals should go beyond teaching students to evaluate information for assignments, towards communicating to those outside of the librarian community the issues and decision-making behind collection development, critically evaluating our own practice, and fighting for fair access to information to facilitate academic freedoms.
  21. 21. What can you do? In this and future situations: • Use resources already created to help explain the issue • Be honest and open with students/staff/users about the issue, and what you are doing to try to change it (even if it’s a massive issue that you have no direct control over!) • Seek out support from the wider LIS community i.e. through Twitter • Be confident in your conviction that it is your role as an information professional to challenge barriers to equal access to information
  22. 22. Further info and getting in touch • #ebooksos campaign website • Email us at ebooksoscampaign@gmail.com • Use the #ebooksos hashtag on Twitter to join in the conversation • Join our Jiscmail list: ebooksos@jiscmail.ac.uk
  23. 23. Rachel Bickley Liaison, Research and Digital Manager London Metropolitan University Email: r.bickley@londonmet.ac.uk Twitter: @rachelsbickley

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