The SCOOP: Scholarly Communication at the Crossroads: Reflections on the ATLA Annual Conference

Submitted by Christine Fruin, ATLA Member Programs and Scholarly Communication Manager

This was my first ATLA Annual Conference since joining the ATLA staff last fall. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet for the first time so many of our members. I had the opportunity both to lead sessions on publishing and open access and to sit in on several sessions and learn about the innovative projects and creative strategies to overcome obstacles that are being employed at several of our member libraries.

Throughout the four days, ATLA’s intention, as stated in both its Strategic Plan as well as its Organizational Ends, to be a leader in and a hub of scholarly communication in religion and theology was reflected in keynote speeches, posters, and presentations. This intention was mapped out as a plan of action in the conclusion of keynote speaker David W. Lewis’s closing address when he challenged ATLA and its members to:

  1. Imagine what the open scholarly commons for theology and religion looks like.
  2. Make a plan to create that infrastructure.
  3. Create incentives and organizational capacity to solve the collective action problem.
  4. Make collective incentives to build the common infrastructure that is required to realize the plan.
APCC Members (L to R) Jennifer Woodruff Tait (Editor in Chief, Theological Librarianship), Miranda Bennett (Editor, Summary of Proceedings), Leslie Engelson (Editor in Chief, Theology Cataloging Bulletin), Matthew Collins (Editor in Chief, ATLA Press Open Books)

In furtherance of its goal of becoming the worldwide hub of scholarly communication in religion and theology, ATLA has already taken some steps toward meeting the challenge presented by Mr. Lewis. We are testing the ATLA Digital Library, an open access repository of metadata from our members and other organizations that promotes the discoverability and visibility of their valuable digital collections. We also continue to develop and promote our open access publishing program. This includes the ATLA Press, which publishes the open access journal Theological Librarianship and the open books publishing program, and ATLA member publications such as Theology Cataloging Bulletin, which will be moving to an open access publishing platform in 2019.

During the conference, the ATLA Press Coordinating Council (APCC) with special guest speaker Maria Bonn from the University of Illinois iSchool led a half-day preconference on “Writing for the Profession.” During the workshop, participants received guidance and advice on the writing and publishing process and had individual and group activity time to develop a research question and craft a writing and publishing plan.

In addition, with the guidance and expertise of ATLA’s Task Force on Scholarly Communication in Religion and Theology, we will also explore OER solutions for the study of religion and theology as well as continue to offer professional development opportunities such as workshops and webinars that educate our members on how they can participate in and develop their own scholarly communication and open access programs. I welcome and encourage ATLA members to reach out to me with their thoughts and ideas on what it means to be the hub of scholarly communication in religion and theology and what direction ATLA should take at the crossroads of scholarly communication.

Photo credit: Cassandra Jowett

The SCOOP, Scholarly COmmunication and Open Publishing, is a monthly column published to inform ATLA members of recent developments, new resources, or interesting stories from the realm of scholarly communication and open access publishing.

Christine Fruin is the ATLA Member Programs and Scholarly Communication Manager. As an attorney and a librarian, she has worked for over a decade promoting access to and use of diverse collections through utilization of fair use, open access, and responsible licensing.

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