Emily Boyd is a Business, Economics, and Engineering Librarian at Dartmouth College in the Feldberg Library. She will be attending OpenCon2016 on behalf of Dartmouth College through a scholarship offered by the Dartmouth College Library. OpenCon is a gathering for next generation professionals to learn about open access, open education, and open data. This can encompass anything from scholarly and scientific publishing to educational materials to digital research data. OpenCon2016 will take place in Washington, DC, November 12-14. To help us engage with Emily’s experience attending OpenCon2016, she has agreed to respond to some before and after interview questions. I sat down with Emily last week to ask a few questions about her upcoming OpenCon2106 meeting experience, and I will meet with her again once she returns.
What led you to apply for the Dartmouth Library Scholarship to attend OpenCon2016?
I was encouraged by colleagues within Dartmouth Library’s Education and Outreach program to apply. Since I am new to the library profession, I felt that I needed to know more about open access so that I can form own opinion. In the time that I’ve been at Dartmouth, I have learned that there are a broad range of opinions within the library about open access.
What experiences (professional or personal) have led to your curiosity about or interest in open access, open data, and open education?
In my previous position, I was working for startup where I had no access to lots of information that I had access to as undergraduate and graduate student. I found this to be frustrating. Since working in the Feldberg Library, I’ve had to explain to alumni seeking information that there are some resources that they could access as students, which they can no longer access as an alumnus. It can be challenging to maintain a positive reference interaction in these cases when I have to tell someone that information is not accessible to them. We don’t think about it until you don’t have it, and that is interesting to think about. I have been in the education sphere for most of my life and now I realize that access is easily taken for granted. I’ve also realized from a librarian’s perspective how easy it is to hit limits in terms of how much data can be downloaded at one time within the databases we have.
What have you learned about open access in the time leading up to OpenCon2016?
Something I’ve learned recently is the amount of data we have access to in databases that is funded by the government is mind-boggling, and I was not aware of that before. But, government databases are not always user-friendly. Subscription databases often do a better job expressing data that might be available openly somewhere else, but the open resource can be harder to use and therefore the information can be harder to find. For example, I recently helped a patron find information on the World Bank website. I found the same information in another restricted database and the data easier to use because it was prettier and cleaner. One issue that should be addressed within the open access environment is that “open” does not mean “digestible.” Government, tax-funded resources should be open and easy to use. I have been reading Open Access by Peter Suber, and he talks about how open access isn’t about giving everything away for free, and I find that reassuring. One concern I have had is that somebody has to make money and keep the lights on. Being at a startup, I was aware of this then and I am aware of it now as I work with entrepreneurship students. As an entrepreneur, it is important to work with data and back up your business plan with data. If you want funding, you need to back that up with information. Access to good marketing and industry data is important, but the idea of who pays for that access is interesting to me.
What have you learned about OpenCon2016 in the time leading up to next week’s meeting?
I didn’t realize how small the meeting is and how hard it is to get a spot to attend. There are only 150 people attending, which I find exciting. The last conference I attended was comprised of 30,000 people within the outdoor industry. A small meeting like OpenCon2016 should be a good opportunity to participate. Also glad, that it’s people who are early in their career like I am as we may share similar perspectives and motivations to change.
What questions do you have about open access as they relate to your role as Dartmouth’s Business, Economics, and Engineering Librarian?
I am really interested in open data, particularly as it relates to the field of Economics. Since I have been working with Economics students, I have a better understanding of what data they need.
I am also interested in the big picture of open access. What is the role of the library? I struggle with that. I don’t currently have a lot of interaction with professors about open access and I’m trying to understand what role I could have in this conversation. I would like to be able to educate professors, but maintain a good balance in how and whether to advocate for open access. If I believe in something, then I have no problem talking about it. Right now I don’t understand the big picture and ramifications to advocate effectively for open access.
What specific OpenCon2016 sessions or events do you think will help you discover the answers to these questions?
I am planning to go to everything and make good use of the Dartmouth Library scholarship that is supporting my attendance.
If you could identify one or two things that you’d like to gain from participating in OpenCon2016, what would they be?
I’d like to get a bigger picture idea of the open access movement outside of Dartmouth and understand who is engaged–what are their thoughts? Will people still be talking about open access in 5 years or will everything be open by then? I hope to also gain a better sense of the role that I can play. At the end of the day, I think that more access to information is good for everyone. Ideally, only good things can come from open access. But, I also understanding the practicality. Who pays for open?
Emily returns from OpenCon2016 after mid-November and a follow-up interview of her OpenCon2016 experience will be available soon after that.