Originally published December 13, 2016 at https://libguides.viu.ca/libguides/DanaMcFarland/blog/open-access-through-the-ir-where-we-are-with-recruiting-faculty-work-how-we-got-h

This post might be the first of a few, describing our library’s initiative to support faculty in contributing work to the institutional repository, thereby making it openly available. Other libraries are certainly doing similar work, or elements of it, but in recent conversations with colleagues there seems to be interest in our process, how we scope and manage the work, and how we have been handling the inevitable, unforeseen questions and issues. Of course, our experiences and experiments emerge from and address our particular environment; our Library is situated in a small-to-medium, teaching-focused university with broad programming and an emphasis on undergrad and applied scholarly activity. Colleagues from other settings, bigger and smaller, have told me that they can’t imagine doing what we’re doing, or that they are beyond us in some aspect of workflow. Much depends on mandate, scale, staff capacity, technical infrastructure and support, budget, and other variable resources, but we’re happy to share what we’re up to, in case it may be helpful. A year and a half into this initiative, we have added close to two hundred faculty-contributed items to the institutional repository. Most of these were not openly available, many not even available online, previously.

In April 2016, we gave a brief overview of our faculty OA work as part of a technical services team presentation at the Vancouver Island Library Staff Conference (Sifton, Barney, Ogden & McFarland, 2016). I’ll use parts of Dan Sifton’s complete slide set from the presentation to give shape to this overview, beginning with this concise illustration of our purpose…

Our faculty OA initiative is made possible through our library’s institutional repository, VIUSpace, which we brought up in 2010. It also has origins in a research project with Royal Roads University Library into scholar-practitioner responses to emerging features of the scholarly communication landscape (Croft, McFarland, Reed, 2013), and has been powered by the willing and flexible participation of staff. All of this anticipatory activity on the Library side seems now to be converging with growing awareness and acceptance of Open Access in scholarly communication, and finding particular relevance as researchers look for means to fulfil Canada’s Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications.

Initial activity in the IR focused purposefully on digitization of special collections-type material (chiefly, the Gordon Edmundson Sturgeon Collection) which we see as within scope as it reflects the unique character of our institution and region. Faculty and recommended student work have been welcome from the beginning, but with modest incentive and awareness in the first few years VIUSpace accrued just a small body of faculty work, contributed mostly by Library faculty with a couple of noteworthy exceptions (from Anthro Brian Thom, then at VIU, and Graphic Design faculty member Karen Hodgson).

Subsequently, our research project to look into engagement of faculty with then-novel developments in the scholarly communication landscape and potential library roles related to scholarly activity, affirmed that many teaching-focused faculty at VIU produce scholarly and creative works that they disseminate in both traditional and non-traditional venues. With respect to Open Access, we found:

Conversations about scholarly profile flow naturally into a discussion of making work available in OA form, ensuring that the opportunity exists for scholarship to be viewed as widely as possible. Librarians may assist scholar-practitioners to assert their author rights with publishers in order to republish content in OA form, as well as provide education on suitable OA repositories. There is some confusion among scholar-practitioners on the subject of appropriate Open Access repositories in which to deposit content; for-profit sharing sites… (Reed, McFarland, and Croft, 2016)

At the time of our interviews the Tri-Agency OA policy was not yet released. Commercial scholarly networking sites, ResearchGate and Academia.edu, had attracted the participation of some faculty, but were still new and unfamiliar to many. Conversations that we had with faculty about these emerging developments helped us to perceive an imminent gap and an opportunity for Library services and infrastructure to fill it.

By the time the Tri-Agency Policy was announced early in 2015, ResearchGate and Academia.edu had attracted participation of a significant number of scholars who claimed affiliation with our University, as indicated in these screen caps where institution and department structure are replicated, kind of, in the commercial platform…

Looking in on these networking platforms, we have some sense of uptake among researchers affiliated with our University. It is impossible to know to what extent this represents genuine engagement, and how much is due to inductive, LinkedIn-style recruitment strategies. One of our IR contributors told us that he fell into ResearchGate quite by accident through trying to download a research paper and having to register in order to do so. Once in, he found that much of his own work was already represented there, unbeknownst to him. This seems to be a fairly common experience.

It is apparent that some of our affiliated researchers have chosen to offer full text versions of their work through these platforms. As an informed choice, this is fine. And best be informed, because it isn’t made obvious how to undo a full text upload. I have a hokey, screen cap, how-to video the surprising popularity of which attests to the desire of some contributors to change their minds. Fair to say the “confusion” we noted in our research interviews foreshadowed a potential for misapprehension of the role and use of these commercial platforms with respect to OA, particularly given the specifics of the Tri-Agency Policy as it came out (see item 10 in this slide, taken from the FAQ for the Policy)…

Our clarifying interpretation, shared widely among libraries I think, is that offering full text through commercial scholarly networking platforms does not fulfil the letter or the intent of the Policy on several counts: such services are neither institutional, university nor disciplined-based, they are not Canadian or in Canada, and while perhaps “free” they are not OA.

First things often being what you have to do right away this week, or today, we didn’t anticipate that researchers would come looking for help to make to grant-funded work Open Access immediately following release of the Tri-Agency Policy. But we did expect that they would come sooner or later, so in Spring 2015 we checked in with our Research Office and reviewed with our librarians what services the IR could offer to support faculty work. I also proposed to use information from ResearchGate and Academia.edu to identify researchers who were demonstrably interested in sharing their work, and to send these authors targeted invitations to also contribute to VIUSpace so that we could get a start to understand the potential for interest, workflow, and workload. At the same time, our library technical services group talked about how to accommodate the work of this initiative, and agreed to make it part of the workload of one of their flexible and talented staff.

With these endorsements and supports in place, I compiled a list and sent the following invitation in late Spring 2015. It is important to note that scholarship is not formally acknowledged as faculty workload at our teaching-focused place, so Spring and perhaps Summer is when we expect that faculty may find time for PD and scholarly activity, and might be able to engage with an offer like this.

There were about thirty invites in the initial batch. In each I addressed the recipient by name, made reference to the specific platform/s where they already were sharing their work, and made reference to their liaison librarian by name, in an attempt to authenticate myself.

My expectations for response were modest, and my sense of the workflow needed was a little speculative. Half a dozen interested responses by the Fall 2015 were just about perfect to allow for a manageable introduction to some of the complexities that I think we’re discovering routinely characterize this work. Those initial responses led both to requests to add additional publications, and to colleague referrals (word of mouth), building a nice backlog.

To recruit submissions on an ongoing basis, we are relying on a few strategies, including:

  • promotion through liaisons and existing contributors
  • new publication alerts for VIU-affiliated researchers that we have set up in Google Scholar and Web of Science – these trigger us to send an invitation
  • combing through department newsletters for new publication announcements

It also seems that a year out from release of the Tri-Agency Policy, as researchers come up to the expectation that they will publish OA within twelve months, we are seeing increasing interest in the IR, some of this facilitated through Research Office staff who are keen to demonstrate that accountabilities related to grants are met.

There is a lot more to say, but at this point it seems like good idea to conclude this opening post, and to offer space for a perspective on the workflows, issues, and concerns that are emerging in the work. That will likely come next.


Croft, R., McFarland, D., & Reed, K. (2013). More than meets the “I”: Helping your scholar-practitioners demonstrate impact in the academy & beyond. Electronic Resources & Libraries, Austin, TX

Reed, K., McFarland, D., & Croft, R. (2016). Laying the Groundwork for a New Library Service: Scholar-Practitioner & Graduate Student Attitudes Toward Altmetrics and the Curation of Online Profiles. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 11(2), 87-96. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.18438/B8J047

Sifton, D., Barney, D., Ogden, S. & McFarland, D. Transforming Technical Services, Opening Knowledge for the Community: A VIU Technical Services Sixer. Presented at the annual Vancouver Island Library Staff Conference (April 29, 2016, Victoria, BC).


Getting faculty work into the IR for Open Access: 1. Backstory and overview of process by Dana McFarland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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