All posts by Esmeralda Fisher

Open Access is Essential for a Well-Informed Society

Open Access Week 2016 is underway, and we at the University of Houston Libraries are joining in on the advancement of open access research.

Open Access Week 2016
Open Access Week 2016

The topic of open access holds personal significance for me. My brother had cystic fibrosis and underwent a lung transplant in 2010. When he was trying to do research about the surgery, it was difficult for him and his wife to gain access to information, as they were not affiliated with a university. They either had to go through interlibrary loan or through me, a librarian who could help them navigate the information-gathering process.

One of the things this experience taught me was just how difficult it is for people to get access to information that originates from federally funded research. I was thrilled that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has mandated that researchers who are receiving federal funding must deposit material, the output of the funding, into PubMed. Information should not just be accessible to those of us who are fortunate to work at universities; it should be open to all taxpayers. Scholars absolutely should be compensated for their works, and should be free to share their research widely. It is very important for us all to be informed citizens, and if the research is accessible, we can achieve this.

I’m honored to be a member of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) Steering Committee. Recently, SPARC has been working closely with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on defining needs of repositories for government agencies. SPARC is also investigating cost-effective scholarly communications models that benefit both authors and readers.

UH Libraries is actively advancing open access scholarship. One of the initiatives outlined in our Strategic Plan is to expand and promote repository services enabling researchers to acquire and use collections for research endeavors as well as to store, preserve, and publish research output. We’re creating a repository for our scholars so that they can deposit their works and have control over the access to that work, with the benefit of curating and preserving the important research being conducted at the University. We are also looking forward to discussions on how, as a University, we might tackle big data management and other forthcoming developments in the world of research.

Committee on Diversity and Inclusion

One of our core values here at the University of Houston Libraries focuses on diversity and inclusion. We respect all aspects of diversity and create an inclusive virtual and physical environment, for all learners, researchers, and library staff. We are responsive in providing spaces, services, programs, and resources that promote and value diversity.

As such, it is essential for us to embody these important values with next-level action. I am pleased to announce that a newly formed Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI) for the UH Libraries will soon convene. The Libraries recently conducted a ClimateQUAL®: Organizational Climate and Diversity Assessment survey to ascertain staff perceptions of the Libraries’ commitment to the principles of diversity, organizational policies and procedures, and staff attitudes, aiming to better understand the impact that perceptions have on library service quality. The formation of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion was an initiative spurred by the very positive experience I had with the Diversity Committee at my former place of work, a request by one of our new librarians, and as an outgrowth of our recent ClimateQUAL® assessment.

And it is, quite simply, the right thing to do. CODI will create programs and services which lead toward a richer and more inclusive experience for our students, faculty, and employees in support of the UH Diversity and Inclusion Statement.

Specifically, CODI will:

  • address issues and strengthen engagement while embracing a broad interpretation of diversity
  • increase awareness and sensitivity among employees, connect with University diversity offices and student groups, and help recruit and retain a diverse workforce in an inclusive environment
  • collaborate with the Assessment and Statistics Librarian to perform climate assessments and make recommendations
  • submit an annual report to the Office of the Dean

In the spirit of inclusivity, an open call was made for volunteers interested in serving on the committee. I was very pleasantly overwhelmed by the widespread enthusiasm shown by our outstanding group of professionals. We had twice as many people interested in serving on the committee than we could accommodate at this time, and everyone will have plenty of opportunities to engage in this important work in the near future. It is a heartening expression of the values that we champion.

The members of the inaugural Committee on Diversity and Inclusion Committee are:

Andrea Malone (chair), Modern and Classical Languages and Ethnic Studies Librarian
Frederick Young, Systems Analyst 3
Margaret Dunn, Senior Library Specialist
Matthew Moore, Senior Music Library Specialist
Julie Grob, Special Collections Coordinator for Instruction
Lisa Cruces, Hispanic Collections Archivist
Annie Wu, Head of Metadata and Digitization Services
Orolando Duffus, Business Librarian
Shawn Vaillancourt, Education Librarian

I would like to thank the committee members for their willingness to serve; I know they will do great work.