Federations, Coalitions, and Consortia: Anvil Academic @ DLF Forum 2012

Thanks again to everyone at this year’s Digital Library Federation Forum for stopping by to ask questions and say hello during the Anvil poster presentation! The level of interest, the number of insightful questions, and the suggestions for future exploration were truly energizing and inspiring.

For anyone interested in taking a look, the full poster presented at DLF 2012 is available here.

As a first-time attendee I was especially moved by the willingness to embrace and instruct newcomers. During an interview session with Chelcie Rowell we talked about the general diversity on hand at DLF—especially the horizontal rather than hierarchical  treatment of rank and affiliation. Nametags were refreshingly devoid of rank markers, which, in the end, made conversations more productive and collegial than the usual quick-glance-sizing-up that happens at so many academic conferences. Jen Riley, Head of the Carolina Digital Library and Archives at UNC, Chapel Hill, put together a useful series of pie charts based on the participants list. It shows a reassuring gender balance among attendees. And, just as important, it also reveals a trend toward increasing attendance from outside the bounds of the academic library.

This inter-, intra-, and extra-institutional uptick is critical not only for the sake of diverse perspectives and inputs, but also because the library’s new (and renewed) commitment to being a production center means that partnership and external coalition-building will continue to define how libraries get work done.

That’s especially the case for publishing, which requires so many different operations and nodes of expertise. Anvil editorial board member Tara McPherson remarked in a recent meeting that scholarly publishing, and maybe publishing in general, needs to move toward a model that looks more like the modularity of film production (with divisions, units, and companies dedicated to specific tasks like set design, casting, lighting and sound, post-production rendering, sfx, marketing and distribution, etc.) than the current one-house-does-it-all format of the academic press. And if, as Kathleen Fitzpatrick suggested in her keynote address, scholarly communication reform begins by reforming the internal incentive structures, guidelines, and missions of both academic departments and presses, then by necessity, such reform requires insight and dynamism from various consortia that lie outside present authority structures. In other words, we need libraries, scholarly societies, and other non-profits and cultural heritage institutions to take part in both scholarly publishing output and the process of instigating and implementing reform.

Anvil is hoping to become one piece of this modular puzzle: a space for reforming peer and editorial review, and the ways that scholarship—especially digital scholarship—is legitimated in the academy.