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Understanding the Role of the Office of Scholarly Communication

Scholarly communication has become a standard feature of academic and research libraries, and a number of research libraries have established an office of scholarly communication as one of its organizational units. Harvard Library established an Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) when the Faculty of Arts and Sciences passed the open access policy that would be followed by the other schools and institutes of Harvard. The OSC was meant to help the Harvard schools implement open access.

The provost’s office at Harvard helped launch the program by paying for the first year’s operation. In subsequent years, the provost’s office paid a decreasing portion while the library paid an increasing portion, and the Library will soon be responsible for the full cost. Dr. Sarah Thomas, Vice President for the Harvard Library, University Librarian and Roy E. Larsen Librarian for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, asked Ithaka S+R to conduct a landscape review of how offices of scholarly communication fit into other libraries’ organizational structure, how they are staffed, what they have accomplished, and their budgets.

At the outset, Dr. Thomas agreed to work with us as a partner on this project, and she agreed that the topic is of sufficiently broad interest that the results of our survey should be incorporated into a public report.

What we learned from talking with ten research libraries is that there is no common model for offices of scholarly communication. In some cases, the OSC is the vehicle for adding scholarly content to the library’s collections; in some cases, it is the mechanism to support research efforts on campus; and in some, it is a way to envision the digital library and its services.

We are grateful to Harvard Library for giving us this opportunity to explore this issue. Our hope is that the information we have gathered will be useful to other libraries as they think about their roles in the scholarly communication process. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

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