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In Practice: An Interview with Colin Lukens (Harvard Library)

Published onOct 28, 2022
In Practice: An Interview with Colin Lukens (Harvard Library)
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In this interview, Colleen Cressman talks with Colin Lukens, Senior Repository Manager at Harvard Library. Colin discusses his work with the Harvard scholars who make their research open access through DASH, Harvard’s open-access repository. He also explains the importance of libraries and librarians in the open-access movement. And, in keeping with this year’s theme for International Open Access Week, Colin shares works in DASH related to climate justice.

Tell us about yourself and your role.

I’m Colin Lukens and I am the Senior Repository Manager for Harvard Library’s Open Scholarship and Research Data Services (OSRDS).

I assist and enable Harvard researchers who wish to use DASH, Harvard’s open-access institutional repository, to distribute their scholarship as broadly as possible and strategize and manage projects to improve the tools and services for them to do so.  

Can you say more about DASH and your relationship to it?

DASH stands for Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard. As an open-access institutional repository, DASH preserves and distributes Harvard-based scholarly outputs—journal articles, pre-prints, working papers, dissertations, theses, and reports—in a variety of disciplines and subjects, to a worldwide audience and free of charge.

DASH is sponsored by the Harvard Library and runs out of OSRDS; I manage the repository and all its services.

What are some common questions members of the Harvard community ask you?

I get a lot of questions from the Harvard community around deposit: Do I have permission to deposit my work? What can I deposit and what version of my work should it be?

I also get inquiries from recent graduates who are adapting their theses and dissertations into monographs or other genres of scholarship. Sometimes, they need to restrict access (usually, only temporarily) to the thesis or dissertation at the request of their publisher, and so I field that process.

In addition, I answer questions regarding waivers of Harvard’s open-access policies. When policy-covered Harvard affiliates are entering a contract with a publisher whose business model conflicts with a Harvard open-access policy, the authors can request a waiver of that work using DASH’s waiver generator.

And finally, I hear from folks around the world asking who can access works in DASH. These are the most rewarding to answer since it’s always a resounding, “Everyone can—and here’s how!”

What does 'open access' mean to you?

For me, open access, when mainly related to the DASH and its services, is centered on making scholarship of all sorts free of charge, accessible, discoverable, and unrestricted.

From your perspective as a librarian doing the work you do, why is open access to scholarship important?

For me, and I suspect I speak for librarians more widely, two central tenets of our work are discoverability and access. When we encourage scholars to, or assist them with, making their scholarly outputs as openly as possible, we assure the broadest access possible and aid in its discovery. Conversely, the openness of the content means we can ensure that our patrons and others in our library community can consume, reuse, and build upon the scholarship, data, and information more easily, confidently, and transparently. In short, open access is vital in helping librarians provide the best service they can to patrons and their community.

What selections from DASH did you choose to highlight for this year's Open Access Week theme of climate justice?

DASH contains nearly 220 climate-related works from a wide range of perspectives, disciplines, and authors, so it’s hard to highlight just one or two. This link will take readers to all the works, the bulk of which date from 2004 to today. I hope you will find something interesting or relevant!

How might someone compose a similar search for themselves in DASH?

DASH has advanced searching options, where users can enter any combination of keywords, subject areas, or authors to get a very specific results set. With that results set, further filters can sort or refine this even more. With over 57,000 works, most users are bound to find what they are looking for.

Why are libraries and librarians so critical to the open access movement, especially as concerns access to research outputs?

Libraries have always been about preservation and access, much like librarians have always been about helping patrons find the information and resources they need. Both were positioned to champion the cause of open access from the start: we understand it and can communicate its benefits to our community. We see the advantages of open access every day. Because of this, we are best suited to commit to the tools and infrastructure needed, nurturing a greater proliferation of open access research outputs. We also can (and should!) build relationships with content creators and distributors, advocating that scholarship increasingly be made open access. Since libraries, and their librarians, exist to serve those who seek knowledge, the truth, or to satisfy curiosity, we have an obligation to pave paths that assure equal and free access for all.   

Text: © 2022 the President and Fellows of Harvard College and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license

Media: Header image by Agnes Monkelbaan, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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