THE Award Outstanding Library Team 2023

Spotlight: Times Higher Education Awards Outstanding Library Team 2023

In December 2023, the Library, Archive & Open Research Services (LAORS) team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) were crowned ‘Outstanding Library Team’ at the prestigious Times Higher Education Awards.

As long-time supporters of this award, we spoke to David Archer (Director of Library, Archive & Open Research Services at LSHTM) to discover the impact on the library, the university and the wider community.

Congratulations, David! What did it feel like to win the ‘Outstanding Library Team’ award?

Fantastic! It was unexpected. There’s so much innovative work going on across HE libraries and we were up against some very stiff competition for the award. I’m really pleased on behalf of the team to be recognised in this way.

Can you provide some background on your winning entry?

Our submission focused on the team supporting and driving forward open access and open research at LSHTM, including the launch of our open access institutional press in 2022.

LSHTM Press has got inclusive authorship and readership at its very core, which was set out early on in our statement of intent. I think the judges were really impressed by that focus on equity, diversity and inclusion in the mission of the press.

Also, in June 2022, LSHTM was ranked first in the world for the proportion of its research output that’s made available open access in the CWTS Leiden Ranking.

The work that the LAORS team have done to promote the benefits of open access, to support open access, and to make it as easy as possible for our researchers to publish open access has been a real driver for those successes.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Has winning the award had a positive impact on the university and beyond?

The award has helped us to raise the profile of our work both internally and externally.

In the university, the LSHTM executive team are particularly pleased. Our work is very much aligned to the institution’s goals of improving health and health equity in the UK and worldwide – access to health information is integral to that mission.

For example, the first journal on our platform has a strong practitioner focus that aims to facilitate continuing education for ear and hearing health workers at all levels of the health system, including those based in the community. It means that information can get out to people where it’s needed most and be applied in real-life settings.

Did the team face any challenges in implementing open access policies?

The biggest challenge was the range of slightly different and complex policies that were being rolled out over a similar period of time.

These had to be interpreted and then communicated to the researchers, who are all very busy people, in such a way that they could take them on board.

I think open access can still sometimes be seen as a burden rather than as a benefit, but we’ve worked really hard to change that perception. We’re very open to ‘open’ at LSHTM, but it’s about making it as easy as possible.

What kinds of strategies did the team employ to get the message out there?

It was a combination of lots of approaches.

We put together some easily digestible information that went out on our intranet and we created an infographic on some of the pathways to publishing open access.

Information was included in faculty and departmental newsletters, and members of the team attended faculty meetings to explain the details and answer specific questions.

Also, we targeted communications, working with our Research Operations Office and administrative colleagues, to make sure our message reached the right people.

Finally, we took a very personal and responsive approach. If anyone had questions, we offered a one-to-one phone call, Zoom call, or face-to-face meeting (after COVID-19). I think that personal connection was really helpful in establishing trust with people.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Library

Have there been any further developments since your entry?

The press has continued to grow slowly, which is how we want it to develop.

We’ve been asked to lead on strategic open science work at LSHTM, collaborating with academics and other professional support colleagues, to review what’s currently going on across the organisation, where there are gaps, and how we can further promote and support open science.

The award has also helped to put us in contact with other people we weren’t aware of who are working on similar projects. There are lots of great conversations going on and the potential for some exciting collaborations in the future.

How do you see the future of open access evolving within the academic sector?

Online open access presses at the institutional level continue to appear. The challenge is how to ensure that all the content is being surfaced and is accessible.

One of the key issues across the sector at the moment is how to find a sustainable model that enables authors who don’t have ready access to funds (such as early career researchers and those working in the Global South) to get their research out there.

There are lots of discussions going on and lots of interesting pilots and models coming to the fore. But I think that will be a big focus for the next couple of years.

Have you got any advice for other institutions looking to set up an open access press or promote a culture of open science?

First, ensure that open research and open science feature prominently in organisational strategies and work stream plans. It helps if an institution is genuinely invested in these initiatives and supportive of those who are contributing towards that direction of travel.

I think it’s important to give people within organisations the space and the encouragement to try out new things in this area with the knowledge that some things might not work, and that’s OK because if you don’t try, you don’t know.

It sounds like a cliché, but just continue to communicate and to collaborate – both within your organisation and as a broader community across the sector. By working together it’s a lot easier to achieve results, and it does bring benefits – immediate benefits and broader benefits as well.

To find out more about the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Open Access Press, tap here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Name *