2021 Cross-Pollination Reports: Maia Desjardins

The AUPresses/Library Publishing Coalition Cross-Pollination program provides registration waivers at both organizations’ annual conferences for members of the other to attend, in order to foster cross-professional knowledge sharing. In 2021, Hannah Brooks-Motl and Maia Desjardins received registration waiver grants to attend the virtual Library Publishing Forum; Robert Browder and Sarah Wipperman received registration waiver grants to attend the virtual AUPresses 2021.

Maia Desjardins, Digital Projects Coordinator, Wilfrid Laurier University Press

I had been working in libraries for over a decade before making the move to Academic Publishing in the already tumultuous year of 2020. I was eager to learn about new standards and workflow of the publishing world whilst still pulling from my knowledge of Library Sciences. When the Cross-Pollination Program was brought to my attention, I leapt at the opportunity to explore this intersection of libraries and publishing armed with my varying experience in both fields. I am glad that I did as it proved a great way to stay in touch with contemporary library issues and provided insight for my current role.

My position at Wilfrid Laurier University Press is unique in that I also work for the Laurier Library as part of the two units’ partnership. I manage the institutional repository (IR), Scholars Commons, and have long been passionate about Open Access and journal copyright. I enjoyed discussions on both BePress and DOAJ during the 2021 Library Publishing Forum as I am always interested in the ways institutions are pushing the boundaries of IRs, using analytics, and hosting more diverse media types. I think that IRs are often set up and then just given enough resources to function at a base level when, given the correct resources, they can truly shine and push open materials to new heights. A great example of this was Daina Dickman’s (California State University Sacramento) use of Story Maps and Scholia to make them more visually interactive and help trace materials, respectively.

Open access is just one facet of accessibility and in my work with digital materials, accessibility across visual and auditory abilities is vital in making sure all readers can enjoy Press and IR content. Race MoChridhe (Atla) offered an excellent breakdown of various formats and their strengths that highlighted the necessity for multiple and alternative formats wherever possible. This is something I’ve often wrestled with in both libraries and publishing as different formats have different functionality for different needs and it’s really helpful to see where options like text and audio need to be combined and where a simple PDF may in fact be most practical.

When it comes to formats, I was expecting the forum to be focussed primarily on data and text based media so I was happy to also attend events on podcasting. This is of interest to me with the Press’ involvement in the Amplify Podcast Network and the Press and Library’s collaboration on an upcoming podcasting studio. Podcasts and audio-based media have potential to play a larger role in Scholarly Communication and academic tenure in the future and it’s exciting to see this reflected in conferences. I think this is an area where libraries and presses can really collaborate and one that is already built on the principals of open access that will hopefully lead to greater research accessibility (in terms of cost and also varying academic backgrounds) given podcasts wide reaching appeal. 

While I could easily apply these sessions to my work in publishing and libraries, my main take away was one that I’ve so often seen left as an afterthought in research and project development: sustainability. Sustainability has become a buzzword, gaining popularity from an environmental standpoint, but that’s certainly not its only function. So much of what libraries and publishers do needs to be sustainable, not only from an economic standpoint of funding/income but in terms of continued knowledge management, long-term accessibility, and preservation of both digital and analog records. The forum had sustainability in mind right from Elaine L. Westbrooks’ (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) opening keynote that looked at a “new sustainable future” in scholarly communication but even those panels and sessions that didn’t list sustainability in their headings illustrated it in the ways they have documented their new ventures or pushed to re-invigorate and make accessible existing services such as institutional repositories or journal partnerships. Perhaps it’s the passion for archives and data management among other interests that lead library professionals to be acutely aware of the long-term prospects of a project but I find that pressure from stakeholders both public and academic can limit that awareness. Pushes to lower budgets or flaunt the latest technology can force us to think in the short term, crafting pilots to prove ourselves in the present but this year, the Forum reminded me to focus on long term findability and accessibility and to innovate in existing areas. Sometimes, that “long tail” can be a project’s success. 

I really appreciate the Cross-Pollination program and the opportunity to attend the LPC Forum this year, I may have been sitting in my home office but the digital platform and dialogue managed to make me feel just that much more connected to the world and my peers when I needed it most. My work in libraries has often had very limited opportunities for professional development for staff and geographic location is normally a significant barrier given that I am located in Canada, so this was my first time attending the Forum and I sincerely hope it will not be my last!