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ARL President K. Matthew Dames

min read
The CNI Interviews Podcast | Season 1, Episode 1

In this discussion, Dames talks about shifting strategies for research libraries, his new role as chief librarian at Notre Dame, controlled digital lending, and open scholarship. We also talk about a report put out by ARL, CARL, and Ithaka S+R to identify the strategic priorities of higher education’s senior leadership, and to identify how and what more research libraries can do to advance them.

The report is titled Aligning the Research Library to Organizational Strategy.

View Transcript

Gerry Bayne: Welcome to the CNI 2022 Podcast. These interviews were recorded at the Coalition for Networked Information Spring 2022 Meeting. On this episode we feature K. Matthew Dames.

He is the Edward H. Arnold University Librarian at the University of Notre Dame and the 61st President of the Association of Research Libraries. In this discussion we talk about research libraries, Dames new role as chief librarian at Notre Dame, controlled digital lending, open scholarship, and more. I started our discussion by asking Dames what shifts he sees for research libraries as we come out of the pandemic.

Gerry Bayne: So, how do you see priorities for research libraries changing as we try to come out of the pandemic or do they?

K. Matthew Dames: Well, it's funny because I think that there's not just one answer to that particular question. I think that, in one way, research libraries showed and saw how to navigate in an online world. At the same time, I think that the pandemic also showed us the importance of space, physical space, and we did not have access to that space for a decent part of say the last two years. And so I think part of going forward involves a multiple pronged approach in how to provide services, double down on the importance of space, and I think also where we aren't at the center of some executive's decision making, how do we go about being in those rooms and being part of those decisions at a very higher level? And to that end, one of the things I would like to sort of shamelessly plug is that ARL and Carl, our Canadian counterparts, are working with Ithaka S+R on a pretty major project that's going to be announced in April next month so looking forward to seeing that publicly available and that'll have some more details.

(Gerry Bayne: I'd like to break in here to say that he is referring here to a report authored by these three organizations on Aligning the Research Library to the Organizational Strategy. We will link to this report in the show notes.)

Gerry Bayne: Could you share a bit about your views on the emergence of Controlled Digital Lending during the pandemic and how do you see the future of that?

K. Matthew Dames: It's interesting. So I have sort of two perspectives with that. One is in my ARL role as president. Another as somebody who's been involved in working with studying research, researching copyright law for at this point more than a quarter century. I think that the adoption of Controlled Digital Lending was necessary during the pandemic. I was glad to see people being able to... Institutions being able to shift in providing service and so on and so forth.

One thing that's pretty consistent about the history of copyright law is that it tends to move pretty much as the copyright owning stakeholders want it to move. And I think that those stakeholders were comfortable with making some sort of allowances for Controlled Digital Lending during the pandemic, if only for publicity reasons. I'm not sure coming out of the pandemic, that they will be as generous. Now putting on my copyright scholar hat, I think that's a normative look at what copyright law should be. I think there's some very strong elements to take away from that, but it isn't what copyright law is. And so it'll be interesting to see as we move into post-pandemic, whenever that is, it'd be interesting to see how the stake the copyright owners Writ Large and cultural heritage institutions navigate that going forward.

Gerry Bayne: Could you share a bit about ARL's engagement with the move to open scholarship?

K. Matthew Dames: ARL's engagement with open scholarship goes back at this point, well, more than a decade. So in a lot of ways, the Association's been at the forefront of making scholarship accessible to all. I think that we, as an association, have done a great job and along with other associations and outfits like Spark so on and so forth. I'm not sure that we can have a fulsome conversation about open scholarship without also having a serious conversation about tenure and promotion. Those two issues are linked. A big reason why we are in the position that we're in now is because we have a construct in American higher education whereby publication in certain journals counts and perhaps counts more than publication in other journals or in other activities. The publishers know which journals quote so no unquote count for tenure and, in some ways, even with so much of what ARL has already done and will continue to do, in order for us to fully solve this problem I think we do need to look at what counts for tenure besides publication in a certain set of prestigious journals, excuse me. So I'm not seeing a scenario where a full resolution comes forth unless we also talk about tenure and promotion.

Gerry Bayne: So there's a gatekeeper sort of thing going on?

K. Matthew Dames: There is a gatekeeper, but quite frankly, the tenure and promotion system is the one that has established sort of the gate keeping function and who qualifies as a gatekeeper. So this is why I keep saying whenever these open scholarship conversations arise, I'm glad to have these conversations. I'm glad to talk about how important it is for this material and this scholarship to be widely accessible for reasons other than morality reasons, quite frankly. I mean, I think if you are a strong scholar and you have an opportunity to get your scholarship out there and accessible more broadly, do you want it accessible only to maybe 150 to 500 scholars in your discipline? Or do you want to have it be more accessible to a broader range of folks? And I think most scholars are going to say they would like to have it accessible, to be accessible to a broader range of folks. That's not really what the tenure and promotion system as it stands represents right now. And so I think to have an open access or open scholarship conversation without also talking about how we currently have a tenure and promotion system that really conflicts with that, that's an incomplete conversation.

Gerry Bayne: You recently became chief librarian at Notre Dame. Could you talk about some of the new opportunities you see there?

K. Matthew Dames: Tremendous opportunities at Notre Dame include some really superior special collections. I know that we're looking at, in the name of sort of open scholarship and open access, we're looking at ways to democratize those special collections and make them more accessible, more broadly. I think there's a tremendous opportunity for us to bring on new individuals into the fold and that's a big opportunity for us. We've got a new leadership structure in place, obviously with me, but we've had some AULs who have either departed for other opportunities, gotten promotions elsewhere, or we've had retirements, and so we're be looking to bring in pretty much a whole slate of Associate University Librarians.

And I think part of why I was attracted to the Notre Dame opportunity was to help elevate the research enterprise. There's a very unique opportunity that we have that I haven't experienced fully or to the same degree in other institutions whereas the Hesburgh Library's system is considered a full partner in the research enterprise, and so we have equality with the information technology organization with the research organization. And so I think the opportunities really come from equivalency with those other two units and how we can work together to advance research at Notre Dame.

Gerry Bayne: So I work for EDUCAUSE. It's a professional organization. Speaking to an audience of higher ed technology leaders outside the library and research field, what would you like them to know about the biggest issues in your industry that may have a ripple effect upon higher ed Writ Large?

K. Matthew Dames: I think the best way to answer that is to tag along to my last answer about the opportunities at Notre Dame. I think that, and I've long held this, for a research operation, and particularly in a large research institution to be elite, you have to have an elite IT organization and elite office of research and an elite library system. Those three units must be working together at an elite level to advance research on a campus. I call it my triad theory, and your question, I don't know that you meant it this way, but for me, part of the implication is perhaps that folks across the campus don't see the library as a full partner.

I would say that in order for the campus to move forward, again, consistent with this triad theory, we need to be a full partner. And I think having us as a full partner actually works beneficially for the office of research and the IT function because research libraries are the ultimate operational academic hybrid. We have a role in both sides of the house on a regular basis, and so there are certain things that we can do that perhaps the schools and colleges can't, or don't want to do, perhaps things or places where perhaps IT wouldn't want to go and they can't get access to. And we can facilitate that in a pretty significant way to the benefit of all. And so for me, it's about collaboration at a very substantive level.

Gerry Bayne: Well, thank you so much for your time, K. Matthew Dames.

K. Matthew Dames: Thank you.

Gerry Bayne: Very much appreciate it.

This episode features:

K. Matthew Dames
Edward H. Arnold University Librarian at the University of Notre Dame
President of the Association of Research Libraries.