Move online is a boon for Open Scholar Café

The pandemic disrupted events across campus over the past year, but moving online proved fruitful for Parks Library in at least one instance. In recent years, October's open access week included the Open Science Coffee Confab. It brought together campus experts to discuss different open scholarship topics but did not have a significant number of attendees.

Open Scholar Café upcoming dates

  • Thursday, April 15
  • Wednesday, May 19
  • Thursday, June 17
  • Wednesday, July 21

* All meetings are 9-10 a.m.

"People didn't have time to come out to the library or there were things holding people back from trying it," open access and scholarly communication librarian Abbey Elder said.

The pandemic gave Parks staff the opportunity to try the event virtually, and it was a hit. Elder said attendance was three times greater than past meetings. That success -- coupled with faculty asking for similar events -- led to the Open Scholar Café. It is a monthly virtual forum for members of the ISU community to meet and discuss open research and scholarship with their peers organized by the library's open scholarship services.

"It is a place where faculty drop in and talk about what other people are working on that they are interested in, or things they are working on or want to in the future," Elder said.

The goal is to build community with faculty and graduate students on campus who might benefit by partnering with the library or  are looking for collaborators for their research and projects, Elder said.

The Open Scholar Café has a code of conduct that emphasizes being welcoming, supportive and comfortable and where harassment is not tolerated. Elder said that doesn't mean difficult topics won't be addressed in meetings, but it sets a positive framework to guide discussion.


The virtual meetings began in February with associate university librarian for scholarly communication and collections Curtis Brundy outlining how the library supports open access through its publisher agreements. March's meeting focused on how instructors have incorporated open educational resources into their teaching, and April will center on research data services for faculty.

The café meets once a month, alternating every third Wednesday and Thursday to allow people to attend from 9-10 a.m. Dates are set through July, but Elder hopes to increase forums to twice a month in the future. Registration is preferred but not required.

Expanding topics

Topics currently center around the expertise of library staff, but there is a suggestion link on the website for individuals who want to lead or propose an idea.

"We have already had a few suggestions that we are trying to figure out who will come in and speak about them," Elder said.

There also is interest in branching out discussion topics.

"There are different topics of interest to the faculty, so there is always a chance it is something we don't specialize in," Elder said. "In those situations, we are happy to partner with groups outside of the library like [the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching] for instructional design or [the vice president for research] office for grant support."