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Association of Research Libraries (ARL®)

  Advancing Scholarly Communication Contact:
Julia Blixrud
Institute on Scholarly Communication (ISC)

Frequently Asked Questions

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Why have ARL and ACRL created the Institute on Scholarly Communication?

Both ARL and ACRL have ongoing programs in scholarly communication. The two organization share a concern for supporting academic and research libraries in their growing efforts to develop campus outreach programs.

The institute facilitates library outreach through a variety of activities. Both ARL and ACRL maintain Web sites for the institute. ARL also hosts the Freely Available Institute Resources (FAIR) page and ACRL hosts institute webcast events.

The institute is best known for its signature two-and-a-half day immersive learning experience. This event engages library teams in hands-on planning for campus outreach. Participants are selected through a competitive application process. Originally offered nationally, these events are now being offered regionally with a limited number of seats retained for applicants from outside the hosting region.

The institute has also hosted a one-day “Building on Success” event for alumni in cooperation with the University of Washington and is planning to develop new kinds of events in the future.

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What are "regional institutes"?

ARL and ACRL work with consortia to offer regional versions of the Institute on Scholarly Communication. Regional institutes offer the same curriculum and institute faculty as national events, but the consortium manages the overhead of the event. Selection is competitive and uses the same process and criteria as national institutes. Participation in any institute event is limited to 100 to ensure an environment that fosters group interaction and active participation. For regional offerings, institutions from the consortium will receive preferred consideration, but seats are reserved for 20 participants unaffiliated with the consortium.

Regional events allow the institute to support institutions that would not, for whatever reason, attend a national event. The shift to regional institutes is a natural evolution in the life of the institute. It broadens access while enabling ARL and ACRL to refocus national efforts to meet the changing needs of the library community.

Consortia or other institutions that may be interested in hosting the next regional Institute on Scholarly Communication should contact Julia Blixrud, Assistant Executive Director, Scholarly Communication, ARL, at

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Who will be the presenters at the institute?

These events are presented by a team of four to six institute faculty members. In addition, faculty members in training attend some institutes. Biographies of the institute faculty members are available here.

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What topics will the institute highlight?

The institute focuses on the development and advancement of library-led campus outreach programs around scholarly communication. Institute tools are designed to assist libraries in working with faculty and campus leadership.

A major emphasis for the institute is faculty outreach and the development of an understanding of faculty perspectives on scholarly communication issues. Other topics for outreach activities include new models for scholarly publishing, faculty activism, legislative and policy advocacy, author rights management, and institutional repositories.

The immersive learning events cover the basic elements of program planning and provide a variety of structured learning experiences to support participants in creating a customized plan for their own institutions. The institute event format is highly participatory. Each session includes a short lecturette along with an individual or group activity. This hands-on approach supports participants as they apply newly gained knowledge to develop campus plans for their own institutions.

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How many people will be accepted for the institute?

The institute events can each accommodate 100 participants. Since some institutions will send only a single individual while others will send teams of up to three participants, there are usually 30 to 40 institutions involved with each immersive learning event.

There are currently hundreds of alumni comprising the institute community. This community will continue to grow as new events are held.

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I’m not at a research library. Will I be at a disadvantage in applying for the institute?

Applications from all kinds of academic libraries are encouraged for national and regional offerings of institute events. The institute is designed to be useful for any library seeking to engage their campus about scholarly communication issues. In fact, small libraries at colleges and masters degree–granting institutions have usually had a higher acceptance rate for institutes than research libraries.

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What if I apply but I'm not accepted for the institute?

Applications for the institutes have generally been very competitive with applicants significantly exceeding the number of available seats. Because selection is partly determined by the size and overall composition of the applicant pool, it varies between institute offerings. ACRL and ARL encourage repeated applications and many institutions have attended after a second or even a third application. While this high demand continues, ACRL and ARL are hoping to offer the institute at least twice a year.

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How are applications for the institute reviewed?

Participants are selected on a competitive basis by a review committee established by the host organization. The review committee does not include any members of the institute’s design team or faculty. There is not a rolling review; instead, all applicants are reviewed at once after the application deadline. The review committee seeks to create a group representing a wide range of institutions. Other criteria that are considered are evidence of applicant readiness, evidence of institutional support for a library-led scholarly communication program, and, for national events, geographic diversity.

A report on the review processes for the 2006 institute events is available here.

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Why do I need to provide a letter of support?

A key to successful outreach is organizational support and engagement. Because a limited number of participants can be accommodated at institute events, preference is for organizations making strong commitments to program development.

Please note that the "Support Letter" field will accept up to 5,000 characters (including spaces).

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How will I find out whether or not I've been accepted for the institute?

The notification date is set at the same time as the application deadline. All applicants will be notified by that deadline of the status of their application via e-mail.

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When will I have to pay for the institute?

When you are notified of your acceptance, you will be asked to confirm your commitment to attend the institute. Confirmation of your intention to attend will include paying the appropriate registration fee to the host organization.

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What can I do to improve my chances of being accepted for the institute?

Submit a complete application before the published deadlines. Offer clear, succinct, and thoughtful statements regarding your goals for attending the institute. Make sure your support letter is included and directly addresses your institution’s support for program planning.

Naturally institute applicants seek information on what makes applications successful. Because the process is competitive—with success being defined in relation to the pool of applicants, it is impossible to offer an objective “yardstick” that will guarantee success. Many institutions not accepted could have strong applications, just not applications as strong as others in the pool.

A few generalizations are possible, however. The observations from national institutes describe characteristics that were common, but not universally present in all applications. For all pools, the main criteria that proved significant in differentiating among institutions related to “evidence of applicant readiness” and “evidence of institutional support for a library-led scholarly communication program.” Institution type and geographic diversity were monitored, but did not prove necessary to take extraordinary measures to incorporate them into the review process.

In relation to the two criteria of readiness and institutional support, many successful applications:

  • demonstrated in their goal statements a working knowledge of current scholarly communication issues. Often some initial efforts at outreach, however modest, were described.

  • indicated clearly each applicant’s organizational role and articulated their relevance to the planned scholarly communication program. Institutions seeking “blank” slots for positions that were not currently filled were less competitive than those with all team members on board.

  • clearly articulated what issues they were considering addressing, offered some context for why these were of interest, and conveyed the sense of having a basic understanding of the issues informing their goals. Successful applicants provided more than just three bald goal statements of a few words each.

  • offered goals suggesting the intention to develop a multifaceted program with multiple focuses or covering a range of issues (e.g., institutions describing a plan that included institutional repository development as part of an outreach program fared better than those focusing exclusively on institutional repository development). There was not a subset of “attractive” goals, but successful applicants provided evidence that thoughtful development around a few key issues was planned.

  • included a faculty member or senior administrator, if a team application was made. Many team compositions were accepted, but involvement of stakeholders from outside the library was a plus.

  • showed evidence of support for addressing scholarly communication issues within the library and more broadly on campus. Support based administratively above the library (e.g., support from the provost) was seen as particularly compelling.

Please keep in mind the character limits of the "Goals" (maximum of 3,000 characters) and the “Support Letter” fields (maximum of 5,000 characters).

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What will I need to do to prepare for the institute if I'm accepted?

After you have been accepted you will need to confirm your attendance at the institute, pay the registration fee, and make your own arrangements for travel and lodging. Local housing information will be provided by the host organization.

There will be significant pre-work required before the start of the institute. Once you are accepted as an attendee, further details will be provided by the institute faculty. Pre-institute activities will include reading assignments, an environmental scan of your local environment, and possibly additional activities.

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What housing options will there be for the institute?

Hotel room blocks are held for institute participants. Details will be provided by the host organization to applicants accepted to attend the institute with their acceptance e-mail.

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How do we decide who should be applying from our institution?

Team applications are encouraged, particularly from large institutions. Applicants should have formal responsibilities relating to scholarly communication. The team should include those charged as leaders in this arena.

Other team members could include those who work closely with program leaders on key programs relating to scholarly communication concerns. Team members need not be librarians or even library employees. Partners from campus administration, information technology, or campus publishing operations, for instance, could be appropriate.

Institutions usually find that including a faculty member on their team substantially enhances their planning process and institute experience. Participation of a faculty member can be a strong indicator of readiness and organizational support.

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I'm unable to travel to an institute event to participate. Will it be possible to purchase video recordings of the sessions or obtain copies of other institute materials?

No. The institute is an intensive two-and-a-half-day experience with hands-on activities and small group work that would not translate well to a video recording. Both ACRL and ARL recognize the need for diverse educational resources in the area of scholarly communication and may offer other types of continuing education (online courses, tutorials, webcasts, etc.) in the future.

The institute does offer Freely Available Institute Resources.

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Will you accept participation from outside the US and Canada?

Yes. A number of libraries from other nations have applied and several have been accepted to participate in institute events.

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Are there any restrictions on the application?

Yes. Please note that the "Goals" field will accept a maximum of 3,000 characters (including spaces), and the "Support Letter" field will accept up to 5,000 characters (including spaces).

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What kind of applicant pool have you had for the institutes?

Applications for the first offering of the institute came from 77 institutions, including a handful from outside of the United States. More specifically, applications came from all over the US, Canada, and three other countries. The majority of the applications were submitted from PhD institutions (about 79%), while smaller numbers of applications were from masters (13%) and baccalaureate (8%) institutions. The 77 institutions proposed 190 participants for the institute. About 84% of the applications were submitted by teams of two or more, and about 16% of the applications were submitted by individuals.

Staff with a variety of responsibilities applied for that institute, including librarians, professors, deans, coordinators, directors, provosts, department heads, and even deputy executive directors and executive directors. Most of these positions were held in areas such as digital resources, projects, and initiatives; collection development and management; technical, user, and public services; acquisitions and serials; institutional repositories; and scholarly communications.

Subsequent national institutes had similar patterns of representation, but this is expected to change as the institute moves to a regional model.

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