Staff across my institution, the University of Greenwich, like many others in my experience have a very mixed range of feelings about what copyright means to individuals. From a Library leadership perspective in my career I’ve witnessed extremes at both ends of the scale, from colleagues who truly do not seem to care who published or owns the rights to whatever piece of work now happens to be part of their VLE course, to those who (temporarily) become the library’s best customer for the short period where they think we’ll be able to act as their copyright lawyer.
People at both of these extremes have ended up disappointed, but I think we’ve been able to do a much more satisfying job in the middle ground, where I would characterise our task as being to help our learning and research communities navigate what can be an intimidating and sometimes confusing space.
A task at hand at Greenwich is to generally improve copyright awareness for academics, and to deliver this at university-level scale. We want to make an impact, so we’re seeking senior level buy-in, but we’re cautious around the narratives of making anything mandatory because we’re wary of our serious copyright duties being lumped into the bucket along with all the other bothersome yet mandatory university admin burden. Higher engagement will improve understanding and awareness, which we hope will in turn improve use of the CLA licence across our institution.
That’s timely, because our departments also know that since we signed up for the CLA Digital Content Store, Library Services are doing routine checking of content on our VLE that we’re using as an opportunity to discuss the nature of content already in use by our academics in their teaching. We want to be armed with routes to solutions rather than being seen as just looking for trouble, and by marrying the approaches of providing training and support at the same time as carrying out audits we think we’ll find a natural confluence of interest from our academics. The Digital Content Store has been a very good move for us because it backs up our claim that we’re trying to make things easier for our colleagues, and removing the need to renew their requests each year is very helpful and much more manageable.
We are also trying to widen the definition Greenwich staff generally has of our collections, so that they more often think of our digital and licenced content - all paid for through library budgets - as part of the library service. This is so important, because the scans provided through the CLA complement and enhance access for those who don’t have easy access to our physical collections, such as apprentices, distance learners and students on placements like teachers and nurses.
The perspective from which I would hope to inspire our academic colleagues to look upon the topic of copyright is an educated one. For example, whenever I get the briefest platform on the topic I encourage any publishing writer to think twice before transferring their copyright to anyone else, and to think deeply on the benefits and issues that different licencing environments bring for authors and readers. Understanding and respecting the rights and provisions of copyright and licencing in academia should, I think, begin at home.
About the Author
Dave Puplett is Head of Library Services at the University of Greenwich, having previously held senior roles at the Drill Hall Library in Medway, University of Kent, and the London School of Economics. A Chartered Librarian, Dave is enthusiastic about most things involving libraries, technology, and Tottenham Hotspur.