Open Research: A Five-minute Guide

This blog post is a five-minute guide to open research and its benefits, with examples, tips and further reading. It was inspired by an invited presentation for the Australian Library and Information Association’s (ALIA) Mentoring Scheme

Open research for information professionals isn’t just for those who work in academia, it’s for all of you in schools, public libraries, academic libraries, wider GLAM institutions, government, industry and everywhere else. I’m an open researcher, which means I share my articles, my presentations, my interview guides, my research data and my reports freely with everyone. This blog post and the accompanying slides are shared under a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 licence, which means they can be shared and adapted by others, with attribution.

What is Open Research

Image with 'Open Research' with umbrella icon at the top. Underneath and all on the same level are five open research types: 'Open Access' with an open padlock icon; 'Open Data' with a chart icon; 'Open Code' with a laptop icon; 'Open Methods' with an open book icon; and 'Open Peer Review' with an icon of three people and a joint speech bubble.
Slide 1 – What is open research

Open research or open science is all about being open throughout the whole research cycle, not just at the end with a journal article or report. Some of these ways are …

  • Open access which is sharing research outputs without cost to the reader
  • Open data is sharing data openly for others to potentially reuse – for example maps, statistics, scientific research data, survey responses and interview transcripts
  • Open code and open software are sharing code and software created in research projects
  • Open methods means sharing how you carried out the research – for example lab protocols, or how data was collected or analysed
  • Open peer review – the traditional peer review model is blind reviews which are only seen by the author. Open peer review makes the reviews, reviewer and author identities and communication publicly visible.

Open Research Benefits

Image with four icons and descriptive text to represent the benefits of open research: 'Reach - Reach more people in your communities' with a 5 node network icon; 'Share - Share more widely' with a 6 node network icon; 'Reuse - Others can reuse your work' with a cyclical 3-arrow icon; and 'Show - Show your skills' with an icon of a person pointing at a board.
Slide 2 – Open research benefits

Open research has clear benefits. You can:

  • Reach more people in your communities
  • Share more widely with other communities internationally
  • Make it easy for others to reuse your work
  • Show your skills, your commitment and reputation for open research.

More and more research funders are now mandating open data and open access, so being an open researcher can make it easier to meet these requirements.

Open Research Examples

Screenshots of the covers of six documents from a project about creative practice research outputs: Literature Review; Metadata Findings; Interview Guide; Interview Data; Opportunities (project report); and Repository and Metadata Guide for Creative Practice Researchers.
Slide 3 – Open research examples

Here’s some examples of open research from a project I finished this year, where I interviewed six artists, writers, film and theatre producers at Curtin University about how and where they share their creative practice research. There were a few similar projects underway when I started, so I decided that sharing my literature review would be a good way to contribute to open research (and hopefully save the other project teams some time and effort). This literature review has been downloaded 125 times in the last 8 months.

The ‘Metadata Findings from Card Sorting Activity’ includes sample cards for a card sorting research method, and I shared the interview questions. Both of these research outputs have a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 licence so that anyone can reuse them in research with their communities.

The practical guide for researchers on how to share their creative practice research online has been downloaded 252 times, because it’s freely available (rather than being restricted to Curtin University researchers only).

Open Research Tips

After nearly a year of being an open researcher, I’ve learned from my mistakes!

Communicate

  • Talk to your team/collaborators/manager at the start of the project about how you want to make your research open – which parts and where will you share them.
  • Think about who you want your message to reach, what do they read? Are you doing the research just for other researchers, or is it for your community and other communities to benefit from. Remember that lots of people do not have subscriptions to academic journals.

Plan

  • Build sharing into data collection consent, this means including asking for consent for open data in your project planning and ethics application if you need one (see below for sample text for a consent form).
  • Allocate time for deidentification and tidying up of open data. It can take hours to carefully review data so that it can be shared as open access.
  • Allocate time for reviews of reports whether it’s by someone on your team, a manager, or someone at a similar place of work.

Share

  • Help others to find and reuse your work by describing it with as much metadata as possible – this means including the authors, date, contact email, keywords and license either inside your research output or in the repository where you share from.
  • Use Creative Commons licenses to show if your work can be shared and adapted, for example a CC BY 4.0 licence allows others to copy, reuse and even translate your work.
  • Use a free repository such as Zenodo to preserve your research, get a DOI, and share as open access (thank you Zenodo for supporting open research).

Learn More

Open access

Quigley, N. (2022). Free open access for early career researchers. https://neevq.wordpress.com/2022/02/10/free-open-access-for-early-career-researchers/

Open research

University of Melbourne. (2022). What is open research? https://unimelb.libguides.com/openresearch

Creative Commons licenses

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/

Sample Consent Form

Screenshot of consent form for interview. The consent questions have been included in the paragraph under this image.
Slide 4 – Sample consent form

I do/I do not:

  • consent to my interview being audio-recorded
  • consent to my deidentified quotations being:
    • used in any publications arising from this research
    • shared in a publicly available data set

Any quotations shared will not be personally identifiable.

References

Australian Research Data Commons. (2022). Working with research software. ARDC. https://ardc.edu.au/resources/working-with-research-software/

Crotty, D. (2021, February 25). What’s next for open science—Making the case for open methods. The Scholarly Kitchen. https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2021/02/25/whats-next-for-open-science-making-the-case-for-open-methods/

Open Knowledge Foundation. (2022). The Open Data Handbook. https://opendatahandbook.org/

Open Knowledge Foundation. (2022). What is open? https://okfn.org/opendata

PLOS. (n.d.). Open peer review. PLOS. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from https://plos.org/resource/open-peer-review/

Quigley, N. (2022). Open Research: A Five-minute Guide. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6470096

Quigley, N. (2021). Increasing the visibility of creative practice research outputs (NTROs): Literature review. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5336401

Quigley, N., & Montgomery, L. (2022). Repository and Metadata Guide for Creative Practice Researchers. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5860641

Quigley, N. (2021). Increasing the Visibility of Creative Practice Research Outputs: Metadata Findings from Card Sort Activity. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5774660

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2021-0515 Research Data: Interview Guide. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5774543

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2021-0515 Research Data: Interview Transcripts. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5774508

Quigley, N, Montgomery, L, & Neylon, C. (2022). Creative Practice Research Outputs: Opportunities for Curtin University. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5935316

This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Free open access for early career researchers

Confused about open access? It doesn’t always mean you have to pay to publish. Last year I finished my Master of Information Management, and turned my unfunded research project into:

  • An article in a highly-regarded open access journal
  • An open access report
  • A peer-reviewed open access paper for a highly-regarded conference
  • Open data – an interview guide and deidentified interview transcripts

Publishing all of these open access research outputs was free. Let’s take a look at each of them…

The journal article

Quigley, N. (2021). Open access in the humanities, arts and social sciences: Complex perceptions of researchers and implications for research support. LIBER Quarterly: The Journal of the Association of European Research Libraries, 31(1), 1–27. https://doi.org/10.53377/lq.10937

The goal for my journal article was to reach as many research libraries as possible. Citations are not important to me, because I wanted to whisper an idea into the ears of those who support researchers.

Many open access journals do not charge authors to publish. I chose an open access journal that has no article processing charge (APC), and was confident in my choice because I’ve previously read lots of great articles in this journal. If you want to look up a journal to see if it charges authors to publish open access, search for it in The Directory of Open Access Journals.

The other reason I chose this open access journal was that it didn’t make me hand over the rights to my work. Many journals own your article once it’s been accepted for publication, which puts restrictions on how you can share and reuse your own work. Next time you’re considering a journal to submit an article to, see if you can find out their policy on author rights before you submit. Try one of these methods:

Maybe the journal offers green open access? This ability to share a version of your article (usually without fancy journal formatting) is better than nothing. However, some journal publishers who offer green open access are also making a nice profit from your work that you were not paid for. Their profit comes from charging readers for your article on their journal website, via subscriptions and one-off downloads.

Just 8 weeks after publication, my journal article has almost 600 downloads. This is from hundreds of people who regard this open access journal as high-quality, with articles of interest for research libraries.

Bar graph with title 'Who downloaded my first journal article?' The y-axis is the number of downloads. The three bars are labelled:
- me (1 download)
- my dad (1 download)
- people in research libraries (580 downloads)
Journal article downloads (on 10/02/2022, 8 weeks after publication)

The report

Quigley, N. (2021). Humanities researchers and open access: Opportunities for Curtin University. http://doi.org/10.25917/8d22-3f42

My Masters research collaborator was a university library, and needed snappy actionable recommendations in a report format. I published my report on their institutional repository, with a DOI. My recommendations have already led to some changes in open access support at this university library, and further funded research opportunities for me.

The conference paper

The peer-reviewed, co-authored conference paper with Julie Clift and Dr Hollie White will be available as open access following the VALA2022 conference in June. I chose this conference because it makes its conference proceedings available for free, as open access after the conference.

The open data

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2020-0598 Research data: Interview guide (Version 1). Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4774475

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2020-0598 Research data: Interview transcripts [Data set]. Zenodo. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.4774447

I think open data is a fascinating window into the research process, and can also contribute to trustworthiness in qualitative research (read more on p7 of my article). I value research components that are reusable, which is why I shared my interview guide as open access, to be reused by other libraries. The interview guide also provides useful context for the deidentified interview transcripts which are available as open data.

To share my open data, I used Zenodo, a free repository. Zenodo enables me to get DOIs for my research outputs, add keywords to make my research outputs more findable, and will look after my research outputs for at least the next 20 years.

Conclusion

My first research project was as open access as possible, and I blogged about research methods too. In addition to all of my open access research outputs being free to publish, the journal and conference policies enabled me to retain the rights to my journal article and co-authored conference paper.

Publishing open access can be free, with a potential audience far beyond researchers whose workplaces can afford to pay journal subscriptions.

How many of my thesis references about open access were paywalled?

When I started my Master of Information Management thesis, I thought it would be interesting to analyse my final thesis references to find out how many journal articles about open access (OA) were paywalled. A paywalled journal article is where there is a cost to read the article, either via a one-off payment or a subscription (for example through a university library). The alternative to paywalls is open access, where research is free for all to read. Some journals are free for authors to publish as OA, and some journals require payment to publish as OA.

Now that I’ve submitted my thesis, I have more time to answer my questions about my thesis literature review:

Q1. What percentage of journal articles about OA were paywalled?
Q2. How much it would cost me to access these paywalled articles if I wasn’t a Curtin University student?
Q3. For the OA articles that required payment, how much did they cost?
Q4. For the paywalled articles, what rules did the journal have about OA? Is it possible that some of these paywalled articles could become OA?

Method

I used the following steps to turn a list of references in a Word document into an OA status spreadsheet:

Extract journal article URLs from Word document

My thesis references contained 90 journal articles, webpages, grey literature and books (thanks free Zotero for painless reference formatting). 29 of these references were journal articles about open access and institutional repositories (digital archives used to preserve an institution’s research outputs, usually publicly accessible as a website). In exchange for a cup of tea, my software developer husband automagically extracted URLs from the References section of my thesis. After pasting the references into vim, he used the following commands to extract the URLs:

this command deletes all lines with no ‘http’

:v/http/d

this replaces a whole line with just the URL

:%s/.*\(http.*\)/\1/

Run the URLs through Unpaywall’s Simple Query Tool

I ran the resulting text file through Unpaywall’s free Simple Query Tool which checks DOIs and returns a spreadsheet (or .csv or JSON) showing if the DOIs are OA or paywalled (closed). A DOI or Digital Object Identifier is ‘a unique, permanent identification number that will take you straight to a document no matter where it is located on the Internet’ (Victoria University, 2021). 

Unpaywall’s Simple Query Tool also returns (among other fields) whether the DOIs are green, gold, bronze, hybrid or closed where:

‘Gold: Published in an open-access journal that is indexed by the DOAJ.

Green: Toll-access on the publisher page, but there is a free copy in an OA repository.

Hybrid: Free under an open license in a toll-access journal.

Bronze: Free to read on the publisher page, but without a clearly identifiable license.

Closed: All other articles.’ (Piwowar et al., 2018, p. 5)

Manually check any URLs that are not DOIs

Some journals use URLs rather than DOIs, and Unpaywall can only check DOIs. I manually checked one URL to see if it was OA or paywalled. 

The resulting spreadsheet contained 29 journal articles, with their OA status and type. For the articles that Unpaywall reported were closed (paywalled and not OA), I opened them in an incognito Chrome tab to confirm. The reason for using an incognito tab was to make sure my Curtin University student credentials were not being used to give me access to full articles. 

Results

Q1. What percentage of journal articles about open access were paywalled?

Almost a quarter (7) of the 29 journal articles I cited about open access were paywalled.

Pie chart with heading 'Paywalled vs open access'. A red section reads 'paywalled 24% (7 articles). A blue section reads 'open access 76% (22 articles).
Numbers of paywalled and OA articles (total = 29 articles)

Open access has lots of different types, and as mentioned above Unpaywall’s Simple Query Tool returns the OA types in its results. Note that some of the articles that are now green OA may have previously shown up as paywalled because publisher embargoes delaying OA publication were still in effect. For more discussion of OA types, read Aaron Tay’s blog post on this topic.  

Here’s the breakdown for this sample using Unpaywall’s OA types (listed above in the Method section). For each OA type, the number of articles and percentage of total journal articles (29 articles) is included.

Pie chart with heading 'Open access type breakdown'. Sections are:
red 'closed 24% (7 articles);
green 14% (4 articles);
gold 38% (11 articles); bronze (3 articles); hybrid 14% (4 articles).
Numbers of OA articles by type (total = 29 articles)

Q2. How much it would cost me to access these paywalled articles if I wasn’t a Curtin University student?

For the closed journal articles, I looked up the current cost to buy the closed articles on journal publisher websites. If I didn’t have access via Curtin University Library subscriptions, the approximate cost to read all 7 paywalled articles would be approx. $365 AUD ($280 US).

Q3. For the OA articles that required payment, how much did they cost?

For the journal articles that were OA but had a cost to publish, I looked up the current Article Processing Charges (APC). Where a publisher website did not specify a currency, I assumed USD.

The total cost to publish 9 articles was approx. $29,200 AUD ($22,600 USD), and this money went to the journal publishers. The authors may have been able to pay these APCs with funding from their research grant, or support from their institution. Keep in mind that the true cost of publishing for the authors who paid may have been lower due to factors such as: transformative agreements; discounts and waivers dependent on the country of the corresponding author; and institutional and society discounts.

A system where the author pays the publisher an APC to make research available to all sounds better than paywalls. However, consider researchers in developing countries who cannot afford these costs, even with APC waivers in place.

Q4. For the paywalled articles, what rules did the journal have about OA? Is it possible that some of these paywalled articles could become OA?

My next question was could any of the paywalled articles be available as OA in any way, for example adding a pre-print to an institutional repository. Some researchers are unaware of a website called Sherpa Romeo, where you can check what rules publishers have about sharing publications as OA.

Using Sherpa Romeo, I checked the OA rules for the journals of the 7 paywalled articles. Almost all journals allowed green OA (some with embargoes which have passed). The exception was one journal which only allows green OA for specific funders after a 12 month embargo. This suggests at least three reasons why these paywalled articles are not available as green OA:

  • that the authors of the paywalled articles didn’t get around to sharing them as green OA via institutional repositories or personal websites
  • when the article was published the publisher did not allow green OA
  • Unpaywall couldn’t find a green OA copy but it exists somewhere.

Discussion

Many OA researchers work within library and information science as part of a humanities faculty, therefore reasons given by humanities researchers for not publishing OA are relevant. These reasons are summarised in Arthur et al. (2021, p. 11). Looking at these reasons in the context of articles written about OA, we can probably assume that the authors understand OA concepts and the importance of institutional repositories. Therefore, some of the remaining reasons applicable for not publishing articles about OA as open access are:

  • a dependency on prestigious journals for career progression (Arthur et al., 2021, pp. 11-12)
  • not having access to funds to pay APCs (Tenopir et al., 2017, p. 839). 

Conclusion

Writing this blog post satisfied a curiosity to find out how many journal articles in my thesis references about open access were paywalled. Piwowar et al. predict that by 2025, ‘44% of all journal articles will be available as OA’ (2019, p1). Compared to this estimate, the result in this small sample that 76% of journal articles are available as OA is positive (or 24% paywalled). However, the situation where some readers have to pay for an article about open access shows just how broken the academic journal publishing system is.    

Learn more

Read more about OA https://creativecommons.org.au/open-access/

If you have time for a documentary, watch for free ‘Paywall: The Business of Scholarship’ https://paywallthemovie.com/

References

Arthur, P. L., Hearn, L., Montgomery, L., Craig, H., Arbuckle, A., & Siemens, R. (2021). Open scholarship in Australia: A review of needs, barriers, and opportunities. In Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. https://doi.org/10.1093/llc/fqaa063 (read the free pre-print at https://www.alyssaarbuckle.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/PL-Arthur_Open-Scholarship-in-Australia_2021.pdf)

Piwowar, H., Priem, J., Larivière, V., Alperin, J. P., Matthias, L., Norlander, B., Farley, A., West, J., & Haustein, S. (2018). The state of OA: A large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of open access articles. PeerJ, 6, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.4375

Piwowar, H., Priem, J., & Orr, R. (2019). The future of OA: A large-scale analysis projecting open access publication and readership. BioRxiv, 795310. https://doi.org/10.1101/795310

Tenopir, C., Dalton, E. D., Christian, L., Jones, M. K., McCabe, M., Smith, M., & Fish, A. (2017). Imagining a gold open access future: Attitudes, behaviors, and funding scenarios among authors of academic scholarship. College & Research Libraries, 78(6), 824–843. https://doi.org/10.5860/crl.78.6.824

Victoria University. (2021). Library guides: APA 7th referencing. https://libraryguides.vu.edu.au/apa-referencing/7GettingStarted

What I wish I had known at the start of my Master’s research project

At the start of my Master of Information Management research project, I wondered how I would complete a deliverable that’s equivalent to the weighting of 12 postgraduate assignments. Thanks to expert guidance from my supervisor, I was able to break it into stages and smaller chunks, and make steady progress. I’ve now completed the methodology section, literature review, recruitment, data collection and data analysis and am writing up my findings and discussion.

My tips so far

  • Research question reminders – Once you’ve figured out your research questions, keep them visible as you progress through the project, at the top of Word documents for example:
    • when you’re reviewing the literature for your lit review
    • writing interview questions or
    • writing up the findings and discussion sections.
  • Software licenses – If you think you might need any software from your university, ask for it early – it took me a few weeks to get a license for a home version of data analysis software.
  • Organise your files – Try to keep your filing system under control as you go. My current count for this project is 41 folders and 275 files. Save a copy of each version you send to anyone – for example ethics documents and drafts for review. This makes it easier to track changes as you go, and revisit older versions.
  • Back it up – Back up everything, have a primary and two backups with one of the backups offsite. For me this means the main copy on my laptop, a copy in the cloud (my university’s dedicated research cloud space), and another copy on an external drive. During transcription I had a corrupted audio file and nearly lost 30 minutes of an interview. Thankfully I was working with a backup copy rather than the original. I was easily able to get a fresh copy of the original with no harm done except for 5 minutes of sheer panic!
  • Help future you – once you get into the intense writing stage in the last few months, leave a note for yourself at the end of each session so you know where to pick up the next day.

I’ve had a positive experience overall, enjoyed some parts more than others, and it has made me want to do more research!

Photo of Prevally Beach with rocks, ocean and a bronze statue of a woman
Prevally beach, in Yebble, Margaret River, WA

Semi-structured research interview tips

I’m in the last semester of Curtin University’s Master of Information Management, and midway through a 4-unit research project (25% of the whole Masters!). This research project is essential for me to understand the research process, as I want to support researchers in my future library and information career.

My Master’s research project title is:

Engagement with open access among Curtin University humanities researchers: Exploring the perceptions of, and barriers to publishing open access

This blog post shares some tips for running semi-structured interviews, a qualitative research data collection method. I’ve summarised what worked well for me at a Master’s level, seasoned researchers will have far better tips! 

Some definitions

Qualitative research is the attempt to understand someone else’s worldview and perceptions, usually via their words.

An interview guide is the questions you plan to ask during the interview.

Semi-structured interviews use an interview guide, but with the flexibility to deviate during the interview.

Why choose interviews?

During my literature review, I noticed that previous research that used interviews rather than surveys was more insightful about experiences of open access. Interviews are very time-intensive as they need to be transcribed and analysed, but for me this effort has been worth it.

Before the interview

  • Pack chargers and cables, spare batteries, spare pens, paper, backup recording method (I had a digital recorder with a backup of recording software on a laptop), a spare printed consent form and participant info sheet.
  • Number your printed interview guide pages, this makes it easier to jump around if the participant talks about a later topic before you have asked questions about it.
  • If you have used purposive sampling to find your participants and it fits with your research ethics approval, try and learn more about your participants before you meet them. I was able to review the publications of the humanities researchers that I interviewed, and read their latest work before I met them. For me, this made it easier during interviews to establish rapport and encourage recollection of their open access publishing experiences.
  • If you have a lot to cover, prioritise the questions you really want to ask first.
  • Read over your literature review as you have probably written it a few months ago.
  • Get everything ready the night before.

The day of the interview

  • If possible, try and find the actual room where you’re going before the interview.
  • Don’t panic if you get lost! Ask for help. I had to ring two of my participants 5 minutes before our appointment because I could not find their respective rooms despite being in the right buildings.
  • It’s ok to be nervous, you’re doing something important. All of my participants were kind and generous with their time and retelling of their experiences, and I ended up really enjoying the interview process.

During the interview

  • Sort out paperwork first including a signed consent form, and make sure they have read the participant information sheet.
  • I started each interview by explaining the four areas I would be asking questions about.
  • Saying “I’ve read that” or “I’ve heard that” are really useful phrases to show that you are recognising what the participant is telling you but without inserting your own opinions (thank you to my supervisor Dr Hollie White for this tip!)
  • If you think of an extra question while the participant is talking, make a note so you don’t have to interrupt them and can ask it when they have finished speaking.
  • If you’re running out of time, reprioritise your remaining questions. 
  • At the end of the interview thank the participant, their time is valuable.

After the interview

  • If reflecting on an interview was part of your research plan, do this as soon as you leave the interview. I am stunned by how much I have forgotten from interview conversations every time I listen to the recordings.
  • Back up the audio recording as soon as you can.
  • Transcribe from the backup audio file and keep the original file secure according to your research data management plan.
  • Follow up with anything you promised the participant such as links discussed during the interview.
  • Have a break – I was quite tired from the effort of leading an interview, listening, making notes, monitoring question progress and thinking ahead at the same time.
  • Tell yourself well done 🙂

Further reading – both open access

Edwards, R., & Holland, J. (2013). What is Qualitative Interviewing? (The ‘What is?’ Research Methods Series). London: Bloomsbury Academic. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781472545244

Hammersley, M. (2013). What is Qualitative Research? (The ‘What is?’ Research Methods Series). London: Bloomsbury Academic. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781849666084

Photo of kookaburra bird on cabin balcony with trees in background
Kookaburra in Beedelup, WA

How LCSH represents transgender children and young people

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is a list of headings used by many libraries to describe books and other items in their collections so that they are findable by users when searching catalogues. This post explores how transgender children and young people are represented in LCSH including:

  • How LCSH works
  • How transgender children and young people are currently represented in LCSH
  • How other classification systems represent transgender children and young people
  • Why this is important
  • What can libraries do
  • Where to learn more

How LCSH works

When a new resource (book, eBook, DVD etc) is added to a library collection, multiple pieces of information (metadata) about it are added to the catalogue. This includes subject headings (such as LCSH) which describe what a resource is about. If someone asks for books about video game players, the library staff can look up LCSH (free online here or here) to find the exact heading ‘Video gamers’. This search term can then be used in the Advanced Search of a library catalogue to search by Subject. All resources that were tagged with the heading ‘Video gamers’ when they were added to the library’s collection will be returned in the search – even if they don’t have the words video or gamer in their title or description.

Subject headings can be expanded to include places, time periods and subtopics, and resources can have multiple subject headings to describe what they are about.

How transgender children and young people are currently represented in LCSH

There are a few different headings relevant to transgender children and young people in LCSH including:

However, there are two LC subject headings that could be considered problematic:

In controlled vocabularies such as LCSH, a ‘broader term’ for a subject heading is the bigger category it belongs to. The broader terms for these two subject headings in LCSH are psychosexual disorders, which implies that being transgender is a mental disorder, or a problem or illness.

Heading in LCSH Category in LCSH (Broader Term)
Gender identity disorders in children Psychosexual disorders in children
Gender identity disorders in adolescence Psychosexual disorders in adolescence
Gender identity disorders Psychosexual disorders

The visibility of these subject headings online in a library catalogue could signal non-acceptance of transgender children and young people. A search of the online global catalogue WorldCat shows that resources published this year are still being catalogued using these subject headings:

It is important to note that some libraries use catalogue records provided by publishers and other sources, and may not have actively chosen the subject headings for all of their resources.

How other classification systems represent transgender people

Despite being used in LCSH headings, the term ‘gender identity disorder’ is outdated, and was removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013. It was replaced by the term ‘Gender dysphoria’, and was also moved out of the Sexual Dysfunctions category. In describing these changes, the American Psychiatric Association stated that changing disorder to dysphoria “removes the connotation that the patient is “disordered”.”

In 2019 the term ‘gender identity disorder’ was also removed as a mental illness from the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD), and replaced by ‘gender incongruence’ as a sexual health condition. Many transgender support organisations consider ‘gender incongruence’ as a temporary term, but still a step towards transgender depathologisation.

Why this is important

These subject headings are relevant to:

  • Transgender children and young people seeking library resources for themselves with a positive portrayal of transgender people
  • Parents supporting their transgender children seeking non-fiction and fiction resources.

Transgender young people in Australia are significantly more likely than other young people to experience depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, bullying, homelessness and discrimination (Strauss et al., 2017, pp. 15–35). Libraries should be a safe space where transgender young people can independently seek and access information relevant to them. The use of the word disorder to describe transgender children and young people is not appropriate.

What can libraries do

Online library catalogues appear as a single interface to users, who are unaware that this is a mix of systems, standards and vocabularies containing records created both from inside and outside the library.

Libraries need to ensure that appropriate headings with a positive portrayal of transgender children and young people are consistently applied. A search by subject for ‘Gender identity disorders in children’ and ‘Gender identity disorders in adolescence’ will reveal if these headings are being used in a library’s catalogue. If so, alternatives such as ‘Transgender children’ and ‘Transgender youth’ could be used – but this needs to be assessed on a resource by resource basis.

Libraries can also make sure their resources for transgender children and young people are visible and findable. One way to review these resources is to consult the recommended reading lists of relevant support organisations, and check that any resources already in a library’s collection have LCSH such as ‘Transgender children’ and ‘Transgender youth’. This review will result in more relevant resources being found by transgender children and young people, and their families.

The implications of using outdated terms is that transgender children and young people may not feel seen or supported. Controlled vocabularies are always works in progress and can be questioned.

Where to learn more

Cataloguing

We need to talk about cataloguing: the #NLS9 transcript’ by Alissa McCulloch

Depathologisation

Trans health care from a depathologization and human rights perspective’ by Dr Amets Suess Schwend

LCSH resources

Library of Congress Subject Headings PDF Files (includes About and Intro)

Recommended books for and about transgender children and young people

17 Books about Gender Non-Conforming and Transgender Kids’ from No Time For Flash Cards

Transgender Reading List for Children’ from PFLAG 

Transgender Terminology

GLAAD media reference guide: 10th edition from GLAAD

Background to this post

I’m a Master of Information Management student at Curtin University, and researched this topic as part of a unit last year. It includes my personal views as an early career information professional, as I do not have lived experience of how the LCSH discussed would affect transgender people and the finding of relevant library resources.

Thanks to Dr Hollie White, Curtin University for encouraging her students to delve into “the problematic representation of peoples in LCSH” in her excellent Resource Description and Access unit.

Photo of a lamp shaped like an open book. The lamp is switched on and is glowing softly in a dark room.Photo of a book lamp

#CreateConnections – Library and Information Week 2020

Today is the start of Library and Information Week 2020! The theme is Create, with a different creative theme for each day (thanks to ALIA Groups, Jess Pietsch and Gemma Steele for coming up with these).

Monday’s creative theme is #CreateConnections

A lot has happened since I posted “What happened when I joined ALIA” over two years ago. I decided to revisit this post and update it with all of the new connections that I’ve made since then …

Joined ALIA 2020

All of these connections have built on each other, and in February this year I became ALIA State Manager for WA. This was the result of many conversations with passionate library and information professionals, who are always willing to share what they’ve learned.

If you’re starting out as a student, look for opportunities to #CreateConnections. There’s lots happening online while in-person meetings are on hold (see my blog post series).

If you’re a library or information professional, thank you for making time to welcome me and other students and new graduates to our profession!

Graphic created in Mindomo

Learn something #3 – Experience a conference

Going to conferences is difficult for students and new grads who live outside of cities (too far), or have work commitments or caring responsibilities (too busy). Student rates for conferences are usually reasonable, but travel + accommodation adds up (too much).

Thanks to my supportive family, I’m very fortunate to have attended three conferences in the past year (including two in Perth where I live).

Three things I love about conferences

  • Meeting new people and strengthening existing connections
  • Finding out about new ideas and new ways of doing things
  • Seeing the library and information world from different perspectives

We can’t do the first one due to no physical conferences during COVID-19 restrictions, but we can seek out new ideas and different perspectives.

Experience an Australian conference

Here are some recent Australian library and information sector conferences – thank you to the organisers for making the talks available freely online:

My top two picks

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts for library and information students and new grads. Even though we can’t meet in person due to the impact of COVID-19, there are lots of ways to feel connected, keep learning and figure out what you’re interested in. The blog posts are:

Feel connected #1 – Join Twitter

Feel connected #2 – Join a Twitter chat

Learn something #1 – Do a free online course

Learn something #2 – Keep up to date

Learn something #3 – Experience a conference (this post)

Take regular breaks from being online during intense news cycles (like now) – see here for lots of mental health support resources.

Southern Ocean and cliffs

Photo of the Southern Ocean, taken near Tookulup Lookout in Western Australia 

Learn something #2 – Keep up to date

Library and information professionals are always learning, and constantly looking for new ways to meet the needs of their communities. As well as keeping up to date via Twitter, I subscribe to a few old-school newsletters. Here’s some of my picks:

General library and information newsletters:

  • Newslet for Libraries is an international “curated newsletter for library & information professionals” – subscribe here
  • Information and Data Manager weekly is an information management newsletter –  subscribe here
  • Read for Later is a weekly newsletter from the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries – subscribe here
  • ALIA weekly contains library and information sector news from the Australian Library and Information Association. You can subscribe here even if you’re not an ALIA member.

Special topic newsletters

And here’s a million more library newsletters from different bloggers.

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts for library and information students and new grads. Even though we can’t meet in person due to the impact of COVID-19, there are lots of ways to feel connected, keep learning and figure out what you’re interested in. The blog posts so far are:

Feel connected #1 – Join Twitter

Feel connected #2 – Join a Twitter chat

Learn something #1 – Do a free online course

Learn something #2 – Keep up to date (this post)

Take regular breaks from being online during intense news cycles (like now) – see here for lots of mental health support resources.

Coming up next – Learn something #3 – Experience a conference

lake and sky

Learn something #1 – Do a free online course

You may not feel like learning anything right now, and have enough on your plate with study deadlines, work, unexpected work from home, unexpected lack of work, or the challenge of home-schooling kids.

If there comes a time when you have the mental space for some self-directed learning, there are lots of free online options.

This is the third in a series of blog posts for library and information students and new grads. Even though we can’t meet in person due to the impact of COVID-19, there are lots of ways to feel connected, keep learning and figure out what you’re interested in. The blog posts so far are:

What is a MOOC?

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are online courses from different providers (mostly universities), collected in one handy place. There are usually a few levels of membership, but they generally have a free option. The learning is more important than paying for a certificate, and I use the free option.

Some MOOC ideas…

Here’s a selection from Future Learn, all are very relevant to the library and information profession:

Where to find more MOOCs

Future Learn is just one MOOC provider. Others to browse include:

This is my usual reminder to take breaks from being online, especially during intense news cycles (like now). Look here for lots of mental health support resources.

Coming up next – Learn something #2 – Keeping up to date

title page of The Book of Knowledge Volume 1

Title page from Stowell, G. & Mason, J. E. (Eds.). (1954). The Book of Knowledge Volume 1 (5th ed.). London, UK: The Waverley Book Company Ltd.