Access Lab program. Group of people looking at a laptop in a library

“Barriers to access are a people problem, not a technology problem”

08 March 2023 • Laura Bloomfield, senior event manager

Last year Emily Singley joined Elsevier after years as a senior librarian in academic libraries across the US. She is widely known for her commitment to improving library user experience. Ahead of her keynote at Access Lab 2023, we asked her what she’s working on now.

The work I’m doing here is a continuation of what I’ve been doing my whole career. I’m trying to make education and research easier by helping library users find and work with the quality resources they need.

This is more pressing than ever because the research environment has become incredibly complex. Librarians control access to digital resources that often aren’t on their library’s website; instead, they are licensed from providers. Librarians are the gatekeepers with keys that open the locks. And it’s because I want those locks to open easily that I started talking to Elsevier about authentication. Of course, they’re interested in the same things. In joining the company I’ve become an interface between publishers and libraries, helping them work together to simplify user journeys and give quality content reach and impact.

As a former librarian, I know the issues librarians deal with every day. By sharing those insights with the business I can help to overcome practical difficulties and remove barriers to access.

Policy changes

With recent shifts in policy in the US on data sharing, those issues have become even more complicated. The NIH data management and sharing policy is an important example. It means NIH-funded researchers must make sure their data is shareable and in response, universities and their libraries need to decide how best to make that possible.

Publishers can help. At Elsevier, for example, we offer tools that support data sharing and compliance such as Digital Commons Data and Data Monitor. But there is often a lot of complexity around where data is managed at a university – is it the library? The research office? IT? Or a combination?

Librarians are pivotal

This is a people problem, not a technology problem and it’s one that librarians are well placed to solve. Libraries act as a hub and librarians are pivotal in making the connections that can bring everything together. Even when they aren’t managing a tool or a service themselves, they know who to talk to about it.

This is what I want to emphasize: librarians still hold the key to making the research environment navigable for academics. I’ll be talking about this at Access Lab 2023 later in March.

Emily Singley - Boston College

Watch Emily's presentation at Access Lab 2023

In a post-pandemic world, access to research has become increasingly global and complex. Librarians, more than ever before, play a critical role in providing access to reliable research and are relied upon as key strategic partners by publishers. In this webinar a librarian who recently moved to a major publisher will describe how librarian partnerships drive innovation, improve user experience, and ensure equitable and remove barriers to access.

Watch Emily's presentation