October 20, 2014

MLA to Launch Scholarly Communications Platform

The Modern Language Association (MLA) will launch MLA Commons, a new scholarly communication platform, at the January 2013 MLA convention in Boston.

The Commons will offer a platform for the publication of scholarship in new formats, the Association said in a statement. However, the focus is more on member-to-member communication, group discussion and collaboration. “We understand our role in this platform less as ‘publishers’ and more as ‘facilitators,’” MLA’s Director of Scholarly Communication, Kathleen Fitzpatrick, told LJ.

She should know: the idea is Fitzpatrick’s own brainchild, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education: while still just an English professor, she blogged that scholars should share their draft monographs online for peer review, which led to her co-founding MediaCommons and ultimately to MLA hiring her to start its new scholarly communication office and create the MLA Commons.

Anyone will be able to read material posted in the Commons for free; however participation in some discussions, creation of user profiles and groups, and publishing original content will be restricted to MLA members.

The Committee on Information Technology is already testing an alpha version, the association announced, and the MLA’s office of scholarly communication is calling for volunteers to join in over the next two months. “We don’t really have a benchmark for numbers of testers per se; we’re more focused on creating a critical mass of activity within the site,” Fitzpatrick explained. “The site will move into an early beta form later this fall, once a few more of our key functions are in place,” and launch in January “in an open beta state, as there will be more development over the months to follow.”

“We’ve been in development for about six months, but we’re working with benefit of a great deal of existing work by the CUNY Academic Commons team; it’s their “Commons in a Box” project that MLA Commons will be built upon,” Fitzpatrick said. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is supporting the development process.

Beyond collaborating with CUNY and the Mellon Foundation, MLA also hopes to work with academic libraries and others. “We would love to get libraries involved in helping their faculties begin using the Commons! Given the interest that many academic libraries are developing in supporting scholarly communication, I could imagine working with those libraries to develop local workshops on Commons use,” said. Fitzpatrick. “We’re also hoping, once our own launch is complete, to help open this platform to other organizations. The Commons in a Box project is working toward a federated commons-of-commonses, and we very much look forward to developing greater connections across scholarly societies as well as with universities and other higher education organizations.”

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Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Senior Editor, News and Features of Library Journal.

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