Creating a virtual community of scholars

ILI speaker Olga Koz will be sharing tips on how to create a community of researchers.

There is growing dissatisfaction with the traditional scholarly communication (SC) system and academic librarians are working on finding a solution to remedy its deficiencies.

However, it seems that the majority of academic librarians are concerned mainly with formal channels of scholarly communication by offering alternative publishing, creating institutional repositories, advocating for open access policies, curating open resources and so on. I decided to focus on informal channels of scholarly communication by joining and supporting a community of practice, a faculty-driven organisation in one of the university colleges, the College of Education.

The presentation describes the development of a blended (online and face2face) community of researchers, which has been established to enable the sharing of ideas and knowledge; to support and promote research. The primary attention in my talk is paid to the platform which allows conversations, peer-critiquing, content generation, and collaboration.  At #ILI2018 I will be sharing tips on how to create such a platform and what pitfalls should be avoided. Here are some of them:

  • Do not select software that requires much learning and is not familiar to the majority of community members. Survey members on what do they use already
  • Seek support early on from University IT department, CIO and the committees responsible for technology coordination. Ideally, utilise the platform that has been acquired and is supported by the IT department. Unfortunately, based on my experience, not too many institutions of higher education have a robust social intranet
  • Find “early adopters,” people who seem eager to use digital tools or already actively employ them in their academic or personal life. Be prepared that even in the best-case scenarios, only 20-25% will be actively using any social communication platforms
  • Be aware of perceptions of social networking sites. For example, the attitudes about Facebook (our first platform) has changed over time, and researchers started to leave platform during recent revelations about misuse of personal data.
  • Allocate time to serve as an online community manager. The online community manager is different from a marketing specialist. You do not “market” or “promote” resources or services, you support and mediate conversation and knowledge sharing
  • One of the critical challenges in the development of the platform for the community of scholars has been to understand the unique needs of scholars while adopting the existing apps and everchanging media technology.

Olga is Associate Professor & Graduate Studies Librarian at the Kennesaw State University, USA. She will be speaking at Internet Librarian International 2018 in a session called New Models for Scholarly Engagement.  For more information on the conference, see