Transformative agreements to save money and increase open access publishing

As the scholarly publishing landscape has grown more complex, the Jean & Alexander Heard Libraries is pleased to announce a series of new transformative agreements aimed at bolstering Vanderbilt research and lowering the cost of open access publishing for the university and its affiliated authors.

Transformative agreements, also called Read and Publish Agreements, produce incentives for authors to publish under an “Open Access” publishing model. Open Access, or OA, complements the recommendations provided in recent memorandum from the U.S. Office of Science and Technology ensuring free, immediate, and equitable access to federally funded research. Vanderbilt University affiliated authors are expecting an annual savings of over $600,000 using these new agreements.

Transformative agreements allow research libraries to transform existing journal subscriptions to an OA license without interrupting access to these publications or their data. OA journals are proven to enhance discoverability and citation counts. Vanderbilt University affiliated authors can expect to see an increase in traffic to articles published under these agreements, thereby improving viewership and citation ranking over time. Journals typically require authors to pay additional fees known as article processing charges (APC) to maintain an OA license.

Heard Libraries has successfully negotiated nine transformative agreements and additional agreements are in the works. Agreements are currently in place with Annual Reviews, BMJ, Cambridge, Company of Biologists, Institute of Physics, Royal Society, Sage, and the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3) for APC free publishing. An institutional discount will be applied for articles published through BioMed Central.

Each agreement is individually negotiated by the libraries and reflects the unique portfolio of each publisher. Sage, for example, publishes over 1,000 academic journals and eight hundred books an annual basis. APC savings based on Sage journals alone are estimated to be over $300,000 annually. Transformative agreements with the Institute of Physics and Cambridge are expected to save an additional $300,000 for Vanderbilt affiliated authors.

Authors must adhere to specific rules in order to take advantage of these agreements. In order to qualify for an APC waiver, the corresponding author must declare Vanderbilt University when submitting their work to an OA journal. It is best practice to use your email address. Information regarding article eligibility, including what defines a corresponding author, are available at the dedicated Vanderbilt site. Publishing information and author instructions are listed for each participating publisher. This guide will continue to be updated as new publishers are added. Additional information about open access is also available in an accompanying guide.

Vanderbilt librarians and informationists are diligently building out a program of support for faculty in their disciplines with an interest in open access research. This spring, library experts in the sciences and biomedical fields are hosting introductory workshops on the Open Science Framework. These workshops are designed for grant-seeking faculty and students with funding requirements for managing research data based on open access principles. These workshops are available to all faculty and will continue to be adapted as new transformative agreements are put in place. Faculty, staff, and students with additional questions may consult with their liaison librarian.

Heard Libraries prepare for new federal mandates on publications and data management

On August 25, 2022, the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum outlining new requirements for federally funded research to be “freely available without delay.”  The updated guidelines— ‘Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research’ — eliminate the optional 12-month embargo period and require all resulting publications and scientific data to be made publicly available without embargo. Institutions have three years to address these changes. Over 50% of all Vanderbilt research will be impacted, including initiatives funded by the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation. Heard Libraries is playing a leading role in preparing campus for these changes and supporting faculty as they adapt.

In December, University Librarian Jon Shaw addressed the Faculty Senate’s Academic Planning Committee with an update on the libraries’ plan for supporting open access faculty research. According to OSTP requirements, changes can be expected to go into effect by December 31, 2025. New or groundbreaking data management practices are unlikely. However, previously “closed” publications and repositories will be expected to adapt open access publishing models.  Shaw noted, “Libraries have historically been ahead of the curve in adopting open access policies. We are well prepared with an exceptional staff and collection of resources to navigate faculty through these new and exciting changes. “Each federal agency will implement plans specific to their funding requirements. As these announcements are made, the libraries will be key communicators of those changes to campus stakeholders. Heard Libraries is already providing information on these changes through online resources that are regularly updated. Initiatives such as the deployment of an institutional repository, the pursuit of transformative licensing agreements, and the development of faculty workshops speak to the dynamic and multifaceted response of Heard Libraries to support Vanderbilt faculty.

Vanderbilt has significantly expanded its portfolio of transformative licensing agreements. These new agreements cover the cost of publishing research in prestigious, reputable journals using an open access licensing agreement without the burden of additional costs to departments or individual faculty.  Transformative agreements are not only a cost-saving measure for the university, but also a means of support for faculty who frequently publish.

Locally, Vanderbilt University’s Institutional Repository (VUIR) is a digital repository providing open access to scholarly research at Vanderbilt University. Any Vanderbilt faculty, student or staff member may contribute materials. Over 17,000 unique items have been deposited, and faculty retain copyright. Director of Digital Scholarship Andrew Wesolek noted, “Research is a public good. When Vanderbilt’s research and research data is systematically opened, either through policy or platforms, it produces a new pipeline for scholarship to emerge.”

Vanderbilt librarians and informationists are also diligently building out a program of support for faculty in their disciplines to provide information on open access research methods and resources for pursuing a research agenda aligning with the new OSTP guidelines. This spring, library experts in the sciences and biomedical fields are hosting introductory workshops on the Open Science Framework (OSF).  These workshops are designed for grant-seeking faculty and students with funding requirements for managing research data based on open access principles. These workshops are available to all faculty and will continue to be adapted as OSTP rules are applied.

Music faculty and library staff produce hub of research on Florence Price

Music faculty and library staff are partnering to define Vanderbilt as a hub in the field of research on composer Florence B. Price. Most recently, a new thematic catalog capturing Price’s work draws upon dozens of scores recently acquired by Heard Libraries in collaboration with Associate Professor of Musicology, Douglas Schadle. Shadle has emerged as a leading expert on the music of fellow Little Rock, Arkansas native Florence B. Price (1888-1953), the first African American woman composer and pianist to achieve international recognition. Working together, faculty and library staff are setting the standard for scholarship and discovery in this area, and pairing these collections with an engaged and curious user community at Vanderbilt. These scores, in conjunction with the new thematic catalog, are intended to inspire and captivate students and faculty in their research, learning, and ultimately performance.

A thematic catalog contains an individual entry for each work by a composer, with each entry including the opening notes of the work. While this type of reference work was traditionally issued in print, Shadle is embracing digital humanities technologies to design an online catalog for Price. Shadle has collaborated with Music Librarian for Cataloging, Jacob Schaub, to use Music Encoding Initiative to generate the musical incipits for Price’s thematic catalog. Schaub’s expertise with MEI has been an invaluable asset to this project, and when asked about the work, Schaub said “As a music cataloging librarian, my daily work often revolves around consulting authoritative editions and thematic indexes of musical works. MEI is becoming a game-changer in many ways, not least since it can enable access to the most up-to-date scholarship in a form that easily exceeds the capabilities of the thick and expensive physical volumes that typically reside in the reference sections of music libraries. I anticipate Dr. Shadle’s work on the music of Florence Price is only among the first of a wave of such efforts that will transform the field.”

Acclaimed artists who will perform include noted musicologist-pianist Samantha Ege; author, activist and performance artist Caroline Randall Williams; acclaimed countertenor, Patrick Dailey; flutist Valerie Coleman; Nokuthula Ngwenyama, viola; and Hannah Lash, harp.

These performances will grace multiple venues, including the National Museum of African American Music, Tennessee State University, the state’s largest Historically Black University, and the W.O. Smith School, a community music school offering high-quality, affordable music lessons to more than 650 low-income students from the area.

In partnership with the Anne Potter Music Library at the Blair School of Music, Shadle has also been a key collaborator between the Vanderbilt music community and the National Museum of African American Music. He was the faculty sponsor in 2021 for the first collection approved for purchase with the Academic Archives Purchasing Fund.  Highlights from this collection: The John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie Collection, include Gillespie’s personal scrapbooks from his State Department-sponsored tour as the first “Jazz Ambassador” to the Middle East, thousands of photographs and recordings. This acquisition engaged students in experiential learning last spring through the Buchanan Library Fellowship, Archives and Storytelling: Exploring the Life of Dizzy Gillespie through Photographs. This semester, Lecturer Robbie Fry’s Global Jazz class is using the scrapbooks for a story-mapping project with support from Librarian for Geospatial Data and Systems, Stacy Curry-Johnson, Music Librarian for Education and Outreach, Sara Manus, and Jacob Schaub.

Douglas Shadle came to Vanderbilt in 2014. He currently sits on the Boards of Directors of the American Musicological Society and the International Florence Price Festival. In addition to creating a thematic catalog for Price’s work, Shadle is co-authoring a new biography of Price for Oxford University Press’s signature Master Musicians series with noted concert pianist and Anniversary Fellow at the University of Southampton, Samantha Ege.

In supporting Wond’ry participants, Management Library breaks the mold

In 2016, the Wond’ry was established to support creative innovation at Vanderbilt. Since that time, the Wond’ry has matured into a robust entrepreneurial playground for designers, builders, and aspiring start-ups, where students connect their academic studies with passions for product development and undergraduates gain immersive experience. Since the 2016 launch of the Wond’ry, Vanderbilt’s Innovation Center, the libraries have provided programming, mentorship, and guidance for research.

The Wond’ry Sullivan Family programs have an increasing number of participants that are geographically dispersed throughout the Southeast and, otherwise, do not have a current Vanderbilt affiliation.  Participants in the Ideator Program spend 3 weeks learning tools and resources to evaluate an idea, while those in the Builder program gain support for launching a viable early-stage idea into a new venture.   This means the research expertise of the university libraries has been able to reach a larger audience. It has also created challenges: How can the Wond’ry engage participants who don’t have access to Vanderbilt’s paywalled resources? What does support look like for these innovator cohorts? How do library services for the Wond’ry differ from traditional university research projects?

To meet the research needs of Wond’ry participants, Lead Regional Instructor, Shannon Ware, had an idea, on-demand virtual support and stand-alone videos are the key to effective engagement with regional participants. Associate Director of the Management Library Kelly LaVoice was excited to meet this need. LaVoice developed and recorded a version of the Management Library’s popular workshop on market research. Unlike the Owen Graduate School version of the workshop, the Wond’ry video highlights public and open access resources available to entrepreneurs no matter their Vanderbilt affiliation. According to LaVoice, “A primary goal of the video is to open the eyes of participants to the wealth of quality, sometimes hidden information, regardless of access to Vanderbilt’s world-class licensed resources and global collections.” Ware incorporated the workshop into the Wond’ry online learning module, and the research questions began to pour in. To meet the growing need for one-on-one research consultations with innovators, the Management Library established an on-demand referral program for Wond’ry participants.

Business librarians meet with Vanderbilt affiliated and nonaffiliated-Wond’ry teams to work through their unique information needs. For those participants without access to Vanderbilt’s premium content, databases and research tools, librarians creatively formulate searches through other means, such as government agencies, thought leaders, trade associations, local libraries, and the open internet. According to Director of Management Library Hilary Craiglow, “Wond’ry participants are motivated researchers who are passionate about their projects. Good, quality information increases the likelihood of bringing innovation to market and enhances business proposals and investment pitches.” The Wond’ry  has a strong record of successful growth. In Ware’s view, the libraries are a practical partner in this work and recognize the value that librarians bring to an entrepreneur: “Libraries are fundamental to market research, market sizing, business plans and patent research. They are preparing an entrepreneur to launch a new venture. Students rely on library services and expertise to bring their ideas to fruition.”

The Sullivan Family Ideator Program at the Wond’ry helps aspiring university-affiliate innovators (students, staff, faculty, and alumni) evaluate and develop their ideas by teaching an evidence-based approach to idea evaluation and offering expert mentorship and access to resources. Participants can receive microgrants if they demonstrate a strong commitment to their idea and its merit. Completing the program and demonstrating product-solution fit can lead to further opportunities, such as eligibility for the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Program and the Wond’ry’s Builder Program. The Builder Program at the Wond’ry helps university-affiliated innovators with a validated early-stage idea. Builder is the perfect next step for graduates of the Sullivan Family Ideator Program and those wanting to learn how to launch a venture or pursue a licensing deal.

Regarding the ongoing partnership of Heard Libraries and the Wond’ry, University Librarian Jon Shaw noted, “The Wond’ry is an exemplary model for campus-wide engagement that expands opportunities for faculty, students, and staff to design, make and create to solve problems. The Wond’ry’s partnership with the Library enhances Vanderbilt’s reputation as a leader in entrepreneurial education and regional development.”

Peabody and Music Libraries join NMAAM to teach on the civil rights movement

Vanderbilt Libraries is partnering with the National Museum of African American Music to teach young readers about the civil rights movement through literature and music. “Social Justice and the Black Music Experience” was conceived by Peabody Library Director, Tiffeni Fontno, during her first visit to the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM). Fontno recalled being inspired by the exhibits and their ability to tell a story, “I wanted to combine my love for children’s literature with music to create relevant experiences for students in the classroom.” Fontno brought together administrators, faculty and library leaders to transform this idea into reality. She connected with Emily Pendergrass, associate professor of Practice of Literacy Education, Holling Borne-Smith, director of the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library, Alice Randall, writer-in-residence, African American & Diaspora Studies, and children’s author Carole Boston Weatherford. A conversation with the NMAAM’s education department helped narrow the focus of this project to using Black music and musical artists.

For Randall, an education on this topic begins with spirituals, an early form of Black protest song. “We don’t know when the first enslaved African married words of protest to a melody,” noted Randall, “But we do know spirituals were well established in the 19th century and we know that in the 21st century Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” played a significant role in sustaining people protesting the murder of George Floyd and asserting the significance of Black lives.”

Randall also noted the longstanding relationship between music and civil rights, along with the richly participatory character of protest as a genre.

“Songs commonly activate individual agency in ways that other protest literatures often don’t,” notes Randall. “In the civil rights movements, everyone is invited to sing, to lead the song, to strengthen the chorus with their presence, with their sound. The person who can’t carry a tune in a bucket on the street—their voice is as significant as Mahalia Jackson’s. The song becomes a flag. If the person carrying it falls, the person next to them carries it. They are embodied, essential, and elemental protest.”

Vanderbilt and the National Museum of African American Music have worked closely together on collections, exhibitions and special events since its opening in 2021. In order to engage more directly with Vanderbilt students, the libraries are hosting a Buchanan Library Fellowship. Buchanan mentors and faculty will share their knowledge of music history, education and children’s literature and together, students will provide teaching materials for use in the K-12 classroom. With a particular focus on Black music, musical artists and social justice movements, fellows will critically examine children’s literature and social justice resources from Peabody Library’s Curriculum Materials Collection and Nashville Public Library.

Pendergrass holds an aspirational view of what students can gain from this experience and apply in their own lives as engaged members of a community. “I hope that Vanderbilt students learn that difficult topics are approachable with young children. By creating text sets and lesson ideas for teachers, I hope that the students also learn how they can support K-12 education as future musicians, political scientists, and writers.”

The Buchanan Library Fellowship will give students the opportunity to work directly with Carole Boston-Weatherford, a children’s author who deals with complex topics of social justice and civil rights. Fellows will learn to evaluate children’s literature using critical thinking, information literacy and equity frameworks. By centering the experiences of authors who research, document and narrate the Black music experience, students gain an understanding of how children’s literature can bridge discussions of hard histories and truth. For fellows who plan to teach K-12 education, this fellowship will provide a valuable set of tools for working with young folks as they come of age and develop their own identity and worldview. Boston-Weatherford has published over twelve award-winning children’s books, including The Sound the Jazz Makes and Becoming Billie Holiday. Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre won the 2022 Coretta Scott King Author award. Boston-Weatherford’s books serve as affirmations of Black history and culture.

This project is funded by Vanderbilt’s Arts, Discovery, and Innovation Fund, a fund administered by the Vice Provost Office of Arts and Libraries. The fund is a component of Discovery Vanderbilt, a campus initiative designed to serve as a catalyst for supporting new ideas and cutting-edge research.

‘Programming for a Networked World’ teaches computing fundamentals in new course

A team of researchers at Vanderbilt University is creating web-based software called NetsBlox to make programming easier and more accessible for students from a wide range of backgrounds to learn. By allowing students to program by connecting ‘blocks’ to form composable stacks of computation, NetsBlox encourages experimentation, play and open-ended discovery. At the same time, NetsBlox opens up the internet and its vast resources to student programs making it possible to create more engaging projects and to teach more advanced concepts. The Vanderbilt University Libraries is supporting these activities by creating a massive open online course (MOOC) to teach introductory computer science with NetsBlox.

NetsBlox is a free, open source, visual programming environment for teaching and learning computer science. At Vanderbilt, NetsBlox has been used to introduce students to the fundamentals of computer science at the School of Engineering as well as to teach computing to students from the humanities in the College of Arts and Science. Akos Ledeczi, professor of Computer Science and professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University, uses NetsBlox in CS 1103: Introductory Programming for Engineers and Scientists to teach core concepts of computing during the first two weeks of the course. As Professor Ledeczi comments, “NetsBlox makes it possible to provide a gentle introduction to programming for novices while also highlighting the power of computer science with really cool projects they create the very first week.”

NetsBlox builds on previous block-based programming tools such as MIT’s Scratch and the University of California Berkeley’s Snap! languages but adds two key features: remote procedure calls (RPCs) and peer-to-peer networking. The first allows users to integrate data and services from many sources, including Google Maps, IMDB, the New York Times, and Twitter. Brian Broll, research and development scientist at the Institute for Software Integrated Systems at Vanderbilt and lead developer of NetsBlox, remarks on the distinctive features of NetsBlox: “NetsBlox has turned into an entire ecosystem of tools. Students can access the sensors on their smartphones, remote control educational robots, collaborate and compete in a 3D virtual robot simulator and even create Alexa skills.”

Clifford Anderson, chief digital strategist at Vanderbilt University Libraries, is collaborating with Ledeczi and Broll to develop a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) about NetsBlox. Designed for release on Coursera, the MOOC is titled “Programming for a Networked World.” As its name suggests, the MOOC will introduce students to the basics of programming by drawing on RPCs and teaching peer-to-peer programming techniques. “Our goal is to teach the fundamentals of computer science with contemporary data services and sources, exposing students to cutting-edge topics like peer-to-peer networking and natural language processing at the beginning of their programing journey.” Anderson hopes that the course will foster computational thinking in disciplines beyond computer science, including among the humanities and social sciences.

Look for the “Programming for a Networked World” to be released this summer on the Coursera platform. Early releases of select videos from the course are already available on YouTube:

A boost in lab productivity from STEM librarians

Audrey Bowden, Dorothy J. Wingfield Phillips Chancellor’s Faculty Fellow and associate professor of biomedical and electrical engineering, wanted a better way to manage the work of students in her research lab. Each year, as a new cohort of students joined her lab, information held by graduating students would sometimes get lost or become outdated as technology changed. Motivated to create a better lab experience for her students and better output for her lab, Bowden sought help from campus partners to improve the management of sensitive data in the Bowden Optics Lab.

After meeting with the Stevenson Science and Engineering Library Director Honora Eskridge, the two developed a custom plan to design a system of information organization, storage, access and use that fit the specific needs of Bowden’s lab. Eskridge recalled, “Scientists and engineers do not always think of librarians as having expertise in research data.  But data is information, and librarians are experts at creating systems for the organization and retrieval of information. So, data management is very much in our wheelhouse. And Josh Borycz, with a PhD in chemistry as well as a library science degree, is the most data-savvy librarian on our team. I knew it would be a perfect fit.”

One of a team of three STEM research librarians at the library, Josh Borycz’s own research interests focus on information science and data management. Upon initial introductions, Bowden and Borycz built out a data management program utilizing library expertise and skill sets in a collaborative partnership for the next two years. In comparing the lab environment to walking into a classroom, Borycz noted,

“Labs are focused on producing quality research. This often means that students are intensely focused on their particular projects and become isolated from the broader context of the research process and needs of their lab mates. The nature of research also means that each lab has a unique set of workflows for gathering, sharing, and publishing data that need to be accounted for before suggesting changes. This means that librarians need to put a great deal of effort into fostering discussion and listening to the needs and goals of lab members.”

Bowden and Borycz met weekly to discuss the needs of the Bowden Lab and outline a data management program. Over the next several months, Borycz embedded himself in the Bowden Lab to understand their research, workflows, and data. Through an iterative process they built out a roadmap to match Bowden’s vision. From here, Borycz built out documentation, instructed students and provided the team with guidance on everything from cleaning code to file-naming conventions. Dr. Bowden’s noted that document retention has improved,

“The work Josh has done in our lab has improved every process that interacts with the life cycle of personnel in the group – from on-boarding to off-boarding. Importantly, Josh worked to help craft a process that integrated with the things we were already doing well, so as to reduce the overhead in learning new workflows.”

Bowden’s lab now has procedures in place to ease the transfer of research between group members, including checklists and documentation templates for onboarding and off-boarding. On a day-to-day-basis, the lab keeps strict rules about file names and file locations, to simplify the process of finding information. In addition, the lab has developed new code standards and expectations for clean code and is working toward implementing a code review process using Git, a piece of software designed to track changes in
code and manage projects. Before results are shared with other scientists, data is now rigorously cleaned, and code is triple checked. This kind of attention to detail makes a significant difference when submitting a manuscript for publication. The students feel comfortable asking Josh for assistance with their data and research issues, which is helping to make sure the process is sustainable.

Borycz’s work has created useful opportunities for the Science & Engineering Library to scale its support for faculty research. While creating data management practices that met the specific needs of the Bowden Lab, the Science & Engineering Library was able to formalize recommendations that will be useful to other research groups on campus. Eskridge noted,

“Libraries are incredibly effective about thinking in terms of scale. A single partnership can result in new areas of support that meet faculty at their point-of-need. It is how we flourish as an organization.”

Regarding the librarian’s unique role, University Librarian Jon Shaw noted it as being a matter of knowledge and commitment: “As information professionals, we are keen to foster substantive partnerships with faculty in research labs. By integrating our librarians upstream, we can streamline work processes that lead to better overall lab efficacy. We are committed to aiding our faculty in propelling their research in the Vanderbilt Way.”

Filling the National Gap in Educational Texts Repositories for Students with Print Disabilities

Vanderbilt is participating in the national FRAME (Federated Repositories of Accessible Learning Materials) Project, designed to fill the gap in higher education materials by building a widely accessible repository of remediated educational texts for students with print disabilities in higher education. The project, sponsored by the University of Virginia, is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with two grants of over $2,000,000. Designed as a multi-year project, FRAME is nearing completion of its two major phases:

    • Phase I (2019-2021) built a secure repository named EMMA (Educational Materials Made Available) for higher-ed institutions to share remediated educational materials and address the copyright issues associated with sharing these materials.
    • Phase II (April 2021-March 2023) will add more searching and submission functions to EMMA and expand the program beyond the Mellon grant. Vanderbilt, as one of the original seven member institutions, is participating in both phases and has contributed hundreds of mediated course texts to growing the EMMA repository.

FRAME brings close collaboration between the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries and the Office of Student Access Services. Students Access Services is responsible for providing the remediated texts that were requested by Vanderbilt students with disabilities and the libraries adds the required metadata descriptions, packages, and submits both the texts and metadata files to EMMA. The libraries’ Director of Metadata Services Dajin Sun and Student Access Services Educational Consultant Bill Burgess have together led Vanderbilt’s participation in the FRAME/EMMA project. The opportunity and outcome of this project has not only enhanced the university’s services in support of the special learning of those students with print and/or other disabilities by leveraging more accessible resources of higher educational materials, but it has also advanced nationwide services for students with the same needs in other higher education institutions. Since participating in the FRAME/EMMA project, Student Access Services can tap the available remediated texts provided through EMMA and fulfill requests from more students on campus, especially benefiting from the EMMA unified searching functions to find requested materials through its educational texts’ partners. To date the FRAME/EMMA project has been successful by accomplishing its primary goal of establishing a fully functional EMMA repository for all students with disabilities in higher education. In addition, this project functions as a model of support for a graduate level educational program in information services for special-needs students that will facilitate the training of future information professionals. Although FRAME/EMMA is nearing its completion of the Mellon grants, the program plans to grow continually, and Vanderbilt Libraries, with its gained valuable experience, can continue its collaborative endeavor to further advance the national services for more students with disabilities across higher educational institutions.

Lawson Institute and Divinity Library unite archival research with campus engagement

The strategic partnership between the James Lawson Institute for the Research and Study of Nonviolent Movements and the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries is impacting research and scholarly conversation in the Vanderbilt community. The Institute, which launched on April 7, 2022, is a joint venture between Vanderbilt Divinity School and the College of Arts and Sciences. Divinity Library Director Bobby Smiley reflected on the partnership thus far: “Working alongside the JLI, beginning with its planning stages, has afforded the Divinity Library new opportunities for outreach, programming, and community partnerships, as well as inclusion in the Institute’s shared governance, The JLI advisory board.”

Lawson Institute Director Phillis Sheppard offered that this partnership exists to “create opportunities for dialogue, education, and research to honor the legacy of Rev. James M. Lawson and non-violent movements for the pursuit of social justice.” A prime example of this collaborative dialogue took place around the exhibit Outreach Librarian for Religion and Theology Kashif Graham co-curated with Molly Dohrmann, curator of Special Collections. The exhibit, entitled: “Education, Preparation, Negotiation”: Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr. and His Legacy of Nonviolence, contained a wealth of letters, images, and other artifacts from James Lawson’s personal collection. The need for open conversation arose regarding displaying challenging historical objects, such as hate mail. The JLI and libraries invited several faculty members to weigh in on the issue, which resulted in a more well-rounded exhibit.

Graham was invited to sit on the Institute’s advisory committee in September of 2022. Graham states that this is the result of the Divinity Library’s embeddedness in the Divinity School, “Academic partnerships are often preceded by personal relationships. People want to partner with people, ultimately. Divinity librarians have been woven into the life of the Divinity School, relationship by relationship.” Graham, who considers his role as outreach librarian to be the principal relationship builder for the Divinity Library, also participated in the Institute’s launch by reading an original poem, “Medical Apartheid.”

Smiley added, “With our archival collection of James Lawson’s materials, the Divinity Library not only acts as a bridge connecting the library to the institute, but also cements a relationship that supports community engagement, helps foster new scholarship and provides collaborative opportunities for pursuing grants.”

This collaboration has already had an impact on the student population of the Divinity School. On October 20 of last year, the institute held an interactive forum, “Queering Activism,” which explored queerness and care in activism work. Graham was one of the forum’s panelists. Graham and Dohrmann will also be featured in the authorized documentary A Better Way: James Lawson, Architect of Nonviolence, directed and produced by Karen Hayes.

The James Lawson Institute and Divinity Library anticipate further collaboration towards the university’s objectives of student learning, faculty research and information equity.