Commons Highlights: The Open Access Books Network

Clockwise from top left: Lucy Barnes, Agata Morka, Tom Mosterd.

Welcome to Commons Highlights — a new series highlighting groups, sites, and organizations that make the Commons their home. We will be speaking with users who have created vibrant and thriving communities on how they did it, and the lessons they have learned.

The Open Access Books Network

The Open Access Books Network (OABN) was begun by members of OAPEN, OPERAS, ScholarLed and SPARC Europe to foster discussions about OA books among researchers, publishers, librarians, funders, infrastructure providers, and other stakeholders. What started on Slack after the ELPUB 2019 conference has become a thriving Humanities Commons group of over 180 members, engaging in events, discussions, and the sharing of ideas and information.

Clockwise from top left: Lucy Barnes, Agata Morka, Tom Mosterd.
Clockwise from top left: Lucy Barnes, Agata Morka, and Tom Mosterd.

The OABN Humanities Commons group was built by the OABN’s coordinators, Lucy Barnes, Editor and Outreach Co-Ordinator at Open Book Publishers; Tom Mosterd, Community Manager, OAPEN/DOAB; and Agata Morka, European Coordinator OA books, Open Book Publishers. The group was looking to boost engagement and open new ways for members to interact. They chose to move to the Commons because, as Lucy Barnes states, “The ethos of the Commons and the way it’s run is very much in line with our own values.” The Commons’ emphasis on privacy for user data, openness to all regardless of affiliation, and the fact that it is an explicitly academic space made it the ideal home for the group as they sought to increase discussion and boost membership. As Tom Mosterd points out, “A lot of the people on Slack were already familiar with the Commons,” so it seemed like a natural fit as they worked to grow the group and increase participation.

Using the Commons to Engage Members

In addition to providing a forum for discussion, the Commons group structure also provides an event calendar, shared files and docs, and the ability to maintain a WordPress-based group blog or website. The OABN website is used to publicize live events and uses a WordPress widget to incorporate a feed from the Open Access Tracking Project to provide updated news and information from the wider community. By consistently updating their website, the OABN team keeps members engaged and continues to activate discussion within the community. Lucy Barnes on driving group growth: “It’s been a mix of letting it grow naturally and using events to drive traffic.” For example, the team celebrated Open Access Week by posting a “mini-series of blog interviews about new and interesting initiatives within the open access book ecosystem” (Mosterd, 2020).

As the team uses the blog to drive event traffic, they use the discussion forum to alert users to events and engage members in discussion. The group puts on one to two events per month and providing links to the event recordings on the Commons reaches those who could not participate live and preserves the content for future members. By creating group events using the community calendar and publicizing those events through the group blog and Twitter, they have been able to not just maintain discussion, but grow it. Allowing the group to be publicly visible encourages people to drop in to see the conversation and then join to take part in the discussion. Twitter has been vitally important in driving users to the group and events, as well as own personal networks and peers.

Finding Ways to Grow

The OABN team has done several things to grow their group and that have contributed to their success. By reaching out and engaging with other initiatives who are working on similar topics, Barnes remarked, “it’s easy to collaborate with other groups on Commons.” CORE deposits can be posted to up to five groups at a time, alerting not just your own members but other key groups to new papers, syllabi, or learning materials. As a public group, any member of Humanities Commons can join in the conversation, which can help draw in users who may just be exploring the idea of open access publishing.

Barnes, Mosterd, and Morka were also conscious of helping to “demystify” the Commons for new users by providing a clear description of the group, contact information for the administrators with specific information how to seek help, and providing an explainer pinned to the top of the discussion forum on how to register and join the group with clear guidelines on participation. The openness has encouraged people to join and ask questions and has allowed several students to post surveys and conduct research among its members.

By using multiple forms of engagement, the OABN team has been able to gauge how the community has received different kinds of content. Twitter allows for discussion with the wider community outside of the core group membership, and the discussion forum and blog allow for focused discussion on events. Barnes has also been using the Google Analytics plugin to look at site traffic and most-visited content.

What’s Next for OABN?

Barnes says the group plans to “use [the Commons] to gather community feedback in a more structured way.” She indicated open access publishing is a diverse community and that there are a lot of policy developments under discussion. Large presses have advantages in getting their voices heard, while many smaller presses do not. The Humanities Commons group makes gathering the perspectives of smaller presses easier. While they have not used the Docs feature much yet, Barnes views it as a way “to think about different policy areas that might benefit from discussion and where people may not always agree, but where they can represent their points-of-view in a way people can look back on and refer to, and that we can perhaps present as well.”

The other key area that OABN wants to grow is to find ways to make it more useful for people new to open access publishing. The community is currently made up of mostly publishers, but seeks to bring students, researchers, librarians, and others with an interest in OA publishing on board. Barnes remarked that Humanities Commons attracts the kinds of individual researchers and students that they would like to connect to the community. Mosterd added, “I hope that people will find our network and ask their questions. That it becomes more of a place where researchers, students, or people new to the library or publishing world can find resources. There are a lot of people there who can help them.”

To find more information on the Open Access Books Network please visit their group on Humanities Commons.

If your group is interested in being featured in Commons Highlights email hello[at]

Humanities Commons Groups Month Week 3!

Welcome to week three of the Humanities Commons Group Month! We’re dedicating this time with you to explore groups features, network, and build online community. Each week features a quick challenge (only 5-10 minutes required of your time) to help you familiarize yourself with groups and develop your online presence. As you complete each challenge, share your progress with the larger HC community by tweeting your work to us at @humcommons and using our hashtag, #HCGroups. That way, we can answer questions, direct folks to your work, and keep the conversation going.

If you’ve already missed the first two weeks, never fear! All of our challenges are explained in this blog, so just look back to early blog posts to see what you missed.

Week 3 Challenge

Post a new discussion post. Let at least three people know about it.

This challenge will last from March 15th to the 21st. To complete our third challenge, first navigate to the Groups area of Humanities Commons by clicking the Groups tab. Find a group you’re already a part of or join a new one and click onto that group’s page. Once there, click on the Discussion tab of the group’s navigation bar (just below the group’s header image). After you’ve reached the Discussion page, click on the green button labeled Create New Topic and type your new post into the text box.  There are many options you can choose to customize this discussion post. For example, you can select to be notified of any follow-up replies by email, or you can choose to post the same comment to multiple groups by using the checklist at the bottom of the page.

Once you’re done typing in your message and selecting from the many options, click the green button labeled Submit. Congrats! Your discussion post should now be live! Share the post with three people by copying and pasting your post’s link to social media. Please also share your new post with us on Twitter so we can share it with our followers!


Week 3 Group Admin Challenge

Show or hide a menu item for members. For example, if your group doesn’t use one of the group features, you can remove it from the menu to decrease clutter!

To complete this challenge, first go to your group’s page. Select Manage from the group’s navigation bar; then, click on the Settings button. Scroll down to see the option to hide or show menu items. Don’t forget to click Save Changes after you’re happy with your selection, or else it won’t be saved.

screenshot of the group admin settings page where one can hide menu items or change the default landing page.

If you ever change your mind about whether you’d like the menu item to be visible or hidden, you can always return to this page and change it back. Read more about these new options for groups in our recent blog post.

Week 2 Solutions

Get stuck last week? Or missed the challenges announcement? Not to worry, you can still complete them this week! Here they are (you can also find them on the blog post dedicated to Week 2), with instructions.

Week 2 Challenge

Respond to a discussion post that somebody else began.

To complete this challenge, navigate to the Groups area of Humanities Commons, and either find a group you’re already a part of or join a new one. Once you’re in the group, click on the Discussion tab of the navigation bar (by default, it’s right next to Activity, the main page for most groups). Once there, respond to one of the discussion topics! Or, if there aren’t any, make a discussion topic of your own (that’s jumping ahead a bit to week 3, but you won’t lose points, promise!). Topics can be anything related to the group’s purpose: a pressing issue in a given field, a call for papers, an announcement of a major publication, etc.

Week 2 Group Admin Challenge

Change the group photo or cover image. If you like the one you already have, feel free to switch it back!

To complete this challenge, navigate to a group that you are an administrator for. Next, click Manage in the navigation bar. Once on the Manage page, you can click on Photo or Cover Image in order to change these elements of your group. Do the process again to change it back to the old Photo/Cover Image!

Introducing Humanities Commons Groups Month

In March 2019, Humanities Commons will host HC Groups Month by posting various challenges and encouraging tips on our Twitter account, @humcommons. By the end of the month, participants will have a better understanding of how they can take full advantage of the many benefits that HC groups offer.

Why should you take part in HC Groups Month?

Groups are an important feature of Humanities Commons because of their incredible networking potential. By participating in HC Groups Month, you’ll not only learn how to better utilize HC groups, you’ll put your learning to work immediately. This means that your work within the challenges will work for you: you’ll grow your digital network and hopefully make vital connections with other scholars in your field. This can help you grow your digital presence and share your work with a wider audience.

While building your network on HC groups, you’ll find many other benefits:

  • Find support for your work. Each HC group has a “documents” feature, which allows you to share and co-edit documents. This is a great way to ask for feedback on work-in-progress. Additionally, HC users can choose to share their CORE uploads with specific groups. Once shared, you can again ask for feedback, or simply sit back and bask in the knowledge that your work will receive a larger readership than had you not shared it with a group or uploaded it to CORE.
  • Fruitful discussions had at conferences no longer have to end there. You can create a group for a specific conference or society, allowing you to continue conversations held at conferences and share presentations and papers. This will also allow other scholars who were unable to attend the conference to read the work presented and take part in these important discussions.
  • Find the right type of group for you. Each group fulfills a specific purpose for a specific group of people. For example, you might want to support a particular network that currently has very little digital presence. Or, you may want to create a group for one of the courses you’re teaching or a workshop you’re leading. You might also want to create a group for a society or organization. HC allows group creators and members a number of personalization options. As a creator, you decide how public your group will be. As a member, you are in control of how many notifications and/or emails you receive from the group.
  • Enjoy advantages from the listserv model. During our opening Twitter chat announcing HC Groups Month, one HC user mentioned how much she enjoyed using HC groups over listervs because of the streamlined discussions and searchability of HC groups. It can be difficult to locate past conversations hosted in an emailed listserv; however, on HC groups, all discussions are easily located and neatly archived. Similarly, all documents and CORE uploads shared with HC groups are easy to find. By shifting your conversations from a listserv to an HC group, you won’t even lose your ability to post by email: group members can conveniently post discussion topics and replies by sending an email.

Ready for HC Groups Month?

Us, too! We look forward to hosting you on Twitter as we work through our groups-based challenges. Our calendar is below:

WEEK 1 (March 1-7): Invite 3 new members to a group you’re in.

WEEK 2 (March 8-14): Respond to a discussion post that somebody else began.

WEEK 3 (March 15-21): Post a new discussion post. Let at least 3 people know about it.

WEEK 4 (March 22-28): Make a new CORE deposit that gets shared to your group(s). Let folks know, in the group discussion or via social media!

End of Month (March 29-31): Help us add to our list of best practices for generating participation in groups. 

As you complete the challenges, share your progress! If you’re on Twitter, tweet with #HCGroups.

Extra! Group Admin Challenges

If you are already a group admin, or want to become one with a new group of your own, here are some extra challenges for admins!

WEEK 1 (March 1-7): Set a welcome message for your group that all new members will receive.

WEEK 2 (March 8-14): Change the group photo or cover image. If you like the one you already have, feel free to switch it back!

WEEK 3 (March 15-21): Show or hide a menu item for members. For example, if your group doesn’t use one of the group features, you can remove it from the menu to decrease clutter!

WEEK 4 (March 22-28): Advertise your group! Share it via e-mail, social media, in-person conversations, etc.

End of Month (March 29-31): Help us add to our list of best practices for generating participation in groups.

HC Groups Month begins on Friday, March 1st. Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@humcommons) so you don’t miss out on anything. Give us a shout out using our hashtag, #HCGroups, so we know you’re ready to grow your digital network using HC groups!

Groups Best Practices

Making the Most of Your Humanities Commons Group

Once you’ve created a group on Humanities Commons, you may find yourself asking a number of questions:

  • What do I do next?
  • How do I get people do join my group?
  • How do groups promote exciting academic activity and collaboration?
  • How do I encourage members to post more?
  • What else can I do with my group besides sharing CFPs and CORE deposits?

To help you answer these questions and make the most of your Humanities Commons group, we’ve compiled a list of best practices for group moderators. Please be sure to first visit the collection of pages within our groups guide and FAQ. Each of these pages outlines the basic instructions and features for using our groups.

Continue reading “Groups Best Practices”