"It has been my honor this summer to serve as an intern for the Open Folklore Project at Indiana University Libraries. I am a natural historian, not a folklorist, so my interest in this project has been centered on its implications in the academic library world. But what I have learned through my work with numerous library and folklore professionals has been extremely valuable to both my understanding of Folklore as a discipline, and about academic partnership.
The project is a joint venture between Indiana University Libraries and the American Folklore Society, who came together to form an online portal for anyone interested in folklore as a discipline. The website (currently hosted at www.openfolklore.org) is currently undergoing a redesign and, when launched in October, will be the main hub for online folklore-related research.
My contributions to the project have revolved around the Open Access initiative surrounding the mission of Open Folklore. This includes contacting copyright holders of current and past scholarly folklore journals to secure permissions to liberate their academic content through the HathiTrust Digital Library program through the University of Michigan. While that summary only scrapes the surface of Open Folklore, the project is a valuable lesson for the future of academic libraries and subject disciplines. Indiana University chose this project because it has the most highly respected folklore collection in North America. Partnering with the American Folklore Society was a natural fit to take advantage of the consummate strengths of both organizations.
Open Folklore has introduced a new model of scholarly collaboration between university libraries and professional/academic societies in which a joint effort is made between staff from both organizations. By utilizing one another’s talents the goals of the project are heightened, the results multiplied. This new model of outreach and collaboration can easily be translated to other universities with varying strengths and ties to scholarly organizations. Imagine, for a moment, the possibilities of projects of this scope. Larger university libraries offer the physical resources and digital infrastructure to support and promote projects like this. Professional societies – like AFS – offer the perfect means for reaching the most influential and highly involved academics in their field. These strengths combine to ensure the success of projects like this. What’s more, projects like this one are valuable for even more than simply a joint promotion of resources and possibilities. They also work to promote cutting edge technology and promote initiatives that are of utmost value to academic libraries. In the case of Open Folklore, this means Open Access – a rapidly growing and evolving principle in the world of libraries and scholarly life."