Turning Open Access Academic Books into BIPOC Art Galleries

One of the best parts about my job as a ScholComm Librarian is working with amazing students on meaningful publishing projects. As part of a team working on a Dept of Ed funded grant with our National Resource Center for Asian Languages, I had the wonderful privilege of collaborating with a team of BFA and MFA illustrators to make Vietnamese language books in support of bilingual K-12 education in Orange County. One of our illustrators, a young, gifted and Black artist by the name of Leah Simone Metters, brought tremendous energy, creativity and leadership to the project.

Now that my Open Science book experiment on the First Gospel (Qn) is almost a year old, over 1000 pages, more than 325,000 words, has over 2500 unique downloads, and is the basis for an upcoming peer-reviewed presentation in the Digital Humanities section of the Society of Biblical Literature this November, it felt like the right time to take the book to the next level of professional publishing. So I decided to commission book cover art, and I could think of no artist better suited to realize my vision for the book than Leah.

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Black Collections Matter: Call for a 10% Library Budget Pledge to Support African-American Academic Publishing

Systemic and institutional racism is an enormous problem in academic publishing, and this thoroughly infects libraries as well. Charlotte Roh’s 2018 CARL presentation and accompanying slides should be mandatory reading in this regard, and her citations lead out to lots of other important and relevant scholarly articles and reports. So if you haven’t read Roh’s work, please stop and do so now.

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