How might libraries serve 21st century information needs? Authorea's proposal.

This document summarizes Authorea's submission entry to the Knight Foundation's open call for ideas focused on advancing libraries to better serve individuals and communities in the 21st century. Here is the call for proposals.
Describe your contribution in one sentence
We plan to revive the role of research libraries as dynamic content creation hubs for their communities via a web-native and data-driven overlay journal.

Describe your project.
The research library of the 21st century that we envision is a space of innovation and a hub for content creation. It is intimately engaged in and supports the full life cycle of knowledge; from discovery to preservation. Research libraries today serve as a knowledge provider with access to scholarly communication - both published, for example journal articles, as well as unpublished, such as grey literature. Produced by experts in their respective fields, grey literature can be invaluable to research since it can overcome possible biases presented by published information. However, grey literature today is hard to find, catalogue, and classify. Our project plans to make research libraries the hubs in which grey literature is produced, by scholars, and stored and disseminated, by libraries, via an overlay journal built on top of Authorea.

Authorea - a leading collaboration platform to write, share and research openly, in realtime - allows people to author manuscripts and include rich media, such as data sets, software, source code, and videos. Authorea will become the infrastructure upon which we will create a modern overlay journal - a collection documents written by library users, graduate students, researchers, and faculty. Our project will initially focus on 1) a specific discipline (Physics and Astronomy), 2) a specific library environment (the Wolbach Library at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), and 3) a specific set of scholarly objects: student manuscripts, theses, problem sets, "data papers" and other supplemental (unpublished materials). These scholarly objects will be curated to become part of a data-centric overlay journal of grey literature in physics and astronomy

How does this project advance the library field?
With an unprecedented growth in enrollment in universities and concentrations becoming more niche and specific, research libraries must have the ability to meet the needs of researchers spanning various fields. Additionally, major academic publishers have made scholarly communication fiscally unsustainable; prices have risen at triple the rate of inflation for the past three decades. Authorea's initiative will help position the library as a space of innovation and creation. Our project will serve as a catalyst to transition the research library from its role as a service provider to a creative and innovative research hub. The research library we will create occupies a central position in supporting its missions of research and education and will serve as the institutional repository for curating, providing access to and managing the grey literature content. The content generated will be freely available, web native and Git-tracked so that we’re aligned with Open Access, Data reproducibility initiatives and searchability.

Who is the audience and what are their information needs?
Librarians that are on the front lines, from subject librarians to scholarly communications and data librarians, this project will help with lowering the barriers that exist currently with the services that libraries offer to their communities. Librarians will be able to offer a simpler solution to making research, teaching and learning material available to broader audiences, while providing greater impact for the work done by students, faculty, researchers and educators. Meanwhile, authors are searching for easier approaches to making their works more discoverable while getting credit for their work. This project reduces the steps involved, and overall, the time it takes for authors to reach their communities.