February 10, 2020
By Melanie Schlosser
As much as we love the searchable online interface for the Library Publishing Directory, it doesn’t include the introduction found in the print, PDF, and EPUB versions. Each year, the Directory‘s introduction includes a ‘state of the field’ based on that year’s data that highlights trends and new developments in library publishing as reported by the programs that contribute their information. To make it easier to find, we are republishing that portion of the introduction here. This year’s introduction was written by Jessica Kirschner, Robert Browder, Ellen Dubinsky, Janet Swatscheno, and Amanda Wentworth with an assist from me. Enjoy!
THE 2020 LIBRARY PUBLISHING LANDSCAPE
As in previous years, the Directory Committee reviewed this year’s entries to identify trends in the data. Although not an exhaustive analysis, the following overview presents trends we find significant due to their value to the community or reflective of new information gathered in this year’s survey. These trends are often mentioned in comparison to the responses from last year’s Directory. However, it should be noted that such evaluation is not a one-to-one comparison: not only did we receive more total submissions this year (153 to 2019’s 138), but these totals are not composed of the same set of institutions, as some who submitted previously may not have submitted an entry this year. Thus, all data shared below should be taken as trends observed from our collected data rather than infallible descriptions of the library publishing field. Additionally, we point out instances of large variance, whether the causes are fully understood or not. We may offer possible reasons for such changes, but these should be taken as possible, rather than definite, explanations.
PROGRAM STAGE AND OA FOCUS
The 2020 Directory adjusted the stages at which institutions could qualify their publishing efforts from five to three categories, which were pilot, early, and established. Out of these categories, 71% of institutions reported their efforts as established while 37% reported being at the early stage. Only 7% reported being at the pilot stage.
As has been seen in previous years, open access features prominently in the mission of many library publishers. All respondents indicated that openness has some importance to their program. This year, 34% of respondents indicated that their program is “completely” committed to open access, number 5 on our 1–5 scale. This represents a decrease of 12% from the 2019 Directory. This difference seems to have been picked up by the 55% of respondents who indicated that open access is “very important” to their program. This represents an 11% increase from 2019. Those institutions who indicated that open access is merely “important” or “somewhat important” were found to be 6% and 3%, respectively.
FUNDING AND STAFFING
Forty-eight percent of respondents received 100% of their funding from their library’s operating budget. Five percent reported 100% of their funding coming from the library’s materials budget. Another 5% of respondents reported deriving some of their funding from sales revenues.
Staffing levels for both full-time professional staff and paraprofessional staff showed significant increases this year. The average number of full-time professional staff is 2.7, showing an increase of 0.4 staff members from 2019. The average number of paraprofessional staff is 2.2. This data point shows an increase of 1.7 staff members from 2019. The reason for such a large increase is unclear, although last year may be an anomaly as a look back at data from 2018 reveals a significant dip (–1.1) in 2019. Such difference could be a wonderful opportunity for deeper statistical analysis of the data and perhaps further research.
Library publishing programs report a fairly broad set of services, offering everything from copyright advice to project budget preparation. The most commonly reported services are copyright advice (79%), metadata services (77%), persistent identifier assignment (70%), training (68%), and analytics (63%). The least prevalent services were budget preparation (9%), applying for cataloging in process data (10%), and business model development (11%). Such high-low trends have remained relatively consistent in comparison with previous years.
TYPES OF PUBLICATIONS
Across institutions, the majority of content published was a combination of faculty (99 institutions reported, over 65%) and student (84 institutions reported, about 60%) journals. The third most popular type of publication content reported was ETDs, which 85 institutions (about 60%) reported publishing. Monographs, textbooks, conference materials, newsletters, and reports are also common publication forms. More interesting is the wide variety of other publication types reported. Datasets and open education resources—both textbooks and other formats—are becoming more common. Book chapters, archival and special collections materials, policy briefs, posters, bibliographies, maps, digital projects, and oral histories were just some of the dozens of other formats noted in this year’s survey. Library publishers appear willing and able to support publication of an expanding array of material.
PLATFORMS AND TECHNOLOGIES
Leveraging technology to develop and manage library publishing activity is a necessity and ongoing challenge. The ability to do so often depends on a combination of factors including budget, staffing, and technical skills. Many publishing programs operate on lean budgets and lean staffing, while others enjoy robust institutional and grant funding that make large-scale software development, installation, and maintenance programs possible. Library publishing programs often take advantage of open source software technologies. While some libraries manage this infrastructure in-house, cloud-based and outsourced technologies are essential for others. The Public Knowledge Project’s Open Journal Systems is the single most used library publishing software with 45% of 2020 survey respondents reporting its use—a 5% increase from the previous year. The bepress (Digital Commons) platform is used by 39% of respondents, a slight decline from the 43% usage reported by 2019 survey respondents. DSpace, a well-established platform for open access repositories, is the third most popular library publishing platform at 32%. Pressbooks is used by 21% of respondents. Locally developed software is still important in this field at 16%, a small revival (an increase of 4%) after having been on a downward trend for the past two years.
One interesting finding in the data is that most library publishers offer multiple publishing platforms: 43% offer three or more publishing platforms, 20% offer two publishing platforms, and 32% only offer one publishing platform. Of the 32% who only offer one platform, the most common platform was bepress (Digital Commons), which can be used as an institutional repository and for publishing journals.
Today’s publications may incorporate a wide variety of media types from plain text to interactive data visualizations. All respondents indicated they work with text. Eighty-six percent of publishing programs currently work with images, 70% of publishers report working with video, 69% report working with audio, and 68% of publishers report working with data. Multimedia/interactive content, concept maps and visualizations, and modeling are reported at 39%, 29%, and 14%, respectively.
In-house methodologies continue to be the leading preservation strategy among publishers with 34% of respondents managing their own preservation. Twenty-five percent of respondents use LOCKSS and 20% report using Amazon S3. Use of the Public Knowledge Project’s preservation network was reported by 14% of respondents. Notably, 20% of respondents indicated that preservation services are under discussion.
Most library publishing programs are developed initially to serve the publishing needs of their institutions, and the Directory has consistently reported strong partnerships between the libraries profiled and their campus (or other) communities. This year’s survey results continue to support this, with 83% of respondents reporting partnerships with campus-based departments and programs and 85% reporting partnerships with individual faculty. These numbers are consistent with previous years, showing only slight increases from 2019. The biggest change from 2019 was partnerships with graduate students, which increased from 57% to 75%.
As library publishing grows, there is an increasing need for information about which libraries are willing to work with external partners and under what circumstances. Libraries need to know to which colleagues they can refer publications that aren’t a match for their program’s scope and capacity, and editors and societies need to know which library publishers might be willing to consider working with them. To facilitate these conversations, we added a question this year about whether the programs profiled are interested in working with external partners. Eighteen percent of respondents reported a willingness to work with any external partner, 59% of respondents indicated a willingness to work with external partners who can demonstrate a tie to their institution, and 5% percent expressed interest in working with external partners based on their disciplinary specialties. Ten percent reported that they are only interested in working with internal partners. These results indicate substantial opportunities for scholarly societies and independent publications to partner with libraries.
ABOUT THE DATA
The LPC maintains archived datasets for each year’s survey. All datasets are available from the LPC in their raw format (comma-separated value) upon request. A full statistical analysis of the data from the past seven years, as a set, has never been completed and is a rich opportunity for research.