July 24, 2019
Social justice driving library publishingBy Reggie Raju
The Fellows Journal is a forum for the current Library Publishing Coalition fellows to share their experiences and raise topics for discussion within the community. Learn more about the Fellowship Program.
“It is my assertion that library publishing programmes should be guided by the possibility of realizing the field’s immense potential for growth and development of the African continent. The need for a social justice driven library publishing agenda must be at the epicentre of this development process.”
It is not the norm to begin with a disclaimer, however, in this instance it is necessary given that the larger readership of this blog is from the global north. This blog is written through a global south lens; a lens that has a deep affiliation to the fundamental principles of open access and that the sharing of research results is essential for the furtherance of research and the growth and development of society.
I was fortunate enough, as a fellow of the LPC, to attend the 2018 forum meeting. What I was longing to hear at the meeting, and maybe naively so, was discussion on the exploitation of this relatively new library service to radically improve the distribution of research results for the growth and development of society. It was clearly evident that we have two different parallels, though not mutually exclusive. One which is driven by the desire to improve visibility of authors and their work and the other which is driven by the desire to improve accessibility through openly sharing for the growth and development of society. In the former, the measurement of success is citation count while the latter is socio-economic impact. Citation count for research has a relatively high degree of maturity while the latter is barely at a fledgling stage.
The lens from which I view the roles and responsibilities of libraries in the delivery of a publishing service is driven by the single ambition: to share desperately needed scholarly literature freely with all, especially with those from the global south who are deprived of critical information, be it for research or growth and development purposes, due to exorbitant subscription costs. This financial barrier together with the high cost of internet access (one of the highest in the world) are major challenges for Africans. Other challenges such as frequent power outages and poor IT infrastructure are part of a myriad of challenges that make access near impossible – these challenges perpetuate poverty and doom and gloom for a continent that is so rich in natural resources–including an abundance of human resources. It is my assertion that library publishing programmes should be guided by the possibility of realizing the field’s immense potential for growth and development of the African continent. The need for a social justice driven library publishing agenda must be at the epicentre of this development process. Hence, my focus in this blog post is on diamond open access library publishing, that is, where there is no cost to the reader nor the author. The publishing service is part of the suite of services provided by the library.