LPC Blog

The Library Publishing Coalition Blog is used to share news and updates about the LPC and the Library Publishing Forum, to draw attention to items of interest to the community, and to publish informal commentaries by LPC members and friends.

February 25, 2021

The LPC Roadmap for Anti-Racist Practice

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As part of our commitment to anti-racism, LPC’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force has prepared the LPC Roadmap for Anti-Racist Practice. This document owes a great deal to the ideas and input of library publishing workers at last fall’s anti-racism community call, which was hosted by the task force and the Board. In that call, participants were asked to consider how LPC has perpetuated inequality and marginalization of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and to envision ways that we can adopt anti-racist practice throughout the organization. The task force took the resulting ideas, further developed them, and organized them into an action plan. 

The roadmap consists of a 6-month plan that the task force is currently enacting, and offers a menu of longer-term ideas that the organization and members can choose to implement. The items are organized in six categories: building an anti-racist organization, community building, demographics, education, resource creation, and supporting BIPOC library publishing workers. Several of the items suggested for LPC Committees are to support members in implementing anti-racism in their programs. We want to work together as a community to make library publishing an inclusive, equitable, flourishing endeavor.

As this roadmap is meant to guide the entire organization in anti-racist practice, you will see a number of different LPC groups referenced as being responsible for individual items. These should be considered suggestions from the task force at this point. Since the soon-to-be-established Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee will be working in a consultative capacity with its peer committees and task forces, there will be plenty of opportunities to review the items in the roadmap and decide together what to prioritize. 

This publication is a snapshot of an internal, working document that will be updated as work progresses. As future iterations of the DEI Committee and other LPC groups identify near-term action items, our expectation is that a new snapshot can be generated for the community. 

LPC Diversity and Inclusion Task Force: Cheryl Ball (Wayne State University), Kevin Hawkins (University of North Texas), Harrison Inefuku (Iowa State University), Joshua Neds-Fox (Wayne State University), Angel Peterson (Penn State University), Willa Tavernier (Indiana University)


Library Publishing Workflows. Educopia Institute. Library Publishing Coalition. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
February 24, 2021

Workflow Diagram Software Options

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In celebration of Documentation Month, I wanted to share a brief workflow diagram tool evaluation that I created early in the LPW project. There are an overwhelming number of tools and platforms for creating workflow diagrams, and I relied on a number of lists and reviews to find some candidates that could potentially work.

While there is a lot to like about the open source diagrams.net, we ultimately decided to use Lucidchart for our project for a few reasons. Lucidchart, along with many of the other freemium and premium tools, has slightly better aesthetics, more templates, and more built-in features to add non-diagram components. Educopia also had a subscription to Lucidchart and experience with the platform on OSSArcFlow, which made it compelling for us to use, while its freemium model also means that libraries can use our templates and shape libraries to create up to three of their own diagrams.

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February 10, 2021

2021 LPC Board election: Candidate bios and statements

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Elections for the Library Publishing Coalition Board open today and will continue through Friday, February 26. Instructions for voting will be sent to each member institution’s voting representative. The candidates are:

  • Willa Tavernier, Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Alissa Miller, Middle Tennessee State University
  • Amanda Hurford, Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI)
  • Mike Nason, University of New Brunswick
  • Kate Shuttleworth, Simon Fraser University
  • Justin Gonder, California Digital Library
  • Sarah Wipperman, Villanova University

Each candidate has provided a brief biography and an election statement; this year we have also asked candidates to provide a statement on anti-racism.

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February 4, 2021

Sunsetting LPC’s Service Providers List

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For the last few years LPC has maintained a list of service providers on our website. Although it was very lightly curated and intended to serve as a starting point for research, we felt it was worth maintaining because of the lack of any similar resources. 

We have been excited to see the growing interest in researching, tracking, cataloging, and assessing scholarly communications infrastructure. Now that several of these efforts have come to fruition, we feel it’s time to retire our basic list and direct our efforts towards supporting these more comprehensive resources. Because January is when we normally update the list, this is a good moment to sunset the service providers list and direct library publishers to these other resources. 

In particular, we would like to recommend the recently-announced Scholarly Communication Technology Catalogue (SComCat), developed by the Coalition of Open Access Repositories (COAR) as part of the Educopia-hosted Next Generation Library Publishing (NGLP) project. NGLP is also doing transformative work on aligning scholcomm infrastructure with academic and values that will add much to this conversation over the next couple of years. Further, we encourage library publishers to follow the Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) initiative, which is the new organizational home of the Census of Scholarly Communication Infrastructure. These efforts have already begun to produce sophisticated tools to support the needs of libraries and other mission-driven publishers, with more in the works. 

To avoid broken links, we are retaining the page that the Service Providers List lived on, but replacing the content with a link to this post. We have an archived version of the list for reference, so please feel free to reach out to us at contact@librarypublishing.org if you need it for any reason. We will continue to have a sponsorship program for the Library Publishing Forum that will allow library publishers to connect with service providers.


January 26, 2021

February is Documentation Month!

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Documentation: we all know it’s important. It helps to preserve institutional memory, allows future you to get up to speed, and can be a useful resource to share with colleagues. Yet this important activity is often neglected. Why? Well, one hurdle is simply not knowing where to begin. Another, because we are faced with perennial deadlines and constant day-to-day tasks, is that it too often falls to the bottom of our to-do lists. To encourage library publishers to undertake this important work, the Library Publishing Coalition has designated February as Documentation Month!

Documentation toolkit

To support the community in creating documentation, members of LPC’s Professional Development Committee have created a Library Publishing Documentation Toolkit. It consists of four sections: Getting started with documentation, Planning a documentation day, Suggested documentation projects to tackle, and Sharing documentation beyond your institution. The toolkit is available in PDF and as a Google Doc.   

Ways to participate in Documentation Month

For everyone: 

  • Create some documentation! The purpose of this event is to support library publishers in creating documentation about their publishing programs, so if it inspires you to create even one piece of documentation, you’re participating! 
  • Follow along on Twitter using the #LPCDocMonth hashtag. We will share a weekly discussion prompt to get you thinking about documentation.
  • Organize a local documentation day (see the toolkit for instructions). Share a photo or agenda from your event on Twitter with the #LPCDocMonth hashtag & receive a free registration for the virtual 2021 Library Publishing Forum (limit one per library).

For LPC members: 

  • Attend the weekly community calls! In addition to opening and closing calls, we will have an update on the Library Publishing Workflows project and a policy-writing community call. 
  • Participate in an accountability group. We can pair you up with a buddy or two to support each other throughout the month. 

More information on how to participate in the member-only events will be shared via the member listserv. 

Happy documenting! 

From the Documentation Month planning group (Allison Brown, Erin Jerome, Emily Stenberg, and Melanie Schlosser) on behalf of the LPC Professional Development Committee


Water with the word reflections in all caps with a horizontal line above and below
January 12, 2021

The state of the field: An excerpt from the 2021 Library Publishing Directory

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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 Janet Swatscheno, Ellen Dubinsky, Perry Collins, Ian Harmon, and Laura Miller with an assist from me. Enjoy!

THE 2021 LIBRARY PUBLISHING LANDSCAPE

The yearly Library Publishing Directory provides insights into library publishing activities, allowing us to consider how the field has evolved, prevalent current practice, and possible future directions. While we discuss trends below—often in comparison to prior years—please note that the number and composition of the dataset of Directory listings changes yearly; thus a strict comparison year to year is not possible. Further complicating any analysis of the data are changes to the survey itself. We do try to update the survey as changes in technology and publishing platforms emerge. The  Directory Committee routinely evaluates the data model to ensure that it best reflects the library publishing field. Many of the survey questions remain the same year to year and new questions are periodically added. This year’s collaboration with LibPub SIG and the resultant focus on the international community of library publishers prompted the addition of a question about languages used in publications and added additional types of library publisher (public library and consortium).

We also point out that the survey was distributed in August 2020, over 6 months after the COVID-19 outbreak and the ensuing disruption of “business as usual.” We did not attempt to incorporate any questions related to the pandemic and how or if it has affected library publishing activities. This is an area that should be considered in future editions of the Directory

GENERAL DEMOGRAPHICS

Over two-thirds of the library publishers in the 2021 Directory consider their publishing efforts to be “established” rather than in a pilot or early stage of development. Three entries from Europe reported beginning library publishing activity before 1990: the National Library of the Czech Republic (1777), the City Library of Pančevo (Serbia, 1934), and the Central Library of the Forschungszentrum Jülich (Germany, 1960). Nine libraries began publishing activities in the 1990s, 72 began publishing activities between 2000 and 2009, and 62 reported publishing activities began 2010 or later.

Over half (81) of the library publishers are organized as a centralized library publishing unit or department. About 23% are organized across more than one library unit or department. Over two-thirds of the library publishers do not operate with an advisory or editorial board. 

FUNDING & STAFFING

Since 2013 the Library Publishing Directory survey has asked library publishers to report the sources of their funding. Every year thus far the majority of respondents have indicated that all or most of their funding comes from their library’s operating budget. There was no change to this trend in the data this year: for the 2021 Directory, 62 library publishers reported that 100% of the funding for their activities came from the library operating budget. An additional 27 reported that the majority of their funding (50–99%) came from the library operating budget. Fourteen library publishers reported receiving all or most of their funding (50–100%) from the library materials budget. Non-library campus budgets funded some or all of the library publishing activity for 13 library publishers: 6 received all or most of their funding (50–100%) from these budgets and 7 received some funding support (5–30%) from this source. One library reported that 100% of its funding came from grants and one indicated that over half of its budget came from an endowment. Other sources of funding identified include charge backs & cost sharing and contributions, No library since 2019 has indicated receiving any funding from licensing revenue. Four library publishers (2 of which are consortia) indicated that the majority or all of their budgets were funded by other non-identified sources. 

Identifying trends in the staffing of library publishing programs is challenging (due to a few large publishing programs with very big staffs) and warrants a deeper analysis than we can offer here. This year’s data revealed that the average amount of professional staff FTE involved in library publishing activity is 2.6 (129 respondents). The average FTE for paraprofessional staff was 2.7 (56 respondents). Student staffing is much lower; the average FTE for graduate students involved was 0.9 (29 respondents) and the average amount for undergraduate students was 1.1 (29 respondents).

OPEN ACCESS FOCUS

Library publishers continue to strongly support open access publication. All libraries in the 2021 Directory indicated that open access publication was important to their publishing program. Almost one-half of the respondents indicated that their publications were completely open access. No respondent indicated that the open access focus of its publishing program was only somewhat or not at all important.

PUBLICATION TYPES

Campus journals (both faculty- and student-driven) and ETDs remain the most common types of material supported by library publishers. Over one-half of the respondents publish campus faculty-driven journals or ETDs and over one-third publish campus student-driven journals. Also common are undergraduate theses, faculty conferences, textbooks, monographs, reports, and journals for external groups. One trend we see is a yearly increase in the publication of databases and datasets. Thirty-one respondents indicated that they publish datasets and 8 reported publishing databases. 

Library publishers also noted their publishing of less traditional forms of scholarly content, including digital exhibits, digital humanities projects, oral histories, podcasts, and research posters. 

The survey asked respondents to list up to five of the disciplinary or subject specialties represented in their institution’s publications. One hundred respondents listed at least one discipline or subject. The disciplines listed skewed heavily towards the social sciences and humanities, though there are certainly many STEM publications. The most common HSS subjects were African American literature and studies, education, history, anthropology/archaeology, law, library and information science, literature and literary studies, music, philosophy, political science, and religion and theology. STEM fields reported included nursing, public health, biology, engineering, medicine and health sciences, and mathematics. 

PARTNERSHIPS

Library publishers continue to report that they have ongoing partnerships with faculty and departments/units within their organizations. Eighty percent of the 2021 Directory respondents indicated that they partner with other organizational departments. Slightly over 20% indicated a partnership with a university press. Similar to last year, many library publishers (60%) revealed that they are open to working with external partners if there is some sort of tie to the institution. About 12% of the publishers indicated a willingness to work with any external partner. 

The 2021 survey asked library publishers whether they were part of a consortium and if so, what types of support was provided by the consortium. Twenty publishers indicated they were members of a consortium. The most common types of support listed were hosting services and technical support; hosted platforms include OJS, DSpace, Pressbooks, and Dataverse. 

PLATFORMS & TECHNOLOGY

One of the most fluid aspects of library publishing is which platforms and technologies are being used. Publishing platforms and preservation infrastructures are constantly being developed, tested, deployed, and upgraded. The library publishing community appears open to new tools, migrating to new platforms, and supporting community-led projects. For the last several years, almost two-thirds of library publishers reported utilizing multiple platforms and technical solutions across their publication portfolios.


January 12, 2021

The 2021 Library Publishing Directory is now available!

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The Library Publishing Coalition is pleased to announce the publication of the 2021 Library Publishing Directory! This year’s print,  PDF, and EPUB versions of the Library Publishing Directory highlight the publishing activities of 136 academic and research libraries. The openly available and searchable online directory includes 151 entries.

The Directory illustrates the many ways in which libraries are actively transforming and advancing scholarly communications in partnership with scholars, students, university presses, and others. Each year, the Directory’s introduction presents a ‘state of the field’ based on that year’s data, which we also publish in a related blog posting.

The 2021 Directory reflects a pilot partnership with the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Library Publishing Special Interest Group (LibPub SIG), and includes international entries, translated by IFLA LibPub SIG members. Libraries who chose to complete the full survey appear in the print, PDF, and EPUB versions of the Directory. All entries appear in the online version. IFLA’s LibPub SIG will also create a first-of-its-kind online database of global library publishing initiatives.

Publication of the 2021 Directory was overseen by the LPC’s Directory Committee:

The Library Publishing Coalition Directory Committee

Janet Swatscheno, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chair
Perry Collins, University of Florida
Ellen Dubinsky, University of Arizona
Ian Harmon, West Virginia University
Laura Miller, Florida State University

IFLA Special Interest Group on Library Publishing Subcommittee

Grace Liu (Canada)
Ann Okerson (USA)


SAVE THE DATE:
Join us for the virtual 2021 Library Publishing Forum, May 10-14!


Library Publishing Coalition Quarterly Update
December 3, 2020

LPC Quarterly Update

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Check out our latest Quarterly Update! It includes:

  • Community News
    • Nominations for Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Library Publishing
    • NEW: Publishing Practice Awards
    • Announcing the recipients of the 2020 LPC Award for Exemplary Service
    • LPC Peer Mentorship Program: 2020 Update
    • Our commitment to anti-racism
    • New members and new strategic affiliates
  • Library Publishing Forum
    • Call for proposals now open
  • LPC Research
    • Updates from the Library Publishing Workflows Project
  • Featured Resource
    • Research Interests Match Program

Read the Update


December 2, 2020

LPC Peer Mentorship Program Update and 2021 Signups

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It’s time to reflect on the 2020 Peer Mentorship Program and to kick off participation for 2021! The 2020 cohort was special because we tried something new: Rather than having specific mentor and mentee roles, the focus was on peer mentor relationships. Keep reading to learn about how it went, and how to get involved with the next cohort.

The 2020 Cohort – Peer Mentorship in an Unprecedented Time

In 2020, the Library Publishing Coalition Professional Development Committee continued the LPC Peer Mentorship Program after a successful pilot launch in 2019. The goals for the Mentorship Program are twofold: to orient participants to the LPC, encouraging them to build relationships and get involved; and to facilitate professional mentorship around library publishing.

Activities of the program included a virtual getting-to-know you meeting to kick things off, continuing with monthly calls and email correspondence between peer pairs. Participants were provided with a list of suggested questions to help start their mentor/mentee relationship and were then encouraged to continue the discussions in whatever direction was most desirable for the partners. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented pairs from meeting in person at the Library Publishing Forum as planned, but an opportunity for a casual meetup in the form of the Peer Mentorship-around took place at the first-ever virtual Forum. During the “-around” participants had a chance to reflect on the Mentorship Program and chat about unexpected aspects of shifting to an online environment for, well, everything. We regretted not getting to see participants in person, but it was nice to check in while enjoying our favorite end-of-day beverage.  

After the Forum, mentors were encouraged to fill out a mid-year survey to assess the program and provide feedback. We got some great insights on how to make the program even better for future cohorts. More on that below.

The 2020 cohort is currently wrapping up their participation, and their reception of this program has been positive. Participants of the second year had many good things to share, including the following:

This year has been so challenging for us all, and it’s been really helpful to have an empathetic and supportive colleague to connect with on a regular basis. Talking with my peer mentor about how we’re each dealing with these incredibly difficult situations at our home institutions has been reassuring, not just because we are sharing knowledge and coping strategies, but knowing that someone else is up against the same obstacles I’m facing really helps me feel like we are tackling them together in some small way. Even if we work at different institutions in different countries!” – Sonja Betz, University of Alberta


I am so grateful to be a participant in the LPC Mentorship Program and to have been paired with the most wonderful mentor. Library Publishing is really in its infancy in Ireland and membership of the LPC has enabled access to a great body of knowledge and community of practice. The Mentorship Program has provided the opportunity to learn from a highly experienced and knowledgeable practitioner in a relaxed and intimate environment. My mentor has been very encouraging and I have become more involved with the community as a result. I really feel that I have made a lifelong friend through this process and I am extremely grateful to the LPC Mentorship Program for matching us together.” – Jane Buggle, Dublin Business School


“I have found the peer mentorship calls to be especially useful during COVID since it’s been even more difficult to connect with colleagues in-person and through professional conferences.” – Janet Swatscheno, University of Illinois at Chicago

Interested in being a peer mentor in 2021?

In response to another successful pilot year, the LPC Professional Development Committee will be offering the program again, with a continued focus on peer mentor relationships. Based on participant feedback, the Committee will aim to achieve more goal-oriented partnerships, and we’ll play a more active and continued role in providing discussion guidance. We hope to welcome many more members into the 2021 LPC Peer Mentorship Program!

Timeline for 2021 Cycle:

  • Applications out now! (Don’t worry, we’ll remind you again about applications in early January! We’ll be accepting applications through January 22, 2021.)
  • Matching: We’ll match you with your new Peer Mentor by February 1, 2021.
  • Orientation: Participants will receive instructions and orientation materials in early February. 
  • Library Publishing Forum Virtual Conference May 10-14
    • The LPC Professional Development Committee will host a meet-up for participants.
  • More throughout your time in the program!
    • Attend special mentorship calls hosted by the Professional Development Committee (topics and schedule TBD)
    • Discussion topic suggestions (monthly)
    • Mid-year (6-months) survey
    • Post-cycle (12-months) cohort evaluation with exit survey 

Apply for the 2021 LPC Peer Mentor Program now!

 

LPC Professional Development Committee
Amanda Hurford, PALNI (Chair)
Chelsea Johnston, University of Florida
Allison Brown, SUNY Geneseo
Melanie Kowalski, Emory University
Erin Jerome, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Liz Hamilton, Northwestern University
Emily Stenberg, Washington University in St. Louis


December 1, 2020

Laureen Boutang and Willa Tavernier receive the 2020 LPC Award for Exemplary Service

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On behalf of the LPC Board, we are delighted to announce that the recipients of the 2020 LPC Award for Exemplary Service are Laureen Boutang, Publishing Services Coordinator at the University of Minnesota, and Willa Tavernier, Open Scholarship Resident and Visiting Assistant Librarian at Indiana University Bloomington. The Award recognizes substantial contributions by an LPC community member to advancing the mission, vision, and values of the Library Publishing Coalition. The Board determined that two awards were warranted this year in recognition of the enormous contributions made and leadership demonstrated by these nominees in two programmatic areas that emerged as critical for LPC in 2020. 

Laureen Boutang
Laureen Boutang

Laureen Boutang was nominated for the award for her steady leadership of the Program Committee and the success of quickly transitioning the 2020 Forum from an in-person to a virtual form in only 6 weeks. In 2018, Laureen also served as a dedicated and efficient host liaison for the 2018 Forum in Minneapolis. Now that her term on the Program Committee has ended, Laureen has continued her dedication to service to LPC by volunteering to chair the new Publishing Practice Award Committee, which is gearing up to launch its first call for applications.  Laureen shares: “Serving as a part of the LPC community inspires me and motivates me every day. I’m so pleased to receive this Award because it means that my contributions have had a similar, positive impact on those around me.”

Willa Tavernier
Willa Tavernier

Willa Tavernier was nominated for her commitment to and efforts for the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. Her organizing and collaborating to prepare LPC’s Anti-Racist statement and subsequent Anti-Racism Community Call were essential to LPC’s acknowledgment of its responsibility to the current cultural moment. As stated by one of Willa’s nominators, “Willa’s advocacy efforts have improved awareness among LPC members (mostly white people) of our role in upholding white supremacy, holding our feet to the fire, and helping us face uncomfortable truths while also guiding us to think and talk about concrete actions we can take to begin to fix these problems.”

On receiving word of receipt of this year’s service award, Willa shares: “I am honored to be recognized by my peers and humbled that it was in large part to working with the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.  As an immigrant from a small island, coming from an entirely different and very homogenous background and needing to find my way in U.S. society and institutions, this award is especially meaningful to me. I think we can all commit to doing the work necessary to see things from the perspectives of underserved/underrepresented groups.  I advocate for the Library Publishing Coalition to make anti-racism, equity, and inclusion foundational principles of its work, and to spearhead transformational change in library publishing.  I believe that the many unique and talented people in our community can make that happen.”


Laureen and Willa will each receive a complimentary registration to this year’s Library Publishing Forum and a $50 gift card. They will also be recognized at the Forum.

Please join us in congratulating Laureen and Willa.

On behalf of the LPC Board,

Jody Bailey, President
Christine Fruin, President-Elect
Scott Warren, Treasurer
Jessica Kirschner, Secretary
Karen Bjork
Vanessa Gabler
Sarah Hare
Ally Laird
Emma Molls
Melanie Schlosser, ex officio


Fellows Journal. Logo for the Library Publishing Coalition. Background image features bokeh lights in blues and greens.
November 19, 2020

OER, Accessibility, and STEM: An Interview with Anita Walz

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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


Introduction

Photo of Anita Walz
Anita Walz, Assistant Director of Open Education and Scholarly Communication Librarian, Virginia Tech

Talea: Anita, you and I started having regular conversations as part of the mentorship that LPC organized for fellows. You’ve been

working for some time now on publishing open textbooks at Virginia Tech but we talked early on about the evolution you all have had when it comes to the accessibility of your OER. I thought it would be interesting to talk through some of the changes you have made, especially when it comes to making STEM textbooks accessible to students.

I’ll preface this by saying that accessibility has proven to be an especially sticky issue for STEM and OER. Complex STEM notation doesn’t translate well to screen readers unless it’s appropriately coded. When publishing workflows involve conversions between file types, all of this becomes still more complex—and PDFs, which are common in the OER publishing ecosystem, are notorious for dealing poorly with STEM notation. The Australian Disability Clearinghouse and Rebus Community discuss some of these issues for anyone who would like to read more.

 

Workflow

Talea: I’m curious if you could talk about how your workflow has evolved when it comes to accessibility. We’ve talked in particular about your work with Pressbooks although I know you’ve used other platforms/formats for your OER. When you first delved into OER publishing, what did you end up identifying as problem areas when it came to accessibility?

Anita: Institutional access to Pressbooks is new to us. We are experimenting with a variety of methods largely based on author preference for writing environments. We want to support a lot of different workflows and faculty tools. At Virginia Tech, 60% of our students are in STEM disciplines, so quite a few of our faculty and students use LaTeX as an authoring language. If a faculty member is writing in LaTeX or otherwise, then we want to support that and remove any barriers for them to publish OER.

We are figuring it out as we go. We’ve supported people using all sorts of writing styles and tools—not only LaTeX but also Word and Pressbooks. More than one person has sent obsolete files or a print copy of a manuscript. Sometimes we end up with a lot of structured and unstructured text to work with. It can be a real challenge. With regard to accessibility, we are trying to view accessibility as something that is baked into the process, not as an add-on at the end. We don’t want accessibility to be the thing that’s cut if time and money run out at the end of a project

If an author feels strongly about writing in LaTeX, we let them but we can then struggle with creating accessible PDFs for digital viewing. There are some things we have learned the hard way: After exploring the accessibility and math options in PDF, we undertook the labor-intensive process of tagging various elements – headers, figures, equations, etc. After I learned that the “sufficient” practice we had done to enable accessibility of equations in PDF is the equivalent of tagging each mathematical equation to indicate “this is an equation” without ensuring that the screen reader be able to read the equation, I was rather frustrated. It wasn’t enough to indicate the presence of an equation in the PDF without providing access to the actual content. We also released the LaTeX (which is accessible on its own with the right screen reader), but I was very dissatisfied to learn that this level of PDF accessibility is considered “acceptable.”

After we obtained institutional access to Pressbooks in spring 2020, we began to examine accessibility again. When we started out, we did not know that a screen reader could ingest LaTeX and use MathJax to convert the LaTeX to audio. Since then we’ve learned that, we realized there are three basic options for publishing accessible STEM notation in Pressbooks:

  1. Import LaTeX into Pressbooks, which can use MathJax to convert formulas for display and printing
  2. Use ASCII math notation
  3. Use MathML in Pressbooks

For now we’re working with these options in Pressbooks but we realize that others are using ePub files as their accessible versions. I think at this point we’re moving more toward ePub, too, but it’s not the easiest thing to take on without a background in it.

 

STEM notation and accessibility

Talea: As you were figuring out your workflows, were there other specific accessibility issues you had to address when it came to STEM notation? How did you resolve these?

Anita: We have had challenges regarding math. Specifically, I have limited proficiency in coding math and writing LaTeX. When legacy documents are submitted to us with equations presented as non-machine-readable images, I rely on various tools to make the math machine-readable. Sometimes this involves getting help or finding tools to generate accurate LaTeX or MathML. I am experimenting with tools like  Mathpix, which takes a picture of a formula and converts it to MathML or other machine-readable code A colleague of mine is experimenting with equatIO and GrackleDocs as a potential low-barrier authoring method for creating accessible Google Docs.

We have also had challenges navigating a LaTeX-to-PDF workflow. We did not know early on that LaTeX is accessible. PDF is a pretty routine method for creating printed documents. It is nice to read for sighted people. Most students love it. However, it is far less than ideal for people with low vision. Our early attempts to make PDFs accessible in a LaTeX-to-PDF workflow involved labor-intensive processes designed to accommodate screen readers that look for alt-text in different places. As mentioned earlier, this work involved tagging equations so that the reader would know “an equation is here.”

This workflow included embedding figure alt-text in the LaTeX code, then manually tagging figures again with alt-text on the exported PDF. I would also add that for OER, it is unreasonable to expect someone adapting an OER book to re-tag all figures after the export to PDF. For obvious reasons, namely unsustainability, we are veering away from trying to design PDF documents for all screen readers to access. We will continue wherever possible to make LaTeX versions available.

Our plan going forward is to provide “an accessible version” in LaTeX, ePub, and/or HTML. On the topic of figures, especially chemical notations, I am learning some interesting things about enabling semantic reading using SVG (scalable vector graphics) instead of defaulting to JPG or PNG, which are devoid of data and require alt-text. Providing SVG for an audience with access to semantic reading technologies is a viable alternative to relying on alt-text or long text when a description is too long for alt-text – very common for complex figures. The question with chemical notation is: How do we make these notations machine-readable? A few weeks ago I attended the 2020 Inclusive Publishing Conference. It was wonderful to learn about tools that could facilitate keyboard-only navigation through OER. These are emerging tools from the document analysis community—particularly from Volker Sorge—which leverage the semantic relationship between elements within a figure. With regard to figures, we need to use semantic descriptions because figures are relational, not syntactic. These tools allow people to navigate through equations and chemical structures much more clearly than before. Recordings from the conference, I am told, are in process but will be posted soon.

One place where we’d like to integrate these ideas is in some medical textbooks we are working on in  LibreTexts. While we’re working with these projects, we need to ask: Do we merely describe chemical structures? Do we allow people to navigate through those structures? These are questions we’ll continue asking going forward.

 

Staffing for accessibility work

Talea: I know accessibility work can be time-consuming. How has your team handled the workload? How have you addressed challenges with limited time?

Anita: We have been able to fund and train student workers to create alt-text. We have had training, guidance, and even review at times, from our Accessible Technologies Office. We’ve also joined various pilot programs through our Accessible Technologies Office, like one that uses AI to generate alt-text. There is another pilot we are considering joining which uses semantic strategies to create accessible and keyboard-navigable chemical equations. We view all of this as a learning process. Our commitments now are to make things “born accessible” as much as possible but we are still learning.

 

Faculty and student authors

Talea: How have you incorporated faculty authors into your accessibility work? Do you have conversations with them before beginning projects to outline accessibility expectations?

Anita: Honestly, that has been somewhat painful. I have had some faculty say to me that they don’t think accessible versions of texts will be used or that these texts are not necessary. That is rather heart-breaking to hear. I always start with, “if it is useful for one person, that is enough” rather than, “this is required by federal law.” Still, in my view, even if it were not required, accessibility is absolutely part of our obligation as a public institution—to provide equivalent access. To do otherwise limits the potential achievements of otherwise capable people.

I’m not sure if some faculty have a dismissive attitude about accessibility because people with disabilities self-select and drop out at the lower levels of a discipline where there is no clear path for them to progress; I suspect that this happens but it is hard to say how much. I think that the move to online teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic has made many faculty much more aware of accessibility needs and solutions, but I harbor no illusions that we are where we need to be.

In any case, we require that works be accessible. Our work is complicated by the fact that we are still working out a lot of details (which formats we need, how to work with formulas, which people can help us, etc.). Minus use of headings, my publishing colleagues and I end up coordinating the bulk of accessibility work, though funding for it usually comes out of the faculty member’s OER grant. This is one place where student workers in that discipline are critical partners.

 

Other explorations

Talea: Besides developing texts for screen readers, are there other accessibility measures you’ve explored? (for instance, adjusting content for different learning styles, tactile figures and diagrams, etc.)

Anita: We explored tactile figures at one point but decided to focus on basics first. It bodes well for us using SVG files and semantic coding for now, so we will likely make SVG-first graphics a priority and try to master basic practices. We realize we have a ways to go for embedded media. We’re also weighing questions like—should we write transcripts for the YouTube videos we point to in our OER?

We regularly discuss content sequencing, cognitive load, how visual elements repeat and reinforce comprehension and are not just aesthetic. We also talk a lot about building engagement, which can include quick feedback functions such as technology-enabled test-yourself activities in the OER and engaging students in “making” as a pedagogical strategy. At least three of my current authors are having students write formative assessment questions as a course activity. We do obtain feedback from students during the publishing process and in a beta stage afterwards but before public release as part of our process. There are a wide variety of readers to keep in mind while developing instructional materials so more people using and giving feedback on the resources before their public release is always better. This reminds me to check in with our Accessible Technology and Services for Students with Disabilities Offices to further explore what needs we might not be aware of.

 

Feedback/Assessment

Talea: Have you received feedback about accessibility from the people who use your texts?

Anita: No, but we would love feedback! We use automatic accessibility checkers to go through our materials but I would love to learn more from the experiences of people who use screen readers so we can better understand what helps and what doesn’t. We also do in-class assessment of OER so it is possible that we may encounter students who will look at these works using screen readers.

This is not related to assessment, but to communication about level of accessibility: We’ve also started to include the Rebus checklist for HTML accessibility into our Pressbooks. We wanted to build this checklist out for PDFs and other formats but for now the checklist only appears in our HTML books.

I want to say that reaching out to others doing this work has been really helpful for me and my colleagues Robert Browder, and Corinne Guimont. Ed Beck at SUNY helped us a lot. Christa Miller and Mark Nichols in the Accessible Technology office at Virginia Tech, and members of the Rebus Foundation network have also been helpful, among others. We still have a lot to learn but it’s great to have a community around us.

 

The future of accessibility and OER

Talea: Where do you hope this work will go in the future?

Anita: I love this work because there’s always something new to learn. Of course, it’s challenging, too, because eventually you have to commit to the accessibility path that reflects the best of your knowledge at the time. And later, you learn something that turns your approach on its head! Hopefully what we do is always a little better than what we did before. We can indicate what sorts of accessibility features we’ve included in each publication, and we can iteratively refine our approach with future editions. I certainly don’t know everything I need to know but I am glad that my colleagues and I continue to prioritize accessibility as we explore various publishing tools and workflows.


November 17, 2020

Apply for the LPC Publishing Practice Awards

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The Library Publishing Coalition is excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the first annual Publishing Practice Awards. These awards are designed to recognize and raise awareness of effective and sustainable library publishing practices.

The Publishing Practice Awards will highlight library publishing programs that exemplify concepts advanced in the LPC’s An Ethical Framework for Library Publishing and/or in the LPC’s Values statement. While a representative publication must be submitted, the focus of these awards is not on publication content but on the process of publishing the piece. The inaugural award categories are: Accessibility and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

Publishing programs do not need to be affiliated with an LPC member institution to be eligible. The deadline for applying is January 25, 2021.

Call for Applications


Fellows Journal. Logo for the Library Publishing Coalition. Background image features bokeh lights in blues and greens.
November 12, 2020

Thinking Politically About Scholarly Infrastructure

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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


Maybe it’s not all that surprising that I’ve come to think about ScholComm in terms similar to US politics. Right now, as I draft this blog post, we are just a handful of days away from the 2020 election and in January 2020, as the next (and hopefully different) president will be inaugurated, I will be compiling my tenure application. It’s been like this from the start. I was hired in February 2016, when the Republican Party presidential primaries were beginning, which was the same month I joined Twitter to better follow both politics and librarianship. Sometimes we get what we ask for.

Twitter has been invaluable for keeping up with the latest ScholComm developments through conference live-tweets, article and policy announcements, and candid conversation between relevant figures in the field. I remember reading the first Plan S announcement tweet from cOAlition-S in 2018, and in fact the Library Publishing Coalition blipped onto my radar from #LPForum19 tweets. Using Twitter has also made me excruciatingly aware of the shape of our political fights, pushed me further leftward, and as I mentioned, caused me to think about ScholComm and politics through a similar framing. Here’s an example of how that can play out.

Tweet from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, US Representative, NY-14. "Fracking is bad, actually."
https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1314018453192409102

 

During the Vice Presidential debate, Sen. Kamala Harris said very clearly that Biden would not ban fracking if elected. It was not an inspiring moment, coming from someone who previously called for a fracking ban, but it was an understandable strategy. If you lose some swing-voters in Pennsylvania who possibly care about this issue, you risk losing the entire race to an administration whose policies on climate change are much worse than just allowing continued fracking.

But, if you do believe climate change to be an existential threat, why adopt a weakened stance on preventing it? I’ve thought this about private and public research funding agencies who champion open access. If you feel deeply about a cause, and it is within your power to make sweeping change, why keep on with the incremental?

Tweet from AJ_Boston. "Could Bill Gates not just buy out RELX, parcel all the non-publishing stuff back onto the market, and put all the publishing part into a single non-profit org? Seems a lot simpler than constantly shoveling quarters into dozens of commercial publisher gumball (APC) machines.
https://twitter.com/AJ_Boston/status/1192581150067191808

 

Tweet from @aj_boston: "If I was cOAlition-S, I woudl simply pool resources to buy disportionate shares in the major publishing houses."
https://twitter.com/AJ_Boston/status/1321205275433512967

 

I’m sure I’m being unfair in my stance. To capture a diverse constituency, a big-tent approach can be effective. Compromise can cause cynicism about our politics, but sometimes a little progress can be better than a lot of regression. That’s the story I’ve told myself, at least, while making my daily compromise as a ScholComm librarian who manages our Elsevier-owned institutional repository service, Digital Commons. My school contracted with bepress (then an independent company) shortly before hiring me to manage it, and my values felt fully aligned as I made the pitch across campus to deposit green OA manuscripts there. But that feeling changed with the announcement of Elsevier acquiring bepress in August 2017 (MacKenzie, 2017).

Since 2017, the Digital Commons service hasn’t worsened, but the premise that many customers initially bought into, of supporting an independent platform in the scholarly communication ecosystem, has eroded. And what do people do when they face a deterioration of goods and services? For A.O. Hirschman (1970), there are three choices (which later scholars have revised upon): exit, voice, and loyalty. In my case, exit seems out of the question: a diverse constituency of groups on my campus have now integrated the software, and a swap would be overly-costly and damage relationships in the process. I don’t know whether I’d categorize what I am doing now as voice or loyalty, but what I do know is that there is a strong glimmer of recognition when Sen. Harris walks her fracking-issue tightrope, or when grant-funding institutions rock the boat just lightly enough that it doesn’t risk a capsize.

Quote tweet from @AJ_Boston, gif from "There Will be Blood": "I Drink Your Milkshake! I drink it up!," in response to anonymous tweet: "Listening to a pre-recorded @samoore_ about those little tiny clauses in transformative agreements that are increasing datafication - turning us into data, and getting value from that data."

 

Digital Commons still allows me to make works open access that were not previously, but I can still feel the ground shift under my feet. Remember the scene from There Will Be Blood when Daniel Day-Lewis humiliatingly shouts “I drink your milkshake!” to Paul Dano, revealing that he had drained Dano’s land dry of oil using wells located off-property. Well, it would seem that our milkshake (standing in for data [Oil!] about researcher activity) brings all the oligopolists to the yard, whether it’s buried in a transformative agreement or dredged from an IR or other education platform, refined, and sold back to the university (Aspesi & SPARC, 2018).

Vertical Integration

To be clear here, it’s not that I don’t understand that it costs money to run things or disagree that there is positive potential in using publishing data to gain insights. It’s that “scholarly communication is up for grabs,” and as Jefferson Pooley (2017) writes, it is unclear which camp will become the primary custodian of it: “the one profit-seeking” or “the other mission-committed” one. Pooley addressed the fates of the expanding scholarly architecture, with commercial acquisitions (Altmetric, figshare, Authorea, etc.) on one hand, and Mellon Foundation funded projects (Manifold, Open Library of Humanities, Hypothesis, etc.) on the other. And as Posada and Chen (2018) have documented, the five big commercial publishers have systematically been acquiring infrastructure that captures every stage of the academic knowledge production lifecycle.

Diagram of Elsevier's presence throughout the Publishing Lifecycle
(Posada & Chen, G, 2018)

At this point, it’s a fair question to ask: so what? One way to answer this question is to consider other industries where commercial enclosures are threatening independence. My home community has a lot of visible farm work that takes place, and with it, the “iconic image of the American farmer … who works the land, milks cows and is self-reliant enough to fix the tractor” as Laura Sydell (2015) of NPR described. When tractors break down, farmers have traditionally popped the hood and fixed problems as they arose in the field. But as tractors become increasingly outfitted with proprietary software, the only viable repair solution left becomes hauling into an authorized agent, suffering all the attendant costs and loss of time. The same for the crop being farmed, whose proprietary seeds (which cannot be saved year to year) are often used out of necessity for their resiliency to the proprietary insecticides used in the area.

Vertical integration throughout this supply chain marginalizes the ability of family farms to remain as independent operators, and thus, as diversifiers of market options. Scholar-led publications and infrastructure serve a similar function in our industry. It’s here that I’m reminded of the role of regulatory policy. In a 2019 Team Warren Medium post, Senator Elizabeth Warren condemned past policy decisions which favored increased corporate consolidation in the agriculture sector and cited her strong support for “a national right-to-repair law that empowers farmers to repair their equipment without going to an authorized agent.” As much as I admire Warren’s policy-making, I don’t hold my breath for a day any time soon when a top-down ruling will allow scholars to “get under the hood” and tinker with Digital Commons software to turn off the Elsevier data pipeline.

When Marcin Jakubowski confronted the tractor-repair issue on his own small farm, he said he realized that “the truly appropriate, low-cost tools” necessary for “a sustainable farm and settlement just didn’t exist yet.” In his 2011 Ted Talk, Jakubowski[1] said if he wanted “tools that were robust, modular, highly efficient and optimized, low-cost, made from local and recycled materials that would last a lifetime” rather than those “designed for obsolescence,” he would have to build them himself. Jakubowski works on a project called the Global Village Construction Set, which is a repository of open source plans for fifty machines his group has identified as the most important to modern life, including tractors.

Luckily, the scholarly community has like-minded groups of people as this. Nate Angell summarized the 2018 Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools workshop, where Bianca Kramer and Jeroen Bosman mapped out “an alternative open science workflow using open tools” through a thick continent of proprietary services.

Chart of proprietary services used during publishing workflow
(https://jrost.org/2018/09/13/workshop.html)

 

For those of us considering ways to Exit, when Voice and Loyalty are no longer sensible options, how do we continue to foster and incentivize more work in open scholarly infrastructure? For those coders whose economic needs are being met by a higher education institution, we might expand the academy’s native system of recognition (citations!) to the work of maintainers, as others have proposed before. But what about entrepreneurs outside of employment in higher ed, with tools or ideas that may prove very useful to the academic community, for whom monetary remuneration will be the prime incentive? I want to conclude this post with an idea toward solving this final question.

A Proposal

Based on work by Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, Senator Bernard Sanders proposed the Medical Innovation Prize Fund Act S1137 and S1138[1] in 2011 and 2017. One of the major outcomes from these bills, had they passed, would have been the creation of a prize fund, amounting to 0.55% of GDP ($80 billion in 2010). This pool of money would have funded cash prizes and an Open Source Dividend, paid out to developers of select healthcare treatments that chose to openly share access to the related knowledge, data, and technology, while denying themselves “the exclusive right to manufacture, distribute, sell, or use a drug, a biological product, or a medication manufacturing process.”[2]

Tweet from @BernieSanders: Innovation and business success should be rewarded. But greed for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should support."
(https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/721155408958586881)

 

What I am suggesting is that we find ways to do a version of this for scholarly infrastructure, to induce income-seeking developers of our favorite new research tools to release their code as open source, and to offer similar prizes on an annual basis to individuals (including the original developers) who release substantially updated versions, maintenance, and user support. Whether such a plan could have offered an incentive more lucrative than Elsevier’s offer to bepress is doubtful, but who knows?

David Lewis, et. al. (2018) proposed models in which every “academic library should commit to contribute 2.5% of its total budget to support the common infrastructure needed to create the open scholarly commons.” Since then, Invest In Open Infrastructure (investinopen.org) has taken the lead in organizing such an effort. Neylon offered the critique that 2.5% is both too ambitious of a target and not ambitious enough. For me, in 2020, considering the extreme financial difficulties that academic librarians have been driven to, exacerbated by this pandemic, I want to put a pin in the idea of asking more from them at all.

Instead, I wish to close out here with a different sort of proposal. A challenge, really. A challenge to the major commercial academic publishers—that we (the academy) fund—that claim to express a desire for a diverse marketplace and a thriving knowledge ecosystem. A challenge to the corporations that wish to rekindle good will. Lacking the power to tax you, I instead challenge you to devote 2.5% of your annual profit margin to fund open source, scholar-led infrastructures. In return for the free donation of your resources, you will receive the prestige and well-regard accorded to the association with the open-source projects such a fund could support.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Kevin Hawkins for excellent feedback and recommendations. Any portions of this essay you disliked should be attributed to Kevin.


[1] https://www.ted.com/talks/marcin_jakubowski/transcript?language=en#t-5104

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prizes_as_an_alternative_to_patents#The_Medical_Innovation_Prize_Fund_Act_S1137_and_S1138

[3] https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/495/


Bibliography

Angell, N. (2018, September 13). 58 organizations gather to workshop a joint roadmap for open science tools. Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools. https://jrost.org/2018/09/13/workshop.html

Aspesi, C., & SPARC. (2018). The academic publishing industry in 2018. SPARC: Community Owned Infrastructure. https://infrastructure.sparcopen.org/landscape-analysis/the-academic-publishing-industry-in-2018

Hirschman, A. O. (1970). Exit, voice, and loyalty: Responses to decline in firms, organizations, and states. Harvard University Press.

Jakubowski, M. (2011, March). Transcript of “Open-sourced blueprints for civilization.” TED. https://www.ted.com/talks/marcin_jakubowski_open_sourced_blueprints_for_civilization/transcript

Lewis, D. W., Goetsch, L., Graves, D., & Roy, M. (2018). Funding community controlled open infrastructure for scholarly communication: The 2.5% commitment initiative. College & Research Libraries News, 79(3), 133. https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.79.3.133

McKenzie, L. (2017, August 3). Elsevier makes move into institutional repositories with acquisition of Bepress. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/08/03/elsevier-makes-move-institutional-repositories-acquisition-bepress

Neylon, C. (2018, January 5). Against the 2.5% Commitment. Science In The Open. https://cameronneylon.net/blog/against-the-2-5-commitment/

Pooley, J. (2017, August 15). Scholarly communications shouldn’t just be open, but non-profit too. LSE Impact Blog. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/08/15/scholarly-communications-shouldnt-just-be-open-but-non-profit-too/

Posada, A., & Chen, G. (2018). Inequality in knowledge production: The integration of academic infrastructure by big publishers. In L. Chan & P. Mounier (Eds.), ELPUB 2018. https://doi.org/10.4000/proceedings.elpub.2018.30

Sydell, L. (2015, August 17). Diy tractor repair runs afoul of copyright law. All Tech Considered. https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/08/17/432601480/diy-tractor-repair-runs-afoul-of-copyright-law

Team Warren. (2019, March 27). Leveling the playing field for america’s family farmers. Medium. https://medium.com/@teamwarren/leveling-the-playing-field-for-americas-family-farmers-823d1994f067


Library Publishing Workflows. Educopia Institute. Library Publishing Coalition. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
November 10, 2020

Library Publishing Pain Points – Sources of Chronic Pain Points

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post in our Library Publishing Pain Points series, featuring reflections from our Library Publishing Workflows partners on the challenges they face in implementing, running, and sustaining their library publishing workflows.


brandon locke headshot
Brandon Locke, Library Publishing Workflows Project Manager

Over the past few months, we have published a blog series on pain points from our cohort of library publishers. Our amazing library partners have written about the challenges of quality control with distributed editorial and production teams, the difficulties of funding a non-commercial, scholar-led open access publishing program, the strains of scaling up a program while continuing to keep promises and meet expectations, and the work required to maintain and troubleshoot aging infrastructure. We want to supplement these thoughtful and in-depth pieces with some high-level information about the sources of frustration we identified in the first year of our project.

Time-consuming manual work

Unsurprisingly, the steps in journal workflows that require staff time and attention were the most common pain points mentioned. These manual processes make it difficult to scale up publishing programs or maintain regular publishing schedules. Publishers who typeset and layout articles in-house unanimously identified that work as a pain point. Typesetting and layout are often tedious (especially when working with equations or other types of special formatting), difficult to get correct, and not supported by platforms, requiring library staff to export, use a different piece of software, and re-upload. Several partners also identified quality control and the correction of partially automated processes as time-consuming pain points. Quality control issues occurred at all stages of the workflow, including correcting batch upload spreadsheets, DOI assignments, format conversions, and preservation.

Staffing

Our partners brought up an array of pain points regarding staffing, including inadequate number of staff, training of new personnel, and difficulties replacing or maintaining production when people leave. Staffing is, of course, closely related to the first issue of time-consuming manual work, because a larger number of employees allow for more of that work to be done effectively. Fewer dedicated staff also mean that publishers are less able to provide customized support to journals, including (but not limited to) software development. Most of the library workers we interviewed had library duties outside of publishing, meaning that it could be challenging to balance their work, particularly when publishing work may come in large batches. Several programs also mentioned that much of the work and institutional knowledge relied heavily on only one or two people, so the impact of that employee leaving, especially unexpectedly, could have a catastrophic impact on the program.

Lack of control over publishing process

Library publishing is a necessarily collaborative process that relies heavily on journal editors, authors, vendors, publishing platform(s), and library personnel. Many of our partners reported pain points that stemmed from the inability of the library to control the process, workflow, and timeline of the journals they are publishing. Our partners reported many workflow differences between the journals they publish, often depending on the journal’s field, policies, and editor preferences. These issues are especially prevalent in library publishing, as many of their journals that have been established elsewhere and come with preexisting norms and processes. High levels of journal autonomy mean that it can be difficult for library publishers to institute changes to workflows, or normalize processes across their different journals. In addition to this, many of our partners noted that because articles often come in large batches (sometimes as issues, or sometimes because the academic calendar impacts editors’ available time), it can be difficult to handle such irregular workloads.

Conclusions

We saw an abundance of social issues in these pain points conversations. Communicating with staff members and editors, managing the expectations of editors and authors, and training staff and editors were all significant factors in mitigating pain points. While I had expected a mix of social, technical, and financial pain points to arise, our conversations made clear how closely those three aspects are tied together. This is not an area where much can be automated, so the technology only works as well as the people who maintain it, oversee its use, and fill in for its inadequacy. Library workers are only able to perform this step to the extent that libraries are adequately staffed and time is carved out for them to do the hands-on work and communicate with the other stakeholders.


November 4, 2020

2021 Library Publishing Forum: Call for Proposals

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The Library Publishing Forum is an annual conference bringing together representatives from libraries engaged in (or considering) publishing initiatives to define and address major questions and challenges; to identify and document collaborative opportunities; and to strengthen and promote this community of practice. The Forum is sponsored by the Library Publishing Coalition (LPC), but you do not need to be a member of the LPC to attend. The 2021 Forum will be held online, May 10-14.

Call for Proposals

The call for proposals is now open! Building on the success of the 2020 virtual forum, this year we invite proposals for full sessions, individual presentations, and lighting presentations. Each session type will include interactive Q&A segments, and we encourage presenters to think creatively about other ways to engage with a large, virtual, globally-distributed audience. We warmly encourage proposals from first-time presenters and representatives of small and emerging publishing programs. Proposals may address any topic of interest to the library publishing community and all disciplines. The proposal deadline is December 6th. [UPDATE: The deadline for submissions has been extended to January 8, 2021!]

Learn more and submit a proposal


Library Publishing Workflows. Educopia Institute. Library Publishing Coalition. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
October 22, 2020

Library Publishing Pain Points – Aging Infrastructure

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post in our Library Publishing Pain Points series, featuring reflections from our Library Publishing Workflows partners on the challenges they face in implementing, running, and sustaining their library publishing workflows.


As we’ve expanded our Open Access journal publishing work over the last few years, growing from 20 or so journals to about 40, Michigan Publishing has encountered some pain in a particular point in our workflow: converting journal articles from the formats in which authors have written them into the flavor of TEI XML that our publishing platform, DLXS, requires. This work takes our team about an hour per article to complete, on average, and that means a significant time investment which can be hard to explain to journal editors. When a journal includes complex math or symbolic logic written in LaTeX, the time to move a single article through our system can easily increase from an hour to a full day, or even several days. All of this slows down our time to publication and, since we bill our journal partners for the time we spend working on their articles, it gets pretty expensive for them.

To further complicate matters, the work of moving a XML document through DLXS to the final web version takes place largely on the command line – an efficient way to work when you’re an expert, but one that requires a fairly significant learning curve for new members of the team. If anything goes wrong, we sometimes need to know perl, XSLT, or shell scripting in order to fix it. The high technical barrier to entry makes it hard to train students to help in our work unless they stick around a few years, and it keeps our developers busy supporting older technology.

DLXS was developed at the University of Michigan Library starting in the late 1990’s, and (although it’s done great things for us) it is clearly showing its age. The Library is planning to sunset DLXS relatively soon. Even if it weren’t going away, Michigan Publishing would still need a new journals platform to help us work more flexibly and efficiently.

We strongly support community-owned open source scholarly communication infrastructure (we have been building our own open platform, Fulcrum, to support digitally-enhanced book publishing), so it was an easy choice for us to select Janeway (from the Birkbeck Centre for Technology and Publishing) for our next-generation journals platform. We’re hoping to move all of our active journals off DLXS in 2021 or 2022, and transition them to a much more industry-standard JATS/HTML-based workflow that can play well with both existing content conversion tools and vendor offerings. We also plan to build an integration between the two platforms so that Fulcrum’s rich media capabilities can be embedded in Janeway journal articles.

There will, of course, be a big pain point here: migrating all of the thousands of journal articles we’ve previously published in these journals from DLXS to Janeway. But we’re optimistic that once we get through that project, the new platform will make the lives of our production team and editors much easier. The move will also help us keep costs low for our publishing partners, many of whose journals would never be sustainable in a commercial environment. Check back with me in 2022 and we’ll see if the pain’s been relieved!


October 6, 2020

Announcing C4DISC: Ways to Participate and Support

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Please join me in celebrating the creation of an important new organization, the Coalition for Diversity and Inclusion in Scholarly Communications (C4DISC). The Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) is a founding member and C4DISC both closely aligns with the LPC’s values and multiplies the impact of our strategic plan! Formally launched September 15, 2020, C4DISC was created to accelerate the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work the scholarly publishing/communications ecosystem sorely needs. C4DISC began in 2017 as an idea among a group of scholarly publishing trade and professional associations, including the LPC, who all saw a critical lack of diverse voices in their professional arenas and decided to take collective action. The founding members worked hard to make their vision a reality and last year, with the generous support of Educopia (LPC’s parent organization), tackled the complex challenge of developing governance for a new organization (in many ways echoing LPC’s creation way back in 2014!) 

To have the broadest possible impact it was decided C4DISC would target membership organizations such as the LPC as well as consortia, rather than individual universities or libraries. Two founding members, the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) and the Association of University Presses (AUP), generously agreed to serve as joint hosts. After governance was settled, the founding members established a joint statement of principles and mission, vision, and values statements.  As a founding member, the LPC has a seat on the C4DISC steering committee (rotating LPC Board members will represent the LPC). Like the LPC, C4DISC is committed to valuing differences, welcoming diverse perspectives, learning from different communities, making space for marginalized voices, eliminating barriers, and serving as allies to our colleagues who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

Now that C4DISC is firmly established, next steps include creating several working groups to begin turning the shared vision into action. One group will continue work started by Niccole Leilanionapae‘aina Coggins, University of Virginia Press; Gisela Fosado, Duke University Press; Jocelyn Dawson, Duke University Press; and Melanie Dolechek, Society for Scholarly Publishing, who created the “Toolkits for Equity: Transforming Scholarly Publishing Communities” initiative at the 2019 Triangle Scholarly Communications Institute. Their first toolkit, Antiracism Toolkit for Allies, is openly licensed and on the C4DISC website. C4DISC is seeking volunteers to help develop the next two toolkits: the Antiracism Toolkit for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and the Antiracism Toolkit for Organizations. Another working group will focus on communications and outreach. Members of the LPC community would make fantastic additions so if you are interested in leading or participating in any working groups please complete the Working Group Application Form.

Another thing LPC members can do is advocate for their home libraries/organizations to sign on as C4DISC supporters. Organizations who wish to support C4DISC may join as partners. Examples include publishers, libraries, industry suppliers, etc. Three partnership levels exist: Bronze ($1000), Silver (up to $2500), and Gold (up to $5000) and funds raised will support activities focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in scholarly communications. C4DISC also plans to hire a part-time program assistant to provide administrative support for C4DISC’s work and activities, thus furthering its capacity. C4DISC also gladly and gratefully accepts donations from individuals, no matter how small. 

Finally, if participating formally as a C4DISC partner is not possible for your home institution, LPC members can still support C4DISC by urging their organization to join the more than 60 organizations that have so far adopted C4DISC’s Joint Statement of Principles. Simply complete this form

To learn more, please visit c4disc.org or write to c4disc@gmail.com.   


Library Publishing Workflows. Educopia Institute. Library Publishing Coalition. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.
September 30, 2020

Library Publishing Pain Points – Scaling Up

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post in our Library Publishing Pain Points series, featuring reflections from our Library Publishing Workflows partners on the challenges they face in implementing, running, and sustaining their library publishing workflows.


headshot of Joshua Neds-Fox
Joshua Neds-Fox, Wayne State University
In my contribution to a series of social media posts on pain points for the Library Publishing Workflows project, I wrote that “the sheer volume of articles is a significant challenge for our team” (https://twitter.com/LibPubCoalition/status/1280511836744495108). Upon reflection it strikes me that I’m really describing the discomfort that any successful project brings, as demand begins to grow in response to that success. A new library publishing program can often feel like a start-up: a scrappy entrepreneur in the library has a bright idea, access to the tools for production and a platform for dissemination, and a generalist’s competence in many of the skills and tasks necessary to effect library publishing (LPCPDC 2020). But the entrepreneurial energy involved in an early start-up, which can often be maintained by a few highly motivated individuals, eventually either dissipates or becomes insufficient to the work of producing a successful stable of titles. Even if a library publishing program doesn’t grow substantially in output, the production work that felt exciting at volume 1 issue 1 may start to feel insurmountable by volume 6 issue 4.
Some of this may have to do with the temperament of the library publisher. Lacey and Parlette-Stewart (2017) write about the incidence of imposter syndrome (IS) in the profession, and theorize that the need to appear intelligent about a range of poorly defined responsibilities may lead librarians to overwork a program. The failure to properly delegate tasks, commonly associated with IS, can saddle a small library publisher with an unmanageable workload. Delegation requires identifying what we can’t do well, which can be difficult for academic librarians, who are constantly being asked both to do more with less and to justify our value to the academy.
In my own publishing program, which fits most of the above bill, the entrepreneurial energy with which I began publishing journals is matched in some truly driven faculty editors. Their output can be prodigous, and while I remain committed to the success of their journals, my team struggles at times to meet their production needs given the volume of scholarship they review and publish. Identifying, sourcing, and training the labor necessary to do the technical, tailored and often tedious work of turning manuscripts into published articles is itself a demanding process, which can feel at odds with the imperative to produce. Recruiting volunteer labor or attracting graduate student interest means enhancing the learning and project opportunities of a role in the digital publishing unit, often at the expense of the sometimes monotonous work of production. But the unique skills and detailed requirements of production also often preclude using un- or underskilled labor to prepare manuscripts for publication. And we are very aware of the tendency for academic work-study opportunities to be exploitative and inequitable, and hesitant to continue those practices simply to meet our production schedule.
We have experimented with outsourcing production work to a third party contractor. While this has yielded some possibilities to ease our backlog, it also requires additional manuscript preparation and quality control labor which reduces the total net gain in capacity (not to mention chasing funding). We have worked to increase the quality of the editorial processes and policies in our journals, which results in a more selective acceptance rate and helps create a more sustainable production slate. And as our program grows, so does my commitment to designing a sufficient policy and procedure infrastructure around our publishing activities. Our participation in the Library Publishing Workflows project is part of that commitment, to help create a body of standards that can in turn inform our own practice.
My digital publishing program was the pilot interview of the Workflow project, and the resulting flowchart is one of the two test cases being used to fine-tune the process that will be used to document the remaining data. To be honest, I felt slightly naked seeing our own workflow outlined so starkly in directional arrows and decision diamonds. I recognize my anxiety is really about seeing our process evaluated against other publishing programs’ processes. Will we end up on our own, looking foolish? But again and again, collaborating with other institutions in the Library Publishing Coalition on capacity-building projects like this helps reveal the extent to which our pain is shared, and not an indication of failure. Jason Coleman at the University of Michigan related in another social media post that XML conversion of incoming content can be intensely frustrating (he called it “just a bear”). Knowing something about Michigan’s platform and process, thanks in part to our work in the Coalition, helps me picture that pain clearly, and creating XML from tricky input myself for aspects of our publishing program helps me identify with it. As a small shop in comparison to Michigan, it’s a good reminder that I work in a community of practice with affinities across vastly different publishing programs. That’s something worth sustaining.

References:

Lacey, S., & Parlette-Stewart, M. (2017). Jumping Into The Deep: Imposter Syndrome, Defining Success and the New Librarian. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.21083/partnership.v12i1.3979

Library Publishing Coalition Professional Development Committee. (2020). L​ibrary Publishing Competencies. A​tlanta, GA: Educopia Institute. https://doi.org/10.5703/1288284317123


September 21, 2020

Nominations open for the third annual Award for Exemplary Service

By

As participation in library publishing grows, community involvement and leadership has become increasingly important for the profession. To encourage and recognize such service, the Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) gives out an annual Exemplary Service Award. The award recognizes substantial contributions by an LPC community member to advancing the mission, vision, or values of the Library Publishing Coalition.

Nominations, including self-nominations, may be submitted to the LPC Board by any member of the LPC community. Anyone who is at an LPC member institution can nominate someone. Deadline for nominations is October 9th, 2020.

Please use the nomination form and include the nominee’s name, affiliation, and email address, as well as a brief statement on why the nominee deserves the award. The winner will be announced in December.

NOMINATIONS FOR THE AWARD FOR EXEMPLARY SERVICE ARE NOW CLOSED.

Criteria for the award

Awardees must:

  • Have contributed substantially to advancing the mission, vision, or values of the Library Publishing Coalition through service.
  • Have served on an LPC committee or task force within the last three years.
  • Be currently employed by an LPC member institution.
  • Not be currently serving on the LPC Board.

Substantial contributions may include:

  • Effective leadership of or exemplary contributions to a committee or task force.
  • Advocacy on behalf of the LPC or the creation or strengthening of LPC relationships with other groups.
  • Significant contributions to the creation of a new program within the LPC or to the expansion, or adoption, of programs and services for members.

Submit a Nomination