Reflections

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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.


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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


Water with the word reflections in all caps with a horizontal line above and below
February 10, 2020

The state of the field: An excerpt from the 2020 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 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.

SERVICES

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.

MEDIA FORMATS

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.

DIGITAL PRESERVATION

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.

PARTNERSHIPS

Internal Partnerships
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%.

External Partnerships
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.


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December 10, 2019

Introducing Talea Anderson, 2019-21 LPC Fellow: A Reflection on Accessibility

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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

(Photo credit: See note below)

Where I’ve Come From

For the last couple of years, I’ve been plugging away on a project that began with my participation in KairosCamp, a digital publishing institute run by Cheryl Ball and staff for the journal Kairos. For the camp, I’d proposed the idea of creating a digital text that would challenge readers by forcing them to read, navigate, and perceive the writing in an unfamiliar way. The idea was to replicate a feeling that one may experience when being excluded from accessing a particular space—a level of discomfort that readers wouldn’t expect to have when browsing online. 

As I designed my project, I found myself slipping into talk of simulations. As in, “this project will simulate the experience of [x] disability for [x] assistive device.” When I talked to web accessibility folks on my campus, they were excited about the possibilities of showing faculty how the structure of a webtext can limit or exclude people from reading and engaging with it. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there exists a whole literature about the problems with disability simulations, which can promote stereotypes about people with disabilities, inaccurately represent the full breadth of disabled experience, promote negative feelings about disability, and situate the “problem” of disability in particular people rather than in social and cultural barriers to inclusion (see French, 1992; Lalvani & Broderick, 2013; Nario-Redmond, Gospodinov, & Cobb, 2017; Olson, 2014). Not the territory I wanted to tread with my original project concept. 

Personal Perspective 

I was troubled when I began reading this literature about simulations, largely because I hadn’t been aware of it in the past. Partly, I thought that I should have been inherently cognizant of these issues because I also have a disability. I was born blind and, while I had surgeries that restored part of my vision, some was permanently lost. Recognizing faces is hard for me, as is navigation and a slew of tasks that I’m still identifying now as an adult. That said, I don’t use screen readers and my vision currently doesn’t substantially hamper my reading, unless distance is involved. Some of the key concerns in web accessibility aren’t automatically apparent to me because I fall somewhere between sighted and unsighted. Somehow I needed this reminder as my project evolved. 

In a way, I’ve always felt that I should “inherently” understand both disabled and able-bodied experiences—as if I could understand and empathize with both by sheer force of will. And of course, the truth is, none of us will automatically understand the challenges others face despite having all the best intentions in the world. 

Research Interests and a Call to the Community 

It’s a simple anecdote but I’ve thought about this a lot lately as I start this fellowship with the Library Publishing Coalition. As I continue working with library publishing at my own institution, I am hoping to deepen my engagement with accessibility as well as intersecting experiences that I and others have too frequently overlooked. I’m a Scholarly Communication Librarian and yet haven’t put as much time as I’d like into considering how access extends to people who have perceptual differences in how they read and engage with information. These are issues that deserve renewed consideration even if we are in a profession that’s devoted to fantastic ideals like universal access. There are always assumptions, misunderstandings, and oversights still to explore. 

Over the next two years, I hope to make these concerns a greater part of my focus professionally and share some of the things I find along the way. I’m looking forward to learning from others in the LPC community who have already thought deeply about these issues. In fact, if you have questions or research topics you’d like to see addressed related to accessibility and library publishing, please get in touch—talea.anderson@wsu.edu. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.  

Thank you to the LPC community and leadership for welcoming me in and providing the opportunity to do this work—it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly, and I am grateful. 

Photo Credit: Gray framed eyeglasses, CC0


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December 4, 2019

Introducing A.J. Boston, 2019-21 LPC Fellow: Contingent upon serendipity

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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

(Image credit: See note below)

 

It is an honor to have been named in the second cohort of Library Publishing Coalition Fellows. I thank the community and its leadership for welcoming me, and providing structure and support. In this blogpost, I will introduce myself, my history, and my professional interests.

***

Best Predictor of Future Behavior

Our campus held a celebration of first-generation students a few weeks ago. A colleague on his way there stopped by and asked if I was first gen. I replied that I wasn’t. There is a bit of further nuance to that, which feels appropriate for me to reflect upon here. No, both of my parents attended college, and in fact both held master’s degrees. It was an incredible privilege to grow up in a home where the idea of higher education was not shrouded in mystique, and I don’t know that I ever independently questioned how tuition would be paid for. I suppose it came up, but never in a way that actually made me feel any real concern. Again, just an incredible privilege.

My upbringing could easily have been much different. I was born in South Korea to extremely young parents, who I recently discovered did not complete high school. When I was put up for adoption, I’ve always assumed the decision must have been largely related to financial concerns. The records show I have an older brother, who was not put up for adoption. Had I been firstborn, I would likely be living in Korea now, presumably engaged in some sort of occupation that would seem foreign to the person I became. Instead, I was raised in Louisville, Kentucky, in a solidly middle-class home, raised by white parents that were firmly married, employed, and socially connected. As I told my work colleague, no, I am not a first-generation college student, at least not technically.

With that part of my story established, let me expose another bit of nuance. Both of my American parents have been wheelchair-bound since childhood. My father, a son of Louisville, caught the poliovirus as a child. His mother had been a nurse who administered doses of the polio vaccine to students in his elementary school. To her regret, she did not vaccinate her son, because of the age cutoff. My mother, a daughter of Cincinnati, had a tumor growth on her spine; the surgeon assigned to her was drunk during the removal operation. My parents met each other at the University of Illinois, which was one of the more handicap-friendly institutions in the region at that time. Perhaps it’s the same for everybody, but it has always felt true for me that who I am today has largely been contingent upon serendipity.

How Quickly We Forget

These are things that rarely cross my mind anymore. I’ve lived in a college town in peaceful, rural Western Kentucky for almost 18 years now. Since 2016, I’ve been employed as a tenure-track scholarly communication librarian and assistant professor. My ethnicity, adoption, and parents’ wheelchairs no longer count among the top ten salient factors of my waking consciousness. Though it takes a painful long time for my family to load in and out of our van, it’s because I have three children who need help buckling in, not two parents who need extra time to strap in. When my wife is asked when she “got” her children, the factual answer is “upon birth” and not some date related to paperwork.

I am spilling guts here because I have realized how I have forgotten these things in recent years. It has been incredibly easy to forget both the privileges I grew up with and those I recently gained. In their use of this LPC platform, past Fellows Charlotte Roh and Reggie Raju have reminded me of my privileges. From what I understand, the work Talea Anderson has planned will do so as well.

My Fellow Fellows

From an external view, my road to scholarly communication was perfectly serene. As Reggie discussed in his introductory blog, he was born the son of indentured labourers, transplanted from India to apartheid-era South Africa. While I put in work to get where I am personally and professionally, the situational challenges I faced were a couple orders of magnitude simpler than had I not been the second born to my family in Korea.

At the 2019 Fellows Forum, Charlotte Roh live-streamed her presentation from home. Roh aptly concluded her talk on personal and professional intersections by revealing her (beautiful) newborn baby under her care. At times, I have wondered how much more productive my research output could be without the sleep deficits that accompany co-raising my three young children. That’s a pretty crude thought for me to have, considering the overall health of our family and the herculean efforts my wife puts in as a mother. In truth, I wouldn’t have a career at all without my immediate and extended familial support networks.

As I’ve become acquainted with Talea, I’ve come to know of her interests in web accessibility. In his twenties, my father served on the public transit board in Louisville, where he had a major impact on accessibility for wheelchaired people in the city. For a decade, I’ve luxuriated in my ability to move freely about in both physical and digital spaces. The intent of Talea’s projects seem to be akin to those of my father’s: advocating independence for those not secured it.

The concerns of Reggie, Charlotte, and Talea are not quite at the forefront of my research agenda. But thanks to them, and the experience afforded to me through this Fellowship, the blips these topics make on my radar are increasingly audible.

(My eldest. Credit: A.J. Boston, 2017.)

 

For Future Research

Let me now return to the ‘introductory’ purpose of this post, and discuss what I hope to bring to the table. The research areas I hope I can help initiate conversation on in the LPC community are open peer-review, open citation data, research assessment reform, and AI/machine learning in research. Open infrastructure and the Latin American publishing model are heavily on my mind as well. I’ve previously written about (and not abandoned) novel methods of introducing students to scholcomm concepts. (I may have a future blogpost in me, critical of my own work, tbh.) Earlier this year, I was wowed by Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s book Generous Thinking, on reconnecting the work of the academy with the community, which has helped inspire my planned future research writing project, centering around methods to make published research not just more accessible, but more comprehensible to public audiences.

It Could All Be Symposium

As part of my Fellowship, I will serve on the Forum Program Committee. At Murray State University, I coordinate two campus-wide student conferences and one statewide conference annually. (I also oversee a student-led journal, and assist with three faculty-led journals.) I’ve come to view conference planning as not dissimilar to managing a journal. As a community, we’re quite familiar with wrongdoing in scholarly publishing. We’ve also grown in our shared public awareness of wrongdoing in scholarly conferences.

Discourse on conferences has become a trending topic, at least in my feeds. Whether it’s been the harm directed toward our Hathcocks, the harm emanating from our Tennants, or the harms we disagree on as harms, it is no longer an option for us to ignore these. How we handle these as conference participants and organizers must be tackled. I am eager to be further conscious of and conversant in these topics, plus many others. To wit: enforcing mic usage at Q&As; making it more of a question than a comment (I’m guilty); slide accessibility; getting the bathroom sitch in order; considerations of alcohol and animal protein in catering; land acknowledgements; and carbon and currency costs of conference travel. I don’t purport to have the answers, but I am coming to learn that asking the questions is a healthy and vital practice.

***

Thank you for reading.

Image Credit: Suzy Hazelwood, 2018.


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November 26, 2019

Society for Scholarly Publishing 41st Annual Meeting, May 30–31, 2019

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In its Strategic Plan for 2018–2023, the Library Publishing Coalition has a core goal of strengthening the community of library publishers. More specifically, objective 2.4 states that we will “build our support for and engagement with the international community of library publishers.” When the LPC Board of Directors started discussing this year what that support and engagement might look like, one of the ideas we landed on was increased attendance at international conferences (or U.S.-based conferences with many international attendees) since, after all, it is difficult to engage with people one does not know, and conferences are some of the best networking opportunities around. Until this point in LPC’s history, LPC Community Facilitator Melanie Schlosser had been attending all conferences where we felt an LPC presence would be beneficial, but with our goal to increase international engagement, a sole individual could not do it all. Therefore, the Board made the decision to begin sending Board members as representatives to select conferences with an international focus and an alignment with library publishing, and I was selected to attend the 41st Annual Meeting of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP). The theme this year was “Shaping the New Status Quo: Global Perspectives in Scholarly Publishing,” so it met the goals of the LPC Board members to become more involved in conversations with scholarly publishing stakeholders beyond North America. 

I was excited to attend this conference for several reasons. First, I’m a long-time reader of the Scholarly Kitchen (SSP’s widely read official blog) who has been at times thrilled, frustrated, and downright angered by the views expressed by the SK “chefs” (regular blog contributors). Second, I’ve worked as a librarian for 10 years, focusing on scholarly communications for the past 4 years, so the conversations at SSP are squarely in my wheelhouse. Finally, before obtaining my MLIS, I worked in scholarly publishing for 10 years; therefore, I was looking forward to chatting with folks in that world again.

What I discovered during the conference was surprising on many levels. Here are a few of the things that surprised me most.

Scholarly publishers and librarians working in scholarly communications have many, many common interests. 

In fact, many of the people I met who work in scholarly publishing have the same primary goal as mine: a fully open environment for scholarly communications. Granted, some of these folks work for publishers that are already fully open, such as PLOS, but some do not. What everyone seemed to be focused on, however, was Plan S and how we are all going to get to an open access environment and still be able to keep subscription revenue–reliant businesses afloat. Yes, some of the big guys were there (Wiley, Taylor-Francis, Elsevier, etc.), but many (most?) of the attendees were from small to medium publishers who are just trying to figure out how to survive in a post–Plan S world. 

SSP offers sessions of great interest to anyone working in scholarly communications, no matter their home base.

In the days leading up to the conference, I perused the program and was frankly surprised to see how many sessions were of interest to me. The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) hosted a well-attended premeeting, “Fact or Fiction? OASPA Lifts the Lid on OA Publishing,” and my day started off on the right foot as I got to chat with a colleague working for Annual Reviews, an SSP Fellow from Nigeria, and another attendee from OCLC. The sessions to follow that day (all sponsored) and in the subsequent two days of the actual conference offered a cornucopia of topics; in fact, for almost every concurrent session, I had a really difficult time choosing which session to attend since for most time slots, a choice of six sessions was offered. Also of particular note were the two keynotes: one by Dr. Mariamawit Yeshak, a faculty member in pharmacognosy at Addis Ababa University, focusing on scholarly research and publishing in Africa; and the other by Betsy Beaumon, CEO and founder of Benetech, in which she discussed the role of technology in increasing equity and inclusion for people with disabilities. 

Highlights of the conference included the following:

  • A presentation from John Maxwell, Director, Publishing Studies Program, Simon Fraser University (who also presented at the Library Publishing Forum 2019), on his survey of open-source publishing tools (a full written report is now available);
  • A panel on publishing expansive digital projects such as the Chinese Deathscape (from Stanford University Press) in which panelists discussed the bleeding-edge technology used to produce these projects and burning questions around how they will be preserved; 
  • A fascinating presentation on the progress of the pilot project to flip some Annual Reviews titles to open access in a “subscribe to open” formula in which subscribers are offered a small discount to make the title open—if enough agree, then the title will be open for that year. 
  • A panel discussion on strategies to move humanities publishers to open access with speakers from De Gruyter, Duke University Press, and the California Digital Library, as well as SK Chef (and librarian) Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe—panelists were still grappling with the question but thought that answers will be a mixed bag of transformative agreements (e.g., publish and read), subscribe to open, and platinum models (i.e., free to authors and to readers)—in fact Hinchliffe offered here that library publishing is a small but growing platinum option.

The conversations at SSP are not all about how to maximize profits in journal publishing. 

I confess that I had a somewhat simplistic idea in my head of what scholarly publishers talk about these days, and it all revolved around money and how they could make more of it. What I found instead was a group of thoughtful professionals who are sincerely looking for a way forward into a fully open-access world. Most wholeheartedly agree that open access publishing has many positives; chief among them is increasing readership generally but also expanding access to critical research in parts of the world that currently cannot obtain it. As a scholarly communications librarian, I can certainly relate to this goal. Their desire to keep their businesses afloat may be different from academic librarians’ goals of ensuring that our libraries are perceived as vital to the work of our campuses, but we definitely share a passion for increased access to knowledge for the global community.

Jody Bailey
Head of Scholarly Communications Office, Emory University Libraries
Library Publishing Coalition Board of Directors, President-Elect

 


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October 30, 2019

What’s our end-game? A community conversation at the 2019 Library Publishing Forum

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By Kate McCready & Melanie Schlosser

***

“It’s one of the strengths of the field that its aspirational reach is grounded by the day-to-day work of publishing, and that its day-to-day activities are clearly linked to such transformative goals. The field’s combination of the two threads, vision and practicality, creates the potential for success.”

***

The Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) Membership Meeting isn’t a typical business meeting. It is held annually at the Library Publishing Forum, but instead of sharing information about the Coalition’s work or conducting organizational business, we gather as a community to discuss timely, relevant topics. All conference attendees—both members and nonmembers—are invited and encouraged to participate, giving voice to different perspectives. 

On May 10, 2019, Forum attendees took advantage of this unique framework to explore a fundamental, and timely, question about the field of library publishing: “What’s our end game?” We explored why we engage in this work. As expected, our deeper dive below the surface of library publishing identified a wide variety of motivations and goals for our work as scholarly publishers and got us thinking about what that means for our organization and for our field.

It was a transformative year for the broader scholarly communications landscape. Individual institutions and consortia made news with collection development negotiations that produced transformative agreements or big deal cancellations (e.g., University of California’s termination of negotiations with Elsevier, and the “read and publish” deal between MIT and the Royal Society of Chemistry). Funders proposed bold requirements in Plan S to make content openly available. Many organizations focused on scholarly communications, such as SPARC, set agendas and spoke out about the need for change. Faculty and campus administrators turned out in record numbers to debate the sustainability of the current scholarly communications model, and the higher ed media was paying attention. Those activities inspired conversations throughout academia and library publishing emerged as a possible (though nascent) alternative to current models. 

Against this backdrop, it felt more important than ever to articulate the motivations for, and ultimate purposes of, our shared work. 

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August 9, 2019

Open Textbook: Path to Scholarly Communication: Reflections of a Forum Attendee

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by the recipient of a 2019 Library Publishing Forum Award. 

On the occasion of the 2019 Library Publishing Forum, held 8–10 May in Vancouver, British Columbia, it was possible to explore  the route outlined by numerous initiatives in open publishing in the academic environment and to be nourished by activities that strengthen its background.

Recognized among universities in North America, Canada, and beyond, the 2019 Forum, sponsored by the Library Publishing Coalition in collaboration with Simon Fraser University and Harbour Centre, welcomed librarians, academics, university publishers, and platform vendors interested in immersing themselves in library publishing services. 

The pre-conference on May 8 focused on Open Educational Resources. The morning workshop, offered in collaboration with the Open Textbook Network, provided an opportunity for discussion and hands-on work, highlighting project management strategies in support of open textbook publishing. Time savings in the planning stages (Plan – Do – Check – Act) are outlined through the information exchange established between author and publishing specialists related to research, resource creation, writing of the book outlined, supplemental resources, chapter planning, peer review, review related to style / format, copy editing, proofreading, preparation for publication up to launching—these are only some of the subjects offered in the BC Open Textbook Self-Publishing Guide.

In the afternoon’s full sessions, planned in collaboration with BCcampus, presenters engaged attendees with topics such as the academic publication reshaped by library publishing and set out on a small scale, requirements for sustainable software, alliances (or not) with different models of the university press, surveys about undergraduate use and acceptance of digital didactic resources, in addition to efforts to prepare librarians to work/advocate in these scenarios.

For academic book production, a collaborative approach between author, librarian, and publishing team facilitates the clarification of doubts during the project design; a timely process can avoid the familiar  miscommunications responsible for innumerable disagreements and problems such as content produced without planning; numerous “come and go” for style redesign and publishing requirements; ignorance of the author’s objectives for the publication; author’s unfamiliarity of the license to be adopted; remaining doubts about open access; uncertainties regarding DOI being the best alternative to use, definition of the most appropriate platform for hosting content.

At event closing it was evident that many discussions of the nuances of scholarly communication had originated among the disparate groups of attendees, seeking understanding of their differences in pursuit of quality-targeted solutions that reach significantly more individuals.

Daily, I have been encouraging future monograph authors and helping them prepare their manuscripts using the perspective of library as publisher; however, this activity is still unknown to many at the university. For open publishing opportunities to become a real knowledge network, a single publishing structure designed at an administrative level by the library system is necessary.

The Library Publishing Forum’s professional work provides countless perspectives for reflecting on ways to provide better library performance through concrete experiences. It has a special position in my agenda!

Célia Regina de Oliveira Rosa is Librarian at the Geosciences Institute of the Universidade de São Paulo, SP, Brazil, www.usp.br/. She holds a Masters in Information Science with a concentration in book library publishing.


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July 31, 2019

Teaching from the Library Publishing Curriculum

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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.

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Quite early in my career, as an editorial assistant in my first real publishing job, I was sent to a semester-long copyediting course, where I learned about the different levels of copyediting, the importance of style guides, and how to mark up manuscript in hard copy.

Copy editing marks from Einsohn’s The Copyeditor’s Handbook

The rest of publishing, I was expected to learn on the job. I learned this at a professional development event, where editorial assistants complained that, with the changes brought about by technology, we were being delegated to administrative assistant roles without growth potential because we were no longer performing tasks that gave us insight into the process (like taking down dictation for their editors, typing up letters, or transferring editorial marks from one hard copy to another). We want to be copied on emails! was the rallying cry.    

That publishing is still very much an apprenticeship field has not changed, as Cheryl Ball so eloquently argued in her email to the LPC list-serv on the value of experience, and how volunteering can be a stepping stone to one’s career. [1] However, this isn’t necessarily clear to people managing volunteers or early career professionals, who might not be aware of their roles as mentors and mentees. There are also those in the library publishing community who are brand new to publishing or aspects of publishing. I include myself in this group – while I worked on monographs, casebooks, workbooks, and textbook programs in my previous career, I had never been responsible for a journal until I entered librarianship. As a scholarly communication resident at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I suddenly found myself responsible for a journals list. (Thank you Marilyn for trusting me!)

This is why I was glad to be given the opportunity to engage with the new Library Publishing Curriculum, as an instructor for the Content Module along with Joshua Neds-Fox. We’ve now taught from the curriculum in two formats: as an all-day in-person workshop and as a synchronous online workshop in 1.5 hour weekly increments over 4 weeks.

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July 24, 2019

Social justice driving library publishing

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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.

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“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.”

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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.

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March 21, 2019

Reflections on the first meeting of the IFLA Special Interest Group on Library Publishing

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Sixty librarians met in Dublin, Ireland on Feb 28 – Mar1, 2019 as the first meeting of the International Federation of Library Association (IFLA)’s new Special Interest Group on Library Publishing.  The idea for this group developed from a pre-conference on library publishing in Michigan, USA prior to the 2016 IFLA World Congress/Annual Conference.  IFLA approved the new Special Interest Group in the fall of 2018.  The Dublin Business School eagerly offered to host the group’s first meeting, providing a comfortable venue for inspiring presentations and rich dialogue.  During the meeting, news broke of the University of California’s decision not to renew subscriptions to Elsevier’s ScienceDirect journals package, a reminder of the urgency of the need to make scholarly work accessible and the potential role of library publishing to address these needs.

Library publishing aligns well with the traditional library mission to share knowledge freely.  As knowledge has transformed from print to digital formats, library publishing is a logical modern application of the library mission.  Approaches in library publishing from the University of Florida, Stockholm University, White Rose University Press in the UK, Pennsylvania State University and case studies shared throughout the meeting affirmed the strategic role for library publishing.  Presenters candidly shared successes and challenges experienced in their publishing activities including resources utilized.  Librarians offer a unique perspective to publishing as a result of their expertise in knowledge curation, dissemination and preservation.

Academic library publishers are also keen to educate users throughout the publishing process.  A session on education and mentoring in library publishing highlighted the publication of appropriate curriculum including the Library Publishing Coalition’s An Ethical Framework for Library Publishing, a pilot course required of student editors at Columbia University, embedding library publishing within a university writing course at Simon Fraser University, and development of a certification program to improve digital pedagogy among faculty with resulting massive open online courses (MOOCs) demonstrating improved student performance at Olso Metropolitan University.  Library publishing lends itself to the production of Open Educational Resources and other informational literacy educational objectives such as addressing misconceptions on campus about open access, options for authors rights retention and types of peer review.

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February 6, 2019

Academy-owned? Academic-led? Community-led? What’s at stake in the words we use to describe new publishing paradigms

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Editor’s note, 6/21/19: A Spanish translation of this post is now available on Blog Ameli: “¿Propiedad de la academia? ¿Dirigido por la academia? ¿Dirigido por la comunidad? Lo que está en juego cuando utilizamos palabras para describir los nuevos paradigmas de publicación.” Our thanks to AmeliCA for the translation!

Editor’s note: This blog post is LPC’s official contribution to Academic Led Publishing Day (ALPD), a global digital event to foster discussions about how members of the scholarly community can develop and support academic-led publishing initiatives. LPC is participating in ALPD because it presents an opportunity to have a multi-stakeholder discussion about an issue of growing importance to libraries, and to call attention to the lack of a shared vision in this critical area. Our goals in this post are to highlight some of the unresolved questions in this space and to call on libraries to grapple with them.

This post was co-authored by Melanie Schlosser (LPC Community Facilitator) and Catherine Mitchell (Director, Publishing & Special Collections, California Digital Library; Past President of the LPC Board).

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There is no question that we are facing significant challenges and opportunities as the traditional publishing model begins to falter. How the academy positions itself at this moment will have consequences for years to come.

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“Academy-owned” seems to be the descriptor du jour in scholarly communications circles.  We talk increasingly about academy-owned infrastructure, academy-owned publishing, academy-owned publications, etc. We find ourselves at meetings and conferences where we explore the challenges of supporting new forms of scholarly research, new modes of publication, new communities of readers — and there it is again — “academy-owned,” lurking in the conversation. We write grants whose very premise is that the academy will rise to claim its rightful place as the source, the maker, the distributor, the curator of its greatest asset — knowledge. There is definitely a movement afoot.

Why has this phrase taken hold lately? The landscape is increasingly dominated by large, multinational corporations that are vacuuming up tools and platforms throughout the scholarly communication lifecycle. Although many of these corporations are familiar to libraries as content publishers, they are expanding their reach well beyond publishing to control both upstream and downstream activities: pre-print servers, OA publishing platforms, current research information systems, etc. A rebellion is stirring among those who worry that we are increasingly abdicating control of the academy’s intellectual property, its data, its ability to share information — even its values — to for-profit companies. The more we rely on licensed resources to read, distribute, and measure the impact of our research — as well as to determine the success of our researchers and the value of our institutions — the more in thrall the academy is to a set of values that are derived from a profit-driven marketplace founded on restricted access to information and abstract performance metrics.

And yet this noble impulse to claim a space for the academy in the exchange and evaluation of scholarly research is also rife with linguistic confusion. While the drive toward “academy-owned” solutions is pervasive, the language we use to articulate this drive lacks precision. Sometimes we talk about “academy-owned” projects, but just as often we describe them as “academic-led” or “community-led” or any number of other permutations. [1] These phrases are not synonymous — their distinctions are actually quite important — yet we use them interchangeably and nod to each other, as if we know what we mean. What, exactly, do we mean? It’s time to ask ourselves to identify the big issues and difficult questions embedded both in the terms themselves and the vagueness with which we use them.

(more…)


November 29, 2018

The state of the field: An excerpt from the 2019 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 Alexandra Hoff, Jessica Kirschner, Janet Swatscheno, and Robert Browder, with an assist from me. Enjoy!

MOVING FORWARD, LOOKING OUTWARD

LOCAL AND EXTERNAL PARTNERSHIPS

Local partnerships remain a mainstay of library publishing, and this is reflected in the 2019 dataset. Most library publishers report partnering with campus departments (80%) and individual faculty (78%). Many also partner with
graduate students (57%) and undergraduate students (57%). A minority of library publishers partner with the university press (29%).

While library publishers continue to focus on campus stakeholders through faculty-driven and student-driven journals, this year’s responses indicated a significant increase in the number of journals published for external groups. The number of faculty-driven journals increased 16% (442 to 512) from the previous year, and the number of student-driven journals increased 31% (224 to 294), while journals published for external groups increased 50% (173 to 259). It is possible that the increase in journals published for outside groups is part of a larger trend in library publishing, or it may reflect more specifically the publishing approaches of the many new entries in this year’s Directory. (more…)


September 11, 2018

Q&A about Ubiquity Press’ new Customer Charter

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The library publishing community was reminded last summer of an ever-present danger: that the commercial tools we rely on will be acquired by companies that don’t share the core values of librarianship. While building our own tools is always an option, there is also room for the commercial organizations we partner with to develop governance structures to protect their customers in the case of an acquisition. LPC sponsor Ubiquity Press recently released a Customer Charter and Partner Advisory Board that are meant to do just this. I asked Ubiquity Community Manager Chealsye Bowley to answer a few questions about them, and her responses are below. I’ve also included a bonus question and answer from Ubiquity Partner Advisory Board member Peter Potter, Virginia Tech’s voting representative to the LPC and Program Committee member. Thanks, Chealsye and Peter!

Q&A with Chealsye Bowley (Ubiquity Press)

What are the values embedded in the charter? 

The customer charter reflects the values of the Open community – immediately available CC-BY open access, use and development of open source tools, and transparency. We wanted to codify our business practices through this charter. Ubiquity is committed to remaining open access, open source, and never exclusively bundling our products.

How was it created?

The customer charter was drafted by our CEO Brian Hole and the company’s Board to reflect discussions we had with our Ubiquity presses, librarians, and the larger Open community in 2018. We wanted to establish this governance to formalize our commitment to the values of the Open community, better protect customer interests, and to respond to general calls from the community for greater transparency by service providers.

How will the new Partner Advisory Board work? What kind of influence or authority will it have around the organization’s adherence to the charter?

The Partner Advisory Board will provide advice on strategic decisions, and guide our adherence to the customer charter. There is a minimum of 3 members and a maximum of 9 members. The initial Partner Advisory Board members were selected to best represent Ubiquity’s existing partners, and includes Gali Halevi, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Andrew Lockett, University of Westminster; Nirmala Menon, IIT Indore; Peter Potter, Virginia Tech (Chair); and Wilhelm Widmark, Stockholm University Library. Ubiquity is represented by CEO Brian Hole and COO Tom Mowlan.

The Partner Advisory Board will have at least two meetings per year with additional meetings being held as necessary. Meeting minutes will be made publicly available. The full terms of the Partner Advisory Board are detailed in this document available through the Ubiquity website.

One of the goals of the charter is to assure customers that the values that currently guide Ubiquity will continue to be prioritized in the event of an acquisition. How will the charter accomplish this? 

If a sale that would change the majority shareholder is being considered, the Partner Advisory Board would be informed and the proposed majority shareholder would need to commit to continue conducting business in accordance to the Customer Charter for at least 5 years. If the Partner Advisory Board advises not to move forward with the sale on the grounds that no sufficient commitment has been made, Ubiquity will not proceed.

What else would you want library publishers to know about these new developments? 

The customer charter and new Partner Advisory Board are just our first steps. We want to keep engaging with the community and building on this governance. One example of this is an extended commitment to not only use open source software per the charter, but to actively contribute code and support the communities that produce it. This is exemplified in new collaborative relationships with the PKP and Samvera communities in North America, and our ongoing production of open source tools with the OPERAS consortium in Europe. If any library publishers have questions, feedback, or suggestions, we’d love to hear it!

Other questions? Email Chealsye at chealsye.bowley@ubiquitypress.com.

Q&A with Peter Potter (Virginia Tech)

What do you see as the value of the Advisory Board for the members of the Ubiquity Partner Network? 

At a time when the library publishing community is grappling with a host of new open-source publishing tools and platforms, it is wonderful to see Ubiquity committing to open-source in such a public and transparent way. I was delighted when Ubiquity released its new charter and I welcomed the opportunity to serve on the Advisory Board because I see in it a unique opportunity to contribute to shaping the future of the Ubiquity Partner Network.


September 6, 2018

One library’s scholar-led, scholar-owned manifesto

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This is an invited guest post by Paige Mann at the University of Redlands. 

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“As we expand the footprint of library publishing, we must continue to dialogue with colleagues about the increasing corporatization of academic libraries, and how scholar-led and/or scholar-owned is necessary for the good of our institutions, researchers, students, mainstream and marginalized communities.”

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Building off a shared value for critical librarianship, the librarians at the University of Redlands have been adapting our practices to respond to a myriad of factors, including shrinking budgets, vendor mergers and acquisitions, and publisher transformations into information analytic businesses. Although ours is a private, liberal arts institution that prioritizes teaching over publishing, all of higher education is involved with scholarship and learning, and are thus all affected by and affect scholarly publishing. Given our professional values, library publishers and libraries as a whole must use our positions to discern and respond to practices that erode, or can otherwise weaken, scholarship and learning.

When considering third-party commitments, our practice at the Armacost Library has been to base decisions primarily on costs, features, demand, usage, and influences on student learning. However, since January 2018 our library has been discussing the role professional values play in these decisions. We created a flexible assessment to foreground these values. This assessment takes into account community governance, fair licensing practices, diversity and inclusivity, commitment to open, privacy, and other criteria. Recognizing the impact this could have on institutional relationships, we followed this with a manifesto to draw attention to perversions we observed in scholarly communication practices. Our current draft of the Scholar-Led, Scholar-Owned Manifesto is brief, but dense with citations to strengthen our stance.

As we expand the footprint of library publishing, we must continue to dialogue with colleagues about the increasing corporatization of academic libraries, and how scholar-led and/or scholar-owned is necessary for the good of our institutions, researchers, students, mainstream and marginalized communities. That is, let’s adapt our ethical framework for publishing to also ground the terms with which we negotiate with vendors regarding our repositories, subscriptions, purchases, systems, and services. Let’s also reexamine ways to better steward the resources under our care to balance immediate needs with long-term, sustainable scholarly infrastructures. I’d like to see our scholarly communication units lead this change alongside our reference and user services, technical services, special collections, information literacy, web and technology teams.

The Manifesto will likely remain in draft form for a while as we negotiate with colleagues and ourselves, and while we reconcile the philosophical with the practical world of time, budgetary, and enrollment pressures. With the understanding that this is a big, complex, and ongoing adventure, we are pacing ourselves and will do what we can, with what we have, to work toward sustainable change in libraries. To that end, we encourage you to use and adapt the Assessment and Manifesto documents to stimulate discussion and change at your institutions.

Paige Mann
Physical Sciences Librarian | Web Experiences Librarian
University of Redlands


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August 31, 2018

Building alliances: AUPresses/LPC collaborations and synergies

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For our 2018 conferences, the Library Publishing Coalition and the Association of University Presses collaborated on a Cross-Pollination Registration Waiver Program. The program sent two AUPresses members to the Library Publishing Forum and two LPC members to the AUPresses Annual Meeting. Each of the recipients was asked to write a reflection on their experience and on opportunities for libraries and presses to work together towards our shared goals. This post is by Mark Konecny, University of Cincinnati.  Read the whole series.

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“The imprimatur of a university press—with the scholarly apparatus of peer review and reputation for quality—makes it possible for digital projects to gain the legitimacy demanded by the academic community. Library publishing provides stable preservation and staffing that keeps projects viable for the long run.”

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In 2017, the University of Cincinnati Libraries opened a press with a library publishing unit (CLIPS) in order to provide professional publishing services to faculty, staff, departments, and centers associated with the university. We offer scholarly communications expertise along with à la carte or comprehensive solutions using press partners and staff. Library publishing has been identified as a key element in promoting the intellectual commons model. In keeping with the goals of the library and the university, CLIPS is tasked with developing new modes of digital publishing. The annual meetings of the Association of University Presses and the Library Publishing Forum are opportunities to meet with others working in this field, learn about strategies and techniques utilized by other presses, and pursue opportunities to work with colleagues at other institutions with similar resources. Given the fact that our press is a start-up, I was able to benefit from presentations and consultations with colleagues from universities around the world.

At the AUPresses meeting, I concentrated my efforts in three specific areas of interest: sustainable infrastructure, publishing digital projects, and workflows for the use of digital publishing platforms. One of the biggest challenges for a small unit is making sure that resources are used wisely and provide a service that can be used across the university. It became clear through discussions that this is a shared concern for all library publishers, and the meeting allowed me to understand how university presses create workflows to increase efficiency and leverage outsourcing. I was surprised by the profusion of publishing platforms being developed by university presses: Editoria, Vega, PubPub, Manifold, Fulcrum, OJS, and others. Even more remarkable is the variety of strategies these platforms use to produce output. Many attendees voiced a concern that technology was being promoted at the expense of producing quality output. There is a significant danger in allowing the technological tail to wag the dog, squandering scarce resources for small reward. This insight into process provided me with a cautionary tale and a better understanding of the status of different projects. (more…)


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August 30, 2018

Variety and values: Reflections on the Library Publishing Forum

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For our 2018 conferences, the Library Publishing Coalition and the Association of University Presses collaborated on a Cross-Pollination Registration Waiver Program. The program sent two AUPresses members to the Library Publishing Forum and two LPC members to the AUPresses Annual Meeting. Each of the recipients was asked to write a reflection on their experience and on opportunities for libraries and presses to work together towards our shared goals. This post is by Jana Faust, University of Nebraska Press.  Read the whole series

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“A couple of things that stood out to me at the conference were individuals’ passion for their work and their commitment to a set of values that would create a culture of inclusivity.”

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The University of Nebraska Press and University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries often collaborate but they continue to be separate units of the university. It is most common for UNP to work with the UNL Libraries’ Center for Digital Research in the Humanities (specific examples include the Willa Cather Archive and The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition Online), Archives and Special Collections, and the institutional repository.

I went into the Library Publishing Forum not knowing very much about the more recent models of library publishing programs except that it has become more common for institutions to merge what had traditionally been two separate programs. I hoped to learn more about the purpose of these new models and how they differ from more traditional publishing. One thing that became apparent immediately is that there is as much variety in library publishing (in size, output, and workflow) as there is in university press publishing.

A couple of things that stood out to me at the conference were individuals’ passion for their work and their commitment to a set of values that would create a culture of inclusivity. In order to create the desired culture, many of these programs started by determining their values and then used those values as the foundation of their publishing programs. I would have expected the planning stage to focus more on practical issues: what types of content or subject areas to publish, how to handle peer review, and so forth. Instead, they often first documented their commitment to a culture of diversity, inclusivity, accessibility, and equity. I found the keynote by Cathy Kudlick, professor of history and director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, particularly enlightening. She urged attendees to “see disability as a tool for thinking differently about the world,” to picture pirates as disability action figures, and to go beyond compliance. In addition, she described people with disabilities as being the world’s best problem solvers. (more…)


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August 29, 2018

Seeing each other: Reflections on library/press cross-pollination

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For our 2018 conferences, the Library Publishing Coalition and the Association of University Presses collaborated on a Cross-Pollination Registration Waiver Program. The program sent two AUPresses members to the Library Publishing Forum and two LPC members to the AUPresses Annual Meeting. Each of the recipients was asked to write a reflection on their experience and on opportunities for libraries and presses to work together towards our shared goals. This post is by Sarah Hare, Indiana University.  Read the whole series

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“In my experience, press partners often bring an important understanding of workload and fiscal responsibility to these projects while librarians bring a passion for open access and experimentation.”

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Why cross-pollinate?

In 2016, Charles Watkinson wrote “Why Marriage Matters: A North American Perspective on Press/Library Partnerships,” which presented a compelling argument for why presses and libraries, as “natural allies in the quest to create a more equitable scholarly publishing system,” should pursue “long-term, deeply embedded partnerships” (p. 342). The article also proposed a taxonomy for understanding library/press relationships and cited noteworthy models for collaboration beyond the “press reports to library” arrangement.

I believe that Watkinson’s recommendations for embracing library/press partnerships in order to better serve the institution both entities are embedded within have only become more relevant. Thinking strategically and realistically about shared library/press work has become imperative at my own institution, Indiana University Bloomington.

In 2012, IU Provost Lauren Robel created the Office of Scholarly Publishing (OSP). The OSP is a partnership between Indiana University Press and IU Libraries’ Scholarly Communication Department. The OSP aims to harness disparate publishing resources and strategically pool expertise in order to transform scholarly publishing at IU. This often happens by:

  • Serving IU faculty and students through journal publishing, open access book publishing, and course material publishing
  • Moving conversations on publishing innovations forward at IU, including discussion on experimental peer review, course material affordability, hybrid OA models, open-source infrastructure, and new modes of scholarship (for example, 3-D object and multimedia integration)
  • Educating the next generation of scholars, both through supporting the creation of student publishing projects and creating programming and hands-on experiences for students interested in publishing, open access, and scholarly career paths

This work requires a shared understanding and committed collaboration from library/press partners. Thus, in addition to learning more about what presses are doing operationally, I applied to the AUPresses/LPC cross-pollination registration waiver program to answer larger questions I had about press values and the university press community’s interests. I also wanted to learn about how others approach library/press collaboration, work toward truly seeing each other, understand the values and ethics of the other partner, and maintain a fruitful relationship through the constant change and innovation inherent in scholarly publishing work today. (more…)


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August 28, 2018

Advancing shared goals: Reflections on press/library partnerships

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For our 2018 conferences, the Library Publishing Coalition and the Association of University Presses collaborated on a Cross-Pollination Registration Waiver Program. The program sent two AUPresses members to the Library Publishing Forum and two LPC members to the AUPresses Annual Meeting. Each of the recipients was asked to write a reflection on their experience and on opportunities for libraries and presses to work together towards our shared goals. This post is by James Ayers, University of New Mexico Press.  Read the whole series

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“Perhaps my greatest takeaway was that libraries often fail to see their university’s press as an asset in the accomplishment of their goals, and presses often fail to see how a relationship with their university’s library could help to advance their own mission.”

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In March of this year, the University of New Mexico Press entered into an administrative reporting relationship with the University of New Mexico’s College of Libraries. Because this new relationship created opportunities for collaborations between the press and the library—especially where publishing initiatives are concerned—I became interested in developing a better understanding of what university libraries are pursuing in terms of publishing and how they are accomplishing these goals. The Library Publishing Forum seemed an excellent opportunity to learn firsthand what publishing initiatives were of interest to university libraries and how they were pursuing these aims. My hope was to find avenues by which a library-press relationship might either facilitate the accomplishment of existing publishing goals or create new, shared goals.

At the forum I had the chance to attend a variety of panels that highlighted many of the questions I wanted to explore, and I was also able to make some valuable connections with library staff from other institutions and discuss topics of interest to us both. Much of my time at the Library Publishing Forum was spent learning about library publishers’ “in the weeds” experiences, and it was very illuminating to hear about the problems they encountered and the solutions they realized. It was incredibly valuable to see some of the specific projects library publishers have begun or completed, and I made my observations with an eye toward how a library-press relationship might be beneficial to both departments. (more…)


August 1, 2018

Reflection on research: The relevance of information behavior studies to the work of library publishing

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This is a guest post by Dan Tracy, the 2018 recipient of the Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Library Publishing. LPC’s Research Committee asked Dan to write a post for the blog to highlight his research and inspire others in the community to investigate topics of interest to our growing field.

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“Experimentation in online publishing that would not translate well to pdf is still a good thing…but my suspicion is that the really interesting innovation in digital scholarly publishing is not going to come in modifying legacy formats that people still find useful.”

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When the LPC Research Committee notified me that they had chosen my article on user studies in the context of library publishing programs for its annual award, I was delighted and honored. When I began my master’s degree in LIS, one thing that stuck early on was the disciplinary emphasis on understanding the information needs, preferences, and behaviors of different populations as a key element of service design. This concept was (and continues to be, from my ongoing experience with the program as a librarian) probably the foundational concept of one of the required courses at University of Illinois MS-LIS program (which I took with Professor Kathryn LaBarre), and it is a touchstone I come back to in all the work that I do now.

The research that led to this article stems back to a couple of experiences during my first years as a librarian, but the most important was attending the inaugural Library Publishing Forum in 2014. It was an exciting, groundbreaking event, but one that left me with one nagging question: where were the users, by which I mean the readers, of our publications in our design of these services? They were oddly absent from the program and discussion. (I’ll note that I heard more people raising these issues in the second and third forums.) Don’t get me wrong: libraries had and have a lot to do as they build up publishing services, so there is justification in spending a lot of time talking about relationships with authors, models for sustainability, and other key issues that were very much on the agenda. However, in talking about why libraries might have something to offer in publishing, a key theme for the inaugural conference, why not emphasize our tradition of investigation into how and why people use our resources as a strength in delivering publications to users? (more…)