LPC Blog

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

Cover image of the 2018 Library Publishing DirectoryIf you haven’t yet checked out the latest edition of the Library Publishing Directory and the new, searchable online platform, well…they’re pretty cool! See our previous post for the full announcement. While we are super excited about the online platform, the one thing it doesn’t have is the Directory‘s front and back matter, which is more interesting than you’d think.

Each year, the Directory‘s introduction includes a ‘state of the field’ based on that year’s data. It highlights trends and new developments in library publishing as reported by the programs that contribute their information. We wanted to share this year’s on the blog to make it easier to find and discuss. The following is an excerpt from this year’s Directory, written by Melanie Schlosser, Liz Hamilton, Joshua Neds-FoxTom Bielavitz, and Alexandra Hoff.


Each year, the Directory Committee mines the Directory data set in order to highlight trends and unique aspects of library publishing. In our fifth year, the trends and tendencies pointed out in previous introductions have started to reveal themselves as enduring characteristics and essential features of the library publishing landscape. We believe this reflects both the growing data set and the maturing of the field itself. This introduction highlights that continuity (“The Song Remains the Same”) and draws out two of those essential features for consideration (“Openness” and “Publishing and Pedagogy”).


This year’s data is remarkably consistent with what we have seen in past Directories. Most of the numbers are very similar to last year or within range from previous years. Of the two areas where there are noticeable changes—services and digital preservation—one of them is in line with previously noted trends.


Partnerships remain important to library publishing programs, and individual faculty and campus departments are still our most common partners. We continue to see significant numbers of partnerships with graduate and undergraduate students, and the number of university press partnerships continues to rise slowly. The only substantial change from last year was a jump in partnerships with graduate students (from 72% last year to 77% this year).

Publication Types

Publication types remain consistent overall, with small gains in some areas (respondents published 442 faculty-driven journals in 2017, up from 436 in 2016), and small decreases in others (173 publications for external groups, down from 249 in the previous year). Larger jumps tend to be within established ranges (for example, 773 monographs reported in the 2016 Directory, 900 reported last year, and 488 in the current Directory) and can often be explained by a spike in production by a single program. As always, faculty-driven journals, monographs, and student-driven journals make up the bulk of libraries’ publishing output.

Funding and Staffing

Reported staffing levels showed virtually no change from last year—we are still averaging 2.1 professional staff per program, for example. Funding sources also remained consistent in many areas (for example, about the same number of programs are relying in part on sales, licensing, charge-backs, and grants) or fluctuated within established ranges. (For example, in the 2016 Directory, 56% of programs relied entirely on the library’s operations budget; in 2017, the percentage had fallen to 48%; this year, it settled in the middle at 50%.)

Digital Preservation

In one of two noteworthy shifts in the data, we continue to see slight increases in the adoption of digital preservation tools and services. In fact, the increase in adoption of the specific solutions listed is remarkably consistent across the list. This increase, along with the slight decrease in libraries reporting that digital
preservation services are currently under discussion (32% this year, down from 35% in the 2017 Directory), suggests that library publishers are making slow but thoughtful progress on digital preservation.


The other area where this year’s data diverges from previous years is in services provided. All of the “other services” (e.g., copyright advice, training, metadata services) are listed by fewer programs than in the past. To take the most extreme example, in 2017, 84% of respondents reported providing digitization services; in 2018, the number has dropped to 69%. Most of the decreases are smaller, but they are across the board. The reason for this drop is unclear. It’s possible that programs are streamlining their services, or that what we are seeing is the emergence of new programs that are smaller or more focused than their more established colleagues.


The Library Publishing Coalition’s definition of library publishing includes the following: “Based on core library values, and building on the traditional skills of librarians, it is distinguished from other publishing fields by a preference for Open Access dissemination” (emphasis added). In this year’s introduction, we felt it was worth digging into the numbers to see exactly how open the products of library publishing are, and whether that preference for openness manifests in other ways.

This year, the Directory survey includes a question asking respondents to indicate how strongly their program focuses on open access publishing, from 1 (not at all OA) to 5 (fully OA). Of all respondents this year, 49% indicated that their program’s output is fully open access (5), with another 33% coming in as primarily OA (4), for a total of 82% of represented programs focusing entirely or almost entirely on open access publishing. Very small numbers of programs selected (3) or (2), and none selected (1). This suggests that open access publishing—while not practiced exclusively or consistently by all programs—is a more-or-less universal feature of library publishing. This is a remarkable point of consistency in an otherwise very diverse landscape.

Another place where the Directory data reveals a preference for openness is in the platforms chosen. Of the 17 software platforms respondents listed as being in use by their programs, 13 are open source. Seventy-one of the programs listed (57%) use at least one open source software platform. The most-used platform on the list, Open Journal Systems, is used by 44% of responding programs, surpassing bepress’s proprietary Digital Commons platform (41%). Three of the top four most-used platforms—OJS, DSpace, and WordPress—are open source.


One of the ways library publishing programs differ from their counterparts in other parts of the scholarly publishing world is their embeddedness within the teaching mission of the library and their parent organizations. Even university presses, though they may have close ties with their universities in many ways, don’t have the kind of multilayered contact with teaching and learning that library publishers do.

Looking at this year’s data, respondents interact with students and teaching activities in multiple ways:

  • 77% of programs partner with graduate students, and 62% partner with undergraduates.
  • Last year, respondents produced 224 student-driven journals and 34 textbooks.
  • 91 programs (almost ¾) work with electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs).
  • 24 programs employ graduate students, and 31 employ undergraduates.

The programs represented here also publish scholarship on teaching: four programs published four journals and one monograph on teaching-related topics in 2017. A number of less quantifiable connections to the teaching enterprise also appear in the data, including publishing units housed in a teaching-focused department within the library, publishing-related education being provided by librarians, or a reference to the university’s teaching mission in the library publishing program’s mission statement. Combined, all but one of the 125 programs profiled have at least one connection to teaching and learning. It’s not a stretch to say that support of and engagement with teaching and learning is a defining feature of library publishing.

Want to learn more? Check out the 2018 Library Publishing Directory!

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