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.

As much as we love the searchable online interface for the Library Publishing Directory, it doesn’t include the introduction found in the print, PDF, and EPUB versions. Each year, the Directory‘s introduction includes a ‘state of the field’ based on that year’s data that highlights trends and new developments in library publishing as reported by the programs that contribute their information. To make it easier to find, we are republishing that portion of the introduction here. This year’s introduction was written by Janet Swatscheno, Ellen Dubinsky, Perry Collins, Ian Harmon, and Laura Miller with an assist from me. Enjoy!


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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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