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.
“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.”
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.
Library publishing programs are markedly distinct from press publishing programs for a variety of reasons, and this quickly became evident. An emphasis on open-source content, for example, prevailed at the forum as one of the foremost concerns of university library publishers. This is not surprising, nor is it surprising that university presses are generally far more reluctant to adopt open-source publishing models—not because of any aversion to open-source content, but because university presses as a rule must be self-sufficient to survive, and this means revenue from sales is critical to a university press in order to pursue its scholarly mission.
The critical matter, it seemed to me, came down to a question of resources. Libraries appear to publish without the burden of requisite sales revenue and usually have the benefit of an existing digital repository for hosting content, but they incur the burden of very limited production staff and resources—editors, designers, publicists, and strong and cost-effective established printing relationships (when the need for print books arises). Presses, on the other hand, are fully staffed to meet the production demands of book publishing. Because the goals of library publishers appear relatively modest in scale at this time, a library-press relationship seems greatly beneficial: the production work—to whatever extent it is needed—would not be overly taxing on the press, and both parties would benefit from the common good of making specific works publicly available through the library’s preexisting hosting services or elsewhere.
During my time at the Library Publishing Forum, it became clear to me that libraries and presses do have distinct missions, but that these missions are nevertheless very much aligned. Most surprising to me was how infrequently presses and libraries seem to work together, through no real direct fault of either party. 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. In my conversations with individuals from libraries who are actively engaged in publishing, it quickly became clear that presses and libraries do have much to offer each other—whether that be in such specifics as a librarian’s expertise in creating metadata or a press editor’s tried-and-true practices for organizing peer review, or whether it be in the much larger shared vision of disseminating academic scholarship to the public. What I noticed is that while most university press publishing programs look quite similar to each other, aside from their emphases on different subjects of interest, university library publishing programs are often unique from one another. One library might seek to develop and host a series of open-access monographs, whereas another is primarily interested in producing short print runs of conference proceedings and university seminars, and another seeks to develop an efficient online portal for peer review. Different aims will necessarily create different opportunities for collaboration, but what that collaboration might look like must begin with an open conversation between both units.
An administrative relationship between both units is certainly a direct way of putting a university library and a university press into direct contact with one another, but such a relationship is hardly necessary to foster a partnership. I found participants at the Library Publishing Forum eager to talk about their experiences and learn from mine, and even these often brief conversations are an excellent place to begin. Libraries and presses need not seek collaborative opportunities merely for the sake of doing so, and the contributions they make to one another’s work need not be especially extensive. Such partnerships should be truly beneficial to both parties. The shared interests, the similarly aligned mission and values, and the distinct experiences of university presses and libraries appear to invite—at the very least—conversation between both units about the potential benefits of a partnership; what that partnership might ultimately look like, though, should be determined by the unique needs that it can address.
Editorial, Design, and Production Manager
University of New Mexico Press