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.

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


“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.”


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.

What I learned at the AUPresses meeting

It was both exciting and energizing to learn from my press colleagues at the Annual AUPresses Meeting. Presses and libraries are often mentioned as natural partners because of their shared interests. It became immediately clear to me that presses and libraries also have a number of shared challenges. A wide range of AUPresses sessions touched on operational challenges related to accessibility, preservation, and rights/permissions as well as large, messy challenges like institutional relevance, rapid change, and demonstrating value. Interestingly, I also learned about challenges that presses are interested in that libraries have already started to dig into (and vice versa). One tangible example of where librarians and press colleagues could learn from each other is metadata creation, in order to both improve quality of metadata and discoverability of work. Hearing others name these challenges was empowering for me: having a partner in creating new initiatives is encouraging, but having a partner in solving incredibly complex, structural problems is foundational.

In addition to Safiya Umoja Noble’s closing plenary, the session I found most useful was a panel entitled “Toward an Inclusive Publishing Process,” which featured speakers from MIT Press, Northwestern University Press, University of Washington Press, University of Minnesota Press, and University of Chicago Press. The session addressed important questions like “As we seek out diverse perspectives and subject matter, how can we be sure to create value for all of our authors throughout the publishing process? and “How do implicit biases shape our relationships with authors?” In addition, because the session intentionally featured speakers from a range of press departments, including acquisitions, copyediting, design, and publicity, the panel was inherently useful for better understanding how presses function and construct workflows, communicate with authors, and promote new work.

Panelists gave examples of when they were challenged to be more inclusive and prioritize diverse perspectives while balancing day-to-day operations, time crunches, and institutional pressure. Examples included adequately representing native languages and their translations in the typesetting process, avoiding the appropriation of indigenous patterns and designs, assessing accessibility in order to accommodate all authors’ needs, and prioritizing marginal voices and perspectives in book forewords. Several speakers noted that “routine cannot accommodate difference very well,” and while changing course was often inconvenient and working to recognize one’s privilege was challenging, admitting when a mistake was made and making it right in order to make the publishing process more inclusive was imperative. Moreover, speakers acknowledged that having implicit biases mean that we’ll continue to make assumptions, miss something, mess up—the important thing is how we respond.

I left the session inspired by the thoughtfulness, vulnerability, and transparency the speakers demonstrated. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would look like for library publishers to have a similar panel at next year’s LPF, featuring small, tangible examples of how issues of inclusion bud up in our library publishing work, how we make mistakes, how we work through challenges, and, ultimately, how we might do better.

Opportunities for collaboration

After attending the AUPresses meeting, I have lots of ideas about where presses and libraries might collaborate, cross-pollinate, and teach one another in order to improve together! These are working ideas, in no particular order:

Promote each other’s work

First and foremost, presses and libraries should find areas and opportunities for promoting each other’s work, especially when both entities are on the same campus, working toward the same larger vision. Some ideas for this: presses could focus a list on library collection specialties and highlight library collections alongside promotional material; libraries could intentionally create programs and initiatives that complement press work (see Aquiline Books for an excellent example of a library publishing project that provides an option for projects not appropriate for the press).

Create and map shared, community-owned infrastructure and processes

AUPresses members expressed an interest in better understanding the current open-source publishing infrastructure and the processes this infrastructure supports. A lot of this conversation aligned with discussion at LPF’s Owned by the Academy Pre-Conference. Presses and libraries should work together to map this infrastructure in order to better understand how tools work together and where there are gaps in functionality or services (i.e., hosting, preservation, fulfillment).

Digital publishing innovations, discovery, and preservation

Several AUPresses sessions discussed the preservation challenges inherent in digital publishing work, from e-books to multimedia. This is a priority for libraries as well, as digital preservation experts are grappling with best practices for preserving new objects like 3-D. Other sessions did a deep dive into additional publishing innovations like publishing in full-text and working with vendors to get XML. Libraries are also interested in experimenting with full-text publishing and some are utilizing open-source software solutions (namely Open Journal System’s Open Typesetting Stack) to enable editors to publish their journals in full-text HTML as well as PDF. Finally, “Discovery in the Age of Google” was a huge theme of the AUPresses conference, with two keynote speakers devoting time to Google algorithms and discovery. Library publishers (and collection managers) are keen to optimize discovery of content and raise user awareness about library-purchased content. Each of these shared challenges presents an opportunity for libraries and presses to work together.

Course material access

As an extension of digital publishing, exploring course material publishing is a potential shared opportunity for libraries and presses. Interestingly, I was unable to find any AUPresses sessions devoted to course material/eText/OER publishing. Library publishers are currently grappling with the resources and expertise needed to publish open textbooks. While this is not a traditional role of the university press, it is an interesting opportunity, especially for courses that utilize edited books or monographs as course readings. This might an area of interest for the next AUPresses meeting.

Open access ecosystem: sustainable models and versioning issues

Finally, several AUPresses sessions discussed issues related to OA publishing: tracking versions (see more about current library conversation on this), new forms of sharing, and open-source software. While this is arguably the most challenging area for library/press partners to “see” one another, I would argue that it is the most important. 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. When we are asked to partner on open projects and operationalize what open looks like in practice (i.e., hybrid models, embargoes), we also have to name and prioritize our values. We are often challenged to consider why open matters in the first place—is it to make content open? To promote author rights? This kind of reflection can lead to more meaningful collaboration with key partners and a better understanding of our own mission, capacity, and ethics.

Sarah Hare
Scholarly Communication Librarian
Indiana University