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.
Sustainable aspects of library publishing business models were explored. Opportunities for joint publishing services were shared, including various roles of university presses, institutional repositories and university information technology (IT) departments in library publishing, crowd sourced funding for open access publications, and a proposal for a national e-resource consortia. Evaluation of reader behavior in a test at Oslo Met University revealed the significant demand for html downloads for mobile devices, highlighting the need to offer more than pdf publication formats.
Library publishing enables knowledge creation about unique materials in libraries that might otherwise remain preserved but unknown. Inspirational examples of librarians as authors and editors were shared. A monograph based on the Maynooth University Death-Row Correspondence of Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian environmental activist and a special issue of Studies in Arts and Humanities devoted to marginalized voices of indigenous people on occasion of the first recognition of Ireland’s Travellers as an ethnic minority. Librarians can tap into existing relationships with communities they serve to solicit content for publication. Librarians from the Institute of Technology Tallaght in Ireland shared the development of their short story competition and publication to accompany the Red Line Book Festival.
Global collaboration examples were shared, highlighting publishing programs that crossed international boundaries. International groups such as the Association of University Presses in Europe (AEUP) and PUBLISSO, an open access publishing platform for life sciences were described. Internationalizing the content and contributions to library publishing programs is attainable with digital publishing software. Users and representatives of a variety of publishing tools shared updates including bepress and CrossRef.
The SIG mid-term meeting concluded with a panel discussion of current themes of concern in library publishing. Panelists spoke from years of professional experience. Three major areas of concern for library publishing arose: developing appropriate staff competencies, necessary resources for scaling up programs, and the need for program evaluation based on clear objectives of publishing programs. Participants discussed the competency levels needed for library publishing and how best to train future librarians and market existing capacity. Publishing endeavors require a lot of work, raising issues of skill training especially in computer science and marketing. Acquiring necessary resources for scaling up library publishing programs was another topic addressed in the panel discussion. Increased resources requires heightened visibility. In general, participants shared the importance of strong institutional and governmental support to generate necessary resources. Participants also questioned how success of library publishing programs are assessed. As library publishing expands, the need grows for clear objectives of each program. Several presenters emphasized the importance of values-driven publishing, encouraging library publishing to manifest a new vision for ethical scholarly publishing.
The IFLA Special Interest Group on Library Publishing showcased the ability of library presses to manifest their publishing principles and further their mission to freely share knowledge. The candid exchanges of successes and challenges at the meeting were informative and motivating — fueling improvements in library publishing around the globe, no doubt. There are plans to publish a proceedings or at least make presentation slides and recordings available. The IFLA SIG on Library Publishing will meet during IFLA 2019, a call for proposals is open until 29 March 2019.
Suzanne Stapleton, University of Florida