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Introduction to the Framework


At the Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) Membership Meeting at the 2017 Library Publishing Forum in Baltimore, Maryland, the community discussed how the LPC can respond to the current political climate.

The discussion was wide-ranging, but kept coming back to the importance of library values and our responsibility as library publishers to center our publishing practice around them. A number of those present offered to devise a way for the conversation to continue beyond the Forum. That group included Marilyn Billings, Jason Boczar, Rebel Cummings-Sauls, Harrison W. Inefuku, Joshua Neds-Fox, Matt Ruen, Emily Stenberg, and Monica Westin, who proposed a task force to tackle the issues raised. This task force was charged with creating an Ethical Framework for Library Publishing.

From July of 2017 to June of 2018, the task force members (listed on the title page as authors of this document) identified the topics to be covered in the framework, and then worked in subgroups to review the literature on those topics and identify existing resources of particular relevance to the community of library publishers. The subgroups then drafted the sections you see in this document. Throughout this process, they worked iteratively to devise a structure and format for the framework—a challenging task, and one for which there were many inspirations, but no clear models. In the end, they decided that the most effective structure for the document would break each section into an introduction, a scope statement, a review of existing resources, and a set of recommendations for library publishers. Some sections also include a note about new resources that are needed and/or further readings on the topic.

Context: Library Publishing and Ethics

The Library Publishing Coalition defines library publishing at its website “as the set of activities led by…libraries to support the creation, dissemination, and curation of scholarly, creative, and/or educational works.” The statement makes explicit the distinctions that qualify these activities as publishing: “…library publishing requires a production process, presents original work not previously made available, and applies a level of certification to the content published, whether through peer review or extension of the institutional brand.”

Academic libraries have entered the publishing space due to changes in ways of disseminating information and in response to faculty members’ desire to control their own publishing destiny. This work has been enabled by the emergence of open source or low-cost technologies for publishing, but the motivations for it are broad and deep—for example, library publishers are also deeply engaged with emerging forms of scholarship (and emerging disciplines) that do not yet have a voice within the traditional publishing environment. These motivations often include a desire for increased openness and sustainability in the scholarly communication landscape.

Unlike commercial publishers and traditional presses, the work of library publishers is largely funded through existing library budgets without a profit motive. The goal is instead  to increase the impact of scholarship created by faculty and students affiliated with an institution and to disseminate that scholarship as broadly as possible, by emphasizing open access as a means of distribution. Because these publishing activities for academic libraries are a relatively recent endeavor, education and training for librarians as publishers is not fully established and thus one of the objectives for preparing this guide. Publishing as a role for librarians is increasing in importance for all academic libraries and is not limited to just research libraries, but also includes community colleges and four-year undergraduate institutions. Library publishers are also uniquely positioned to look beyond traditional prestige publishing priorities to partner with faculty, students, and organizations in order provide services such as data preservation and engage in publishing as pedagogy.

As relative newcomers to the world of publishing, libraries are able to draw on a wealth of resources and expertise developed by more established players. To avoid reinventing the wheel, this document is structured primarily around existing resources. The framework pulls together existing publishing codes of ethics (many of which are included in the Publishing Practice section), along with resources from librarianship and other related fields, and contextualizes them for library publishers. The recommendations in each section attempt to distill a wealth of knowledge and guidance into a small set of actionable steps meant to answer the question, “But how do I get started?” They are by no means the only steps to be taken in these areas, but they may help library publishers begin to incorporate these important ethical considerations into their work.

Future Plans for the Framework

From the beginning of this project, the task force designed An Ethical Framework for Library Publishing to be an iterative document, more formal than a wiki but less so than a monograph or white paper. The founding group of authors worked on the framework with an understanding that every topic could not be covered, especially with a goal to create a document in less than a year. This framework was always envisioned as a starting place.

In light of an iterative approach, we have decided to call this version 1 from the outset. The definitive version of An Ethical Framework for Library Publishing will always be the most current version. Versioning the document will also help make visible the historical transition. Version 2, the taskforce hopes, can be started by a new group of library publishing professionals with new views and ideas. In this way, we hope, An Ethical Framework for Library Publishing will never be a static, antiquated document created only from the viewpoint of a small group of people. It can, and should, be a community project.


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