Terence Huwe, Library Director Emeritus, Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, University of California, Berkeley, referred to The Once and Future Publishing Library by Ann Okerson and Alex Holzman (CLIR, 2015) and reviewed the history of libraries as publishers (photo). The skill of publishing books dates back to the 1600s. Many US university presses began in the library; some of the early ones are Cornell University Press in 1869, University of California Press in 1893, University of North Carolina Press in 1878-1879, and Johns Hopkins University Press. University Presses hope they have best sellers because they will make a lot of money.
In 1992, the shift to electronic publishing began with a dialog between ARL and AAUP. The Electronic Text Center at the University of Virginia was a very significant development. We are now confronted with an avalanche of technologies. SPARC changed the rules; libraries became publishers, IR overseers, research data administrators, and partners with university presses (see eScholarship, an OA repository for University of California researchers). As a result, we achieved a fuller awareness of digital life cycles across all types of media, how to launch entrepreneurial ventures despite the risks, and gained allies among administrators and faculty.
The hurdles to publishing are low, but editorial skills are crucial. OA became a pillar to the university owning its own content. Educating the faculty on OA took 20 years. Anybody can publish a book with pressbooks; at UC Berkeley, undergraduates are publishing books. There are opportunities for the library to train people. Libraries were the first organization to see that information has a life cycle. We learned how to become intrapreneurial.
OA has legitimized claims for academic control of scholarly information. There is an opportunity to be different. OA has been a big help; people should be able to read for free. Publishers were slow to recognize how powerful this is, but they are now updating their business models. OA versus profit is a very powerful meme.
We need to make data available. We are in scary times for learned societies. SPARC has branded the library as a ally to publishers. Nobody should underestimate the possibilities of data; it solidifies partnerships. Data is for us.
Librarians and faculty are now working together; OA is much better understood and has become a viable business model.Librarians see many unfilled roles in OA. Publishers now recognize that libraries don’t want to make money; they just want to make content available. Everybody is jockeying for position.
The Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) is a new association-level model to help library publishers share lessons. Libraries want to share information with each other; their core competencies are relevant to the publishing world. The LPC has 80 members and is growing. The vast number of publishers want to publish OA. If profit is not a driving factor, why can’t we collaborate? The payoff for librarians is recognition that we are doing the right thing. Amherst College Press became a department of the library after the provost convinced them to merge because they understand their users.
We must be strategic but we also must hold on to things that matter. The challenge is adding a new core competency. Will we find the time to do this? Administrators have a big say in it. Publishing expertise in the library is already a given. Here are some strategic considerations:
The library should contract some of the work We will see some big interest in this; there is already a demand for training. Morale can be an issue.
- Library publishing is here to stay.
- Competition will be constant.
- There will be a shakeout among players.
Huwe concluded with these thoughts:
- The library profession is being invited, cajoled, urged, and pulled into the role of digital publishers.
- It makes sense to regard digital publishing as a new core competency.
- As with all services, to succeed we must “follow the users” and meet their needs.