Partners in Library Publishing
17 February 2023
Library Publishing is part of a broader range of scholarly communication activities driven and managed by librarians in all types of libraries including national, state, academic, and public as well as learned societies Library Publishing advances the open scholarship agenda globally via the production of journals, monographs, and other publication outputs on a predominately open access basis. Library publishing programmes have strong Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) missions while strengthening bibliodiversity in the international scholarly communication landscape.
The IFLA Library Publishing Special Interest Group (LIBPUB) was established in 2018 at WLIC in Kuala Lumpur with the aim of advancing the burgeoning field of library publishing through advocacy, knowledge sharing, and building connections and collaborations between librarians globally.
In an effort to expand the LIBPUB partnerships and network of practice, we now launch a new blog post series, Library Publishing Through the IFLA Global Lens. This series will showcase the work of library publishers around the world, provide an opportunity to get to know the people who are working in this exciting field of librarianship, and highlight the diversity of perspectives on and approaches to library publishing globally. Our first two contributors are Jill Claassen [JC] and Devin Soper [DS].
Describe your work in library publishing?
JC: I work at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Libraries, in Cape Town, South Africa and oversee scholarly communication and publishing. Library publishing started in 2016, when the library didn’t have much skills in this area, but we were able to call on the assistance of the Public Knowledge Project initially. At that time, we published our first open access journal, which was a student journal and then started publishing open monographs and textbooks. We now have six open access journals, and 23 open access monographs and textbooks, with a lot of the skills now self-taught amongst the staff, using Open Journal Systems (OJS) and Open Monograph Press (OMP). This diamond open access publishing service ensures that local publications are available, accessible and discoverable to an African audience, first and foremost, and then to the rest of the world. We have two full time staff in the scholarly communication and publishing section at UCT Libraries. However, as our Research and Learning’s (one of two divisions in UCT Libraries) structure is based on functional librarianship, library publishing is one of the services that form part of the job description of library staff. Thus, we are able to have a thriving library publishing service at UCT because we have a flexible staff structure.
DS: I work at Florida State University (FSU) Libraries in Tallahassee, Florida, where I lead a small team that supports our library publishing program, Florida State Open Publishing (FSOP). We mostly publish books and journals but have also partnered with researchers on the development and publication of digital projects in less conventional formats. Although we have worked on library publishing projects in an ad hoc way for roughly a decade, we only launched FSOP as a formal program in early 2021, so we are still working through a lot of questions related to policy, workflows, and sustainability. Currently, we have one part-time position dedicated to FSOP, and the other four members of our team carve out time from our other duties to contribute to specific projects. My own role in this work has varied over the years, ranging from acting as a project lead (especially with some of our journals) to playing a more advisory, coordinating role.
What values and principles inform your work?
JC: The University of Cape Town (UCT) has a very progressive open access policy that highlights the need to share and disseminate African scholarship through the underlying principle of social justice by implementing a diamond open access publishing service. Further, library publishing at UCT Libraries ensure that inclusivity, diversity and equitable access are practised by making the scholarship accessible on mobile devices, publish in other languages than just English, have formats that easily allow for text to read aloud and have many different contributions from African research voices for the global publishing landscape. As cost to publish scholarship and IT skills are barriers which hinder the expansion of African scholarly output, UCT Libraries have developed a continental platform where African institutions have the opportunity to publish and disseminate their own scholarship, using diamond open access, to the African continent first, and then to the rest of the world.
DS: The benefits of open access research dissemination are well documented and aligned both with FSU’s mission to “preserve, expand and disseminate knowledge” and with the open access policy that our faculty senate adopted in 2016. Accordingly, openness is a core value of our library publishing program. The vast majority of the works we publish are licensed under Creative Commons, and those that are not are at least publicly accessible with generous reuse rights. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are also core values. We are especially interested in publishing projects that promote the work of marginalized or underrepresented scholars, we seek to make higher education more inclusive and accessible by publishing open textbooks, and we strive to meet accessibility best practices for all of our web-based publications. Finally, we also embrace the principles of experimentation and innovation in academic publishing, and we believe that library publishers are uniquely positioned to make a difference in this space (more on this below).
What partners do you collaborate with?
JC: UCT Libraries have close partnerships for the continental platform that includes Public Knowledge Project, which provides infrastructural assistance where needed, the Open Book Collective, for guidance and advocacy, the Directory of Open Access Journals for training to grow African scholarship and the Library Publishing Coalition which provides assistance for standardised layout editing. Further, the Association of African Universities fully supports the continental platform and promotes the publishing platform to African universities.
DS: Most of our publishing partners are authors and editors at our institution, including faculty, staff, and students. That said, some of these partnerships have led us to partner with other publishers and communities that have only a tangential connection to our institution. For example, we are currently working with the managing editor of Amazonia Latitude to host forthcoming publications of the Amazonia Latitude Press on our book publishing platform, Manifold. Looking beyond publishing partners, we also partner with Florida’s state library services cooperative, Florida Virtual Campus, on shared infrastructure (described below) and with other institutions in Florida’s state university system to share knowledge and expertise. Finally, we are active members of the Library Publishing Coalition (LPC) and have benefited immensely from their many efforts to build community, tools, and resources that benefit so many library publishers, particularly in English-speaking countries.
What infrastructure are you working with?
JC: The continental platform consists of one instance of Open Journal System (OJS) for publishing journals and one instance of Open Monograph Press (OMP) for publishing monographs and textbooks. This platform provides the solution to a lack of IT skills on the continent, as well as challenges around stable electricity and connectivity. The OJS and OMP is currently hosted on UCT’s server, backed up very often, and can be scaled to accommodate many more African universities’ scholarly output. Further, it operates on a tenant model, where the upgrades of the software can take place centrally for all the African institutions, yet each institution has their individual look and feel and domain name that indicate that the scholarship originates for that specific institution. African institutions can be proud of the local research that comes from their own university.
DS: We are very fortunate to have a variety of software platforms that support our library publishing efforts. For scholarly journals, we use the Florida Online Journals platform, which runs on OJS 18.104.22.168 and is hosted by the Library Services division of Florida Virtual Campus, a state-funded academic library services cooperative. For scholarly books, our library hosts an instance of the Manifold publishing platform. For expansive digital publications in less traditional formats, we have contracted with Reclaim Hosting to provide a service called CreateFSU, which enables our publishing partners to create digital exhibits and nonlinear, media-rich texts using content management systems such as Omeka and Scalar. Finally, for other use cases that are not suited to the above-mentioned options, we sometimes utilize our institutional repository, DigiNole, which runs on Islandora 7.
What do you think is the impact of library publishing in the broader scholarly communications landscape?
JC: Growing and mainstreaming library publishing means that the traditional publishers do not drive the shape of the publishing landscape. Through library publishing, knowledge can be free and available to all; no longer be seen as a commodity, excluding those who cannot afford access to it. This free flowing of different kinds of knowledge in the scholarly communication landscape means that it is open and embraces all research voices, multiple languages and niche research areas so that ultimately, the scholarship can contribute to different socio-economic contexts.
DS: Library publishers are somewhat unique in the scholarly communication landscape because most, if not all, of their costs are covered by their parent institution, typically with no expectation that they will recover those costs (let alone turn a profit). With no “bottom line” to worry about, library publishers have the freedom to work on projects that are innovative, exploratory, and relatively unburdened by the demands of the academic prestige economy – projects that most other publishers would be wary of undertaking. This freedom from the demands of the market also positions library publishers as ideal proponents of open access publishing, enabling them to support diamond open access model publications that charge no fees to authors or readers, while other publishers feel the need to implement inequitable practices such as article-processing charges or “transformative” agreements in order to recover costs. Finally, library publishers can also have an impact through the close partnerships that they form with authors and editors at their institutions, supporting the work of open access champions and innovators and helping them to tell their stories in ways that have the potential to influence publishing norms and cultures at the local level.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the global library publishing community?
JC: I hope that library publishing becomes the mainstream publishing model, which disrupts the for-profit monopoly that publishers have on researchers and universities. There should be an equitable bidirectional knowledge flow from the global south to the global north and back again. Traditional publishers would have no power to be able to decide which research topics could be seen as vogue and given the space to be published, and which topics need to be relegated to the outskirts of the global knowledge economy; rather all research would be part of its epicentre. Ultimately, through this alternative publishing model, the scholarly landscape will be reflective of all diverse societies, orchestrated to ultimately empower and develop society.
DS: Like Jill, I hope that the global library publishing community continues to grow and flourish over the next decade and beyond. I hope that more libraries see the short- and long-term benefits of supporting the production and dissemination of scholarly works and invest in launching new publishing programs or enhancing existing ones. And I hope that library publishers continue to collaborate extensively with one another through national (and international) publishing cooperatives, through membership organisations like the Library Publishing Coalition, and through shared infrastructure projects. Our community has made so many great strides in this area over the past decade – we are so much stronger together than we are apart, so let’s keep it up, build on the momentum, and take our work to even greater heights!
What is the value of your work with IFLA’s LIBPUB SIG?
JC: Many of us know the African Proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”, meaning an entire community is needed to raise a healthy and engaging child. This community is diverse and has different roles to play, yet everyone works toward the same goal; to create a safe and healthy environment for a child to thrive in. I see IFLA’s LIBPUB SIG in a similar light, where this SIG has members from all over the world, yet is an inclusive, dynamic and empowering global community. Everyone is performing library publishing in slightly different ways within their socio-economic context, yet with the common goal in mind: to grow and maximise the sharing and dissemination of local open access scholarship. Being part of IFLA LIBPUB SIG allows for the expansion and greater reach of this goal, which can result in all our societies thriving.
DS: The thing that I value most about my work with IFLA’s LIBPUB SIG is connection. It is so inspiring to meet with colleagues from around the world and learn about the different ways that they are approaching work in this space, the projects that they are undertaking and the collaborations they are advancing. It’s great to connect with library publishing colleagues in my region as well, of course, but there is something special about the broader, global scope of this SIG and the unique blend of perspectives that its members bring to the table. Getting the opportunity to help organise events and programs that highlight these perspectives is also very rewarding and energizing – I’m excited to see what we can put together for IFLA’s World Library and Information Congress in Rotterdam this summer!
LIBPUB has been active in the five years since its establishment. The inaugural Mid-Term Meeting was held at Dublin Business School in Ireland in 2019, followed the next year by another lively Mid-Term Meeting at Oslo Metropolitan University in Norway. A Virtual Mid-Term Meeting was held during the Pandemic in late 2020. WLIC2021 was a virtual conference and at this, LIBPUB interviewed Katherine Skinner and Brandon Locke (Educopia) on the Next Generation Library Project. We reconvened in Dublin for WLIC 2022 at which LIBPUB held an Open Session which explored the contribution of library publishing towards the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This year, LIBPUB will host a satellite event in the Hague and an Open Session at WLIC 2023 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
In the course of these activities, speakers from over 20 counties and from 4 continents have presented on Library Publishing themes. Many others have attended the events and contributed to the discussion. Presentations and proceedings from these events can be accessed on the LIBPUB website. In 2019, LIBPUB formed a strategic alliance with the US-based Library Publishing Coalition. The Global Library Publishing Map is one output from this fruitful partnership. The Global Library Publishing Map illustrates the reach of library publishing practices but we know that it does not tell its full story. LIBPUB wants to connect with all library publishers worldwide; to partner meaningfully to further grow and develop practices with clearly defined principles and standards.
We hope you enjoyed this first instalment of Library Publishing through the IFLA Global Lens. Stay tuned for more contributions from other library publishers in different parts of the world over the coming months. If you want to get involved in the work of IFLA’s LIBPUB SIG, contact our Convenor, Jane Buggle (Jane.Buggle@iadt.ie), and join our mailing list to stay apprised of upcoming news and events. Please also follow us on Twitter @ifla_libpub.
Jane Buggle – Convenor, IFLA Library Publishing (LIBPUB) Special Interest Group